Due to the convergence of various external factors in my schedule, it turned out that, of the three Sox home games this past week against Texas, I chose Wednesday night’s game to attend. It is safe to say I’m glad it worked out that way.
Many White Sox players interviewed after Buehrle’s masterful no-hitter that night said they were more nervous during that game than they were during the World Series. Having been in the stands during both Game One of the 2005 World Series as well as the no-no, I can concur, at least from a fan’s perspective. And it seems fairly obvious to me why that was the case.
During a no-hitter, especially for the last six (or so) outs, every pitch is gut-wrenching, and every ball hit into play causes 40,000 attendees’ hearts to skip a beat. Of course, the reason being: the outcome of the game is generally decided, so each opposing hitter is crucial not because he affects the score but because he must be retired, or else the holy grail is lost—for that day.
On the other hand, the importance of a World Series game hinges upon its final score, regardless of the outcome of a particular at-bat. Hence my stomach in knots during the top of the ninth of a 6-0 ballgame in mid-April, and only a feeling of heightened excitement during much of the World Series game.
An interesting feature of any pitcher’s no-hit bid is the fact that, even if the pitcher fails, he is assured of entering his next start with another chance at a no-hitter. Likewise, the next day’s starter has a chance at one too. And this is true for all 15 major league baseball games that take place each day. This repetitive opportunity is unlike most exciting moments in baseball, such as a batter trying to extend a 32-game hitting streak, or McGwire at the plate with 61 home runs, or a closer entering the game in the bottom of the ninth with a lead and his team’s magic number at one. It’s strange how rare it is, when the opportunity is there for 30 starting pitchers nearly every day over the course of six months.
Certainly, Wednesday’s moment is one I’ll never forget, and likely won’t have the opportunity to ever see again. Millions of baseball fans attend hundreds of games in their lives and never get to witness a rarity like that, and it was only that much sweeter because all-time good guy Mark Buehrle was the pitcher upon whose head a dozen beers were poured to celebrate a night that hopefully is a harbinger of the White Sox moving into first place and Buehrle rebounding from a very disappointing second half of 2006. Or it could just be Buehrle’s Chicago swan song as he enters the free agent market at season’s end. Either way, I couldn’t be happier for him.