Calling the Shots: The reasons we love sports: No-Han

Jake Eisenberg, Sports Editor

In each season of every single sport, athletes achieve greatness. Individual accomplishments, franchise milestones, and newly broken records litter the end-of-season highlights.

On Dec. 22, 2003, just one day after his father passed away, Brett Favre threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a win over the Oakland Raiders.

In the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan played through the flu against the Utah Jazz, scoring a team-high 39 points, including a crucial three-pointer with 25 seconds left in the game that gave the team an 88-85 lead.

In the 1980 Winter Olympics, the USA Olympic hockey team, comprised of amateur and college players, overcame seemingly insurmountable odds at Lake Placid to take gold after defeating perennial superstar and political archenemy the Soviet Union in the semi-finals and Sweden in the finals.

Hallways, office buildings, train stations, coffee-shops, telephones and homes now have a new story to share as they echo with choruses of, “Did you see that last night?” I’m lucky enough to say that I did.

This past Friday, Johan Santana made New York Mets history, throwing the franchise’s first no-hitter in a game against the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. While some may argue that this was just another no-hitter among the other 275 in baseball history, those loyal to the New York Mets know that it means much more.

The Mets began playing in 1962, and are celebrating their 50th anniversary this season. Throughout its 8,019 regular season games, the franchise has garnered two World Series titles, three National League Championships, five Division titles, and a total of seven playoff appearances.

The Mets have seen two Cy Young Award winners, Dwight “Doc” Gooden and two-time recipient Tom Seaver, and have had seven former pitchers pitch no-hitters and perfect games with other teams. In addition, nine pitchers came to the Mets after throwing no-hitters.

And, so, throughout those 8,019 regular-season games, the New York Mets pitchers have given up at least one hit in every single game. Not once in the short-but-storied record of the Metropolitans has one of their pitchers thrown a no-hitter. In fact, they were one of only two Major League teams, the other being the San Diego Padres, not to have thrown one.

However, on June 1, at approximately 9:54 p.m., the Padres sat alone. The 8,020th regular season game is a day now reserved in the Mets annals for Johan Santana.

Even before the game, the stage was set for something “Amazin’” to happen. Carlos Beltran, berated for his “caught-looking” strikeout to end the 2006 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, returned to Citi Field, after signing in the offseason with the Cardinals.

Additionally, the pitcher responsible for that strikeout, Adam Wainwright, was Santana’s opposition on the mound. Furthermore, it was only Santana’s 11th start since undergoing season-ending surgery for a torn anterior capsule in his shoulder on Sept. 14, 2010.

The game had every cliché of a no-hitter present: the questionable call, the major defensive play, the nail-biting fans. In the sixth inning, Beltran hit a line drive that was called foul by the third base umpire, but was clearly shown to be fair on instant replay. However, instant replay can only overturn home run and outfield catch calls, so Beltran remained in the batters box, only to ground out to David Wright at third base.

In the seventh inning, Yadier Molina, known to Mets fans for hitting the ninth-inning home run that sealed the 2006 NLDS, was robbed of a hit by a fantastic catch by left fielder Mike Baxter, a New York metro area native.

Controversy arose in the bottom of the eight, as Manager Terry Collins said that Santana would be on a strict 110-pitch limit, to ease him back into his starting role. However, Collins understood the implications of the game and kept Santana on the mound, and in the hunt for the no-no.

Finally, Johan Santana struck out World Series MVP David Freese on a change-up with his 134th pitch to clinch the feat.

On June 1, 2012, Johan Santana made greatness happen. There is no formula for its creation, and there is no way to see it happening until it comes to pass.

That night, as I watched the top of the ninth inning, I did not just wish to see a man complete a no-hitter. As I watched, I hoped, along with the rest of the Mets faithful, to be able to relive the moments again and again, on a sports highlight show, or in a book, some day in the future.

In truth, I wished I were there, because very few people have the luck to witness greatness, and even fewer accomplish it. But those who do can cherish it forever.