So last night a Mets pickup off the scrap heap, a former team draft pick named Nelson Figueroa, who was released by the Seattle Mariners last year after spring training and ended up playing in Mexico and Taiwan all year, pitched 4-1/3 perfect innings before surrendering a walk in the fifth.
The Mets are now 48 years old, and to this day, no Mets pitcher has ever thrown a no-hitter.
At least not while with the Mets.
Nolan Ryan was traded for Jim Fucking Fregosi in 1971 and went on to throw two no-hitters in 1973, and one each in 1974, 1975, 1981, 1990, and 1991.
Tom Seaver was traded away in 1977 and threw a no-hitter the next year.
Mike "Scuffy" Scott was traded away in 1982 and threw one in 1986.
Dwight Gooden threw one for the Fucking Yankees (/Gilliard) in 1996, two years after leaving the Mets in 1994.
David Cone left the Mets after five years in 1992 and threw one for the Fucking Yankees seven years after that in 1999.
Hideo Fucking NOMO even threw one in 2001, after leaving the Mets after one year in 1998.
I remember Bobby Ojeda throwing 6 no-hit innings at a game Mr. Brilliant and I went to once.
I have stayed riveted to a chair, unable to do so much as take a pee, lest I jinx the pitcher, more times than I can count.
And the Mets still don't have one.
It isn't that I expected Nelson Figueroa to throw a no-no last night. But in the annals of baseball poetry, the stars looked to be aligned for one. Here you had a kid who grew up as a Mets fan, who was drafted by the Mets in 1995 but traded in 1995, along with the aging Bernard Gilkey, for what was essentially a batboy, a box of balls, and a pack of Doublemint. He's bounced around baseball for thirteen years before finally coming home and getting the start last night because Pedro's injury necessitated another starter. His family, headed by his adorable father, who looks and sounds like one of those colorful guys they interview in documentary films about Great Baseball Moments, was there in Billy Wagner's donated suite; seemingly dozens of them, looking as if they were any other group out for a ball game instead of the family of the starting pitcher.
But because this is the Mets, it was just not to be.
But this is just one reason why baseball is poetry. It's one reason why, despite the steroids and the greed and the money and the TV networks and all the crap that has over the years done its best to destroy this game, every now and then a kid from Coney Island, plucked off the scrap heap of the majors; a kid who only ever in his life wanted one thing -- to pitch for the Mets -- got his chance last night and came within a half-game of making history.
And there's more. Figueroa is no dumb jock. He's a Latino guy who went to a Jewish college (Brandeis University) and got a degree in American Studies. He's also an electronics whiz and an artist who designed T-shirts
for Major League baseball to sell after the 9/11 attacks to raise money for the families of firefighters and police officers killed that day.
Figueroa's story last nighIt's the kind of thing that makes people like Metsgrrl, who for my money ought to be the poet laureate of Flushing, Queens, write stuff like this
I think it had all started to dawn on us what might be happening when one of the twins behind us says something that causes TBF to yell through clenched teeth, “But WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT THAT,” and then it dawns on everyone, and we all start briskly discussing the Yankees vs. the Red Sox and the moronic hordes of Yankee fans at Shea tonight, and how are Miriam and Julia’s parents, and anything except the thing that we’re all not going to talk about or otherwise acknowledge. My own superstitions get the best of me and I rule out even thinking about what we’re not talking about.
And then we got to the fifth inning.
After that first hit, we stood. We applauded heartily. We tried to get the people who were doing the whole OMG IT IS FRIDAY AND I AM AT A BASEBALL GAME DRINKING BEER! WOOO! to stand up and cheer with us but now they are not interested. They weren’t completely hopeless, because the next inning they started a “FIG-UR-O-A clap-clap-clap-clap-clap” chant, for which we like them.
At this point it feels a little bit like the bizarro world. The cloud and the half-empty stadium make it seem like we could be anywhere, because there are no identifying landscape features in the distance, since they are all obscured by the fog. And I start to think about how almost every night of the week, there is a baseball game playing somewhere, and there are people who go almost every night and people who go as often as they can, and there are places that get crowds like the one we have right now even on a weekend, especially if the team isn’t very good or is losing or isn’t very popular. But it doesn’t matter how many people show up, the game still goes on. The groundscrew takes care of the field, they rake the infield and the warning track, they chalk the lines. There are 9 men on the field and the game has the same rules. I could go to a baseball game anywhere in the world and mostly know what was going on, even if I didn’t speak the language.
This is what I think about sitting up in my cloud, watching Aaron Heilman be mighty and Joe Smith be okay and Billy Wagner kick serious ass. And then “Taking Care of Business” plays and I am sorry I did not watch the handshaking on the field more closely, after I came home and watched that fifth inning and then that 9th inning and the Kevin Burkhardt interviews with Nelson and his family and his father and hearing Ronnie’s voice crack in empathy and identification just a little.
And I resolve to remember this all the next time I think I’m too tired to go to the game.
Labels: New York Mets