People want to be part of history. This breeds a pair of annoying conversational manifestations, one worse than the other. The first applies when the person played some remote role, which then becomes the center of the recitation: “I still can’t get over the fact that I drove the tour bus that pulled into the parking lot at the TV studio at the exact moment that Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatles.” The second, well nigh unendurable, comes when the person must tell what he was doing at the time, despite its total irrelevance to the event: “I had just come in from walking the dog and my right shoe was caked with mud from a little ditch that I stepped into by accident when I heard that the Berlin Wall fell.”
Be forewarned. I am about to commit a variety of this offense, ranking somewhere between those two categories, in speaking about the no-hitter thrown Wednesday night here in Miami by Anibal Sanchez. Here goes: I drove my 15-year-old son to the game, he caught Joe Borchard’s home run ball in the 2nd inning, he got it autographed after the game by Sanchez, and I… pay attention, you don’t want to miss this part… I picked him up at the stadium after the game. Am I the right man in the right place or what?
Actually, yes I am. This is by far the most exciting baseball city of the year, perhaps of the century. The Florida Marlins play at Dolphin Stadium, a mere ten minutes by city streets from my home. They started the season with a team comprised almost entirely of rookies, with only two star players bound to the team by contract, third-baseman Miguel Cabrera and pitcher Dontrelle Willis. Even their manager, 41-year-old former catcher Joe Girardi, is a tyro at his craft.
Expected to sink like a stone, they initially obliged, starting the season with 11 wins and 31 losses. In baseball parlance, they were twenty games below .500. With ten more wins they would have been 21-21, a .500 record, but the colloquialism derives from the fact that it would take twenty wins from that point to arrive at 31-31. But all that was academic, since the last team to rebound from 20 under to reach equiponderation later in the season was in 1899. And no team had ever reached 20 under in a season and then gone over .500, even by one game. I repeat, never. Never in 120 years of professional baseball.
Well, it has been done now. The Marlins as I write are 70-69, and due to the endemic weakness of the midlevel teams in the National League, they are in the thick of the competition for the league’s wild card entry to the playoffs (given to the team that has the best record among those not leading their division). The idea that a squad of untried initiates could be battling this fiercely into the last month of the campaign is absurd, an absurdity being trumped by events.
They are breaking all the rookie records in both pitching and hitting. This is the first time in sixty years that three first-year pitchers on the same team have ten or more wins. The first time in National League history that two rookie teammates have twenty home runs apiece. Second baseman Dan Uggla has hit 22 home runs, the most ever by a rookie playing that position. And on and on. Now everyone knows that rookie pitching must be bolstered by veteran hitting and rookie hitting must support veteran pitching; or do they?
Now 22-year-old Venezuelan Anibal Sanchez, who was too young to start the season with the team and was added midway through, has thrown a no-hitter, the first in the major leagues in 4,015 games since May 18, 2004. This group, cobbled together by genius general manager Larry Beinfest, has long since eclipsed the improbable and ventured into the zone of the impossible. Once you start doing things that have never been done in 120 years, there are no longer any meaningful limits on your potential.
This is the inspiration that takes us beyond the confines of sport. The restrictions upon achievement imposed by past peaks are imaginary barriers. The last zenith is merely a marker; it is meant to be exceeded. We can do it in the first burst of youth or in the polished poise of more advanced years. Let us make bold and predict that the Marlins will play in the World Series this year and that the Republican Party will expand the ranks of its congressmen in the November elections.
As for me, I have the advantage of being right there. Yes, I have attended a game personally in this magical season. It was one of those first 42 games and they lost 10-1. Doesn’t that count? No? Darn… if only The American Spectator were not such a slave driver, I could get out and have a life.