I probably would have rather seen Mark Buehrle's perfect game on July 23, 2009 or Milt Pappas' one-strike-away from perfection on Sept. 2, 1972.
But settling for the witnessing of Francisco Liriano's no-hitter to break my lifelong hitless-gem jinx on Tuesday night was not bad compensation.
I had an inkling Liriiano, all but dangling out of the Twins' rotation with a 9.13 ERA coming in -- you have company, Ryan Dempster -- might pull it off as the Sox could not make solid contact amid his effectively wild serves that included a decent changeup. When Danny Valencia nailed Carlos Quentin's hot smash in back of third and gunned him down at first to end the seventh, I went into Warp 9 mode in writing a deadline column in the span of two innings. It ain't easy, and you're pumping as hard as Liriano, going beyond his own outer limits of endurance since he had never pitched a complete game at any pro level.
I needed to have the deadline column ready, but was sure I would not have to click "send" on e-mail since I had seen these budding no-no's before always result in near-misses.
There was Boston's Rick Wise, going to two out in the ninth in Milwaukee in 1975, before walking popgun hitter Bill Sharp and then serving up a mammoth no-no-busting homer to George "Boomer" Scott. There was Otis Nixon slapping a grounder past shortstop, also with two out in the ninth, to ruin the bid in Jose Guzman's first Cubs start in 1993. Long-forgotten by many, but down in the record books, was Dave Hansen slapping an infield hit off Alex Fernandez's leg with one out in the ninth to prevent a no-hitter against the Cubs in 1997.
Most recent was the double no-hitter between the Cubs' Ted Lilly and the Sox's Gavin Floyd on June 13, 2010 at Wrigley Field, right after the Blackhawks paraded the freshly-won Stanley Cup around the field. Alfonso Soriano broke up Floyd's end of the bargain with two out in the seventh, the budding double no-no having attracted the attention of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane up in the pressbox lunchroom as they waited to sing in the seventh inning. Lilly kept mowing down the Sox until Juan Pierre slapped a single to break it up leading off the ninth. Pierre couldn't repeat history against Liriano, although he walked twice (Pierre is typically not a pitch-taker) and stole a base.
All the busted-up ninth-inning no-nos have kept intact the Cubs' major-league best record of not being no-hit since Sandy Koufax, pitching in a higher league anyway, threw a perfecto against them at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 9, 1965.
I was offered a chance to attend Carlos Zambrano's no-hitter in Milwaukee in 2008, but declined because I was tired from bailing out a basement drain being flooded by the same hurricane remnants that caused the Cubs-Astros game to be re-located to Miller Park in the first place. I did not attend either of Buehrle's no-hitters (the other in 2007) because I was not assigned to work those games.
I attended Wrigley Field games two days after Ken Holtzman's 1969 no-hitter, one day before Burt Hooton's 1972 no-hitter (a rescheduled season opener due to the first players' strike) and one day after Pappas' aborted perfecto later that season. The Cubs lost 'em all.
It just wasn't in the cards to witness a no-hitter. And I told Zambrano my own jinx didn't apply to him since I wasn't in Milwaukee. But, like the odds of pitching a no-no in any given game, the event will happen when you least expect it.
A no-hitter is a 1,000-to-one shot. It's one of the reasons no matter how much the game makes us cry, how much baseball's lords stub their own toes, we always get re-charged and come back for more. It is one of the most unpredictable events in the most unpredictable sport, with only fools and independently wealthy folks betting on the outcomes.