First off, hat tip to the 7Line.com for the title of this article, it was just too fitting not to use. Usually I watch the Mets play upstairs, in the bedroom. I don’t mind it to be honest; it allots me some relaxation from my day. Even though my wife isn’t much of a baseball fan, she does tolerate my screaming at the television for reasons she has the slightest clue about. Last night there was a strange yet calm silence directed towards my bedroom television and as a Met fan accustomed to the twisted ire of the Baseball Gods, I increasingly became concerned; can this really be finally happening?
The sixth inning came and went and something inside me said Joe, you need to take this downstairs to the big screen and get the baby. This is different. Trust me this is different. So I go downstairs and my wife is sitting there watching Jerseylicious. Now you know why I was upstairs. My wife is addicted to reality television the way I’m addicted to watching the Amazins’, so I really can’t complain but she saw on my face that this was very different. I literally said to her, “History is going to be made tonight.” I got a quick glance a, whatever you say dear. She smiled and flipped me the remote. It was pretty obvious that this wasn’t her first rodeo with the Amazins’ and me.
My nerves a wrecking havoc on my body as my mouth is so dry I’m tempted to grab my daughter’s sippy cup. I pop open a can of Sprite Zero and gulp it as if I just traveled across the Sahara. My wife noticing my pacing begins to see on Facebook what the whole commotion is about. One of her girlfriends whose husband, also a die-hard, tells her he’s “about to pop a blood vessel”. I totally relate. As a child I can remember my dad introducing me to the legend of Jimmy Qualls and how he became as important a figure in Mets history as anyone. I remember the exacerbated look on his face as he described every close call, every what if and could have been the Mets had over the years. My dad’s explanations of the Mets failure to accomplish a no-hitter, instilled in me a true appreciation of what success really is. And damn it made me wish for it even more so.
I had the extraordinary luck to have attended Tom Glavine’s one-hitter against the Colorado Rockies at Shea on May 23rd 2004. I also attended Jon Niese’s one-hitter against the San Diego Padres at Citi on June 10th 2010. While I may not get to many games it seems I’m fortunate to see the special ones. And even though I wasn’t physically at last night’s game, I can say as most fans probably can today, that I felt I was there in spirit. I remember the electricity in the air at the Glavine and Niese games; it was absolutely palpable. I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like being there last night. As fans we tend to put the game into a different perspective than those who play the game. We live and die with each pitch. Yet with every cut to the dugout, the SNY camera’s showed the emotion on the player’s faces. This was no ordinary game. Last night was so very different even for them.
Yes Beltran’s line drive in the 6th should have been a double. Not tonight though. Tonight was our night and Yul Brenner himself could have been heard saying from the grave, “So it was written, so it shall be done.” Mike Baxter, the local boy who made good, the Whitestone Kid, cemented his name in the annals of Mets history alongside Johan Santana when in the 7th inning he sacrificed his body, slamming into the left field wall robbing Yadier Molina with what would have been another notch in his Met killer belt. Not tonight Yadier Molina. Not tonight. The 8th inning comes and goes. It’s as real as it’s ever been. I’m in uncharted territory, a stranger in a strange land. The tension is unlike anything I’ve ever felt with this team.
Finally the 9th inning arrives and I’m sweating as if I just ran wind sprints in the 90 degree August weather of Port St. Lucie. My hands are pressed to my face, praying. I know it’s silly, why would God care about such things. However to me, he did last night and I wasn’t taking any chances if he didn’t. The first out, a liner to Torres in center and I’m thinking, “This can’t really be happening, is it?” My daughter starts to hop on and off the couch and is reminding me that she wants to watch Bubble Guppies. Not tonight my baby. Not tonight.
The second out, a sinking liner to left. Shortstop Omar Quintanilla and left fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis nearly collide. Did the Baseball Gods have one last goof left for us after all? Even my daughter stopped jumping up and down. It was as surreal a moment as I ever experienced. Nieuwenhuis dodges disaster and makes the catch. We exhale slowly and I looked down and saw my daughter, smiled and reveled in the possibility that one day I’ll tell her about the history we experienced together.
Santana was approaching 130 pitches, well above the 110 range Terry Collin’s had originally planned. Considering the road he has been down the past two years it makes what’s happening even more unexplainable and amazing. Having fully recovered from shoulder capsule surgery, I admit I was one of a few who thought the days of Johan Santana pitching for any team were over. I’m thrilled to feast on this massive slice of humble pie. If there was anyone who could make a comeback from such a devastating injury for a pitcher, it’s Johan Santana. Silly me.
David Freese, last year’s World Series Most Valuable Player and a St. Louis native, steps to the plate. I can’t believe the Mets are one out away from a date with history. Santana falls behind in the count immediately. We’re exhausted. I mean he’s exhausted. I can’t imagine what must be going through his mind at this point. I’m pacing, mumbling, totally in a zone of my own making at this point. The count is now full. He can’t go on much longer and Molina is coming up. I yell at the screen, “YOU get him out now dammit!” Santana musters his very last ounce of guile. My eyes are so welled with tears I can barely make out the picture in front of me. I can hear Gary Cohen’s voice and barely make out the pitch. Changeup. Low. Freese swings and misses!
Time comes to a standstill as I was standing, hands clutching my face praying and at that moment, sobbing with tears pouring down my face. There were so many images of my father and I talking about the Mets overwhelming me even as I write this. It was as if a video montage of my life were playing before my mind’s eye. I so wish he were here to see this finally happen. Perhaps he was. Is this how it’s supposed to feel? For one brief moment, all the pain all the trials, both literally and figuratively that we as Mets fans have endured the last few years, were exorcised by the performance of Johan Santana. Whatever happens from this point on, whatever road we take as fans with this team of ours, Johan Santana will forever hold a special if not the most special place in all Mets fans hearts. Today I feel so, young.