Last week we heard about the superstitious behavior of the Twins as Francisco Liriano worked through his no-hitter against the White Sox.
This week: An additional spate of such behavior as pitchers around the league flirted with their own no-no’s—and in the case of Justin Verlander, actually completed it.
Which seems like a good place to start.
A primary piece of no-hitter etiquette has to do with avoiding the pitcher in any way possible and under no circumstances mentioning the fact of the no-hitter. This happened during Liriano’s feat, but not in Verlander’s—at least as far as the pitcher was concerned.
This is where already having a no-hitter on his resume came in handy. As evidenced by Verlander’s post-game calm, the right-hander felt little of the pressure normally associated with such feats. He went so far as to dissipate dugout nerves himself, seeking out teammates with whom to interact. (No report yet about how those teammates handled it.)
A secondary rule holds that those in the dugout maintain whatever it is they’re doing—sitting in the same seats, flipping a ball up and down, & etc.—since that action is clearly responsible for the events on the field. (In The Baseball Codes, Bob Brenly talks about spending innings on end rapping on the knob of Matt Kata’s bat during Randy Johnson’s perfect game, despite the increasing rawness of his knuckles.)
In Toronto, Verlander’s teammate, Alex Avila, took things a step further, refraining from using the restroom despite an increasing need from the sixth inning on. “I was too afraid to go,” he told the Detroit Free Press.
Even after Verlander completed his feat, Avila was compelled to take part in the celebration, both on the mound and in the clubhouse. It wasn’t until 10 minutes afterward that he was finally able to hit the head.
On the air, Tigers broadcasters Mario Impemba and Rod Allen refused to reference the feat during the game. This is a contentious point, as many in the business feel that a broadcaster’s primary job is to inform the audience about what is going on.
The Detroit duo had at least one defender—Free Press columnist Terry Foster, who wrote about being “stunned” when a fellow parent at his kid’s soccer game told him of Verlander’s feat, in progress. Ultimately, though, he did come around. A little. “I forgive those parents . . . only because it worked out,” he wrote. “We know who to blame if Toronto managed a cheap hit at the end.”
A quick rundown of other would-be no-hitters that didn’t quite reach completion:
- Jamie Garcia vs. Milwaukee, May 6 (broken up in the eighth): The left-hander was alone by the sixth inning. “What are you going to say? ‘Ain’t this great?’ ” said Tony La Russa in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We all had our thoughts.”
- Yovani Gallardo vs. St. Louis, May 7 (broken up in the eighth): Same teams as Garcia’s game, different outcome one day later. Gallardo had thrown 104 pitches through seven innings, raising substantial concerns that Brewers manager Ron Roenicke might remove him. In response, fellow starters Randy Wolf and Shaun Marcum stood guard in the dugout. “The other starting pitchers wouldn’t let me take him out,” said Roenicke in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “They put a block on me. I really didn’t have a choice.”
- Anibal Sanchez vs. Washington, May 8 (broken up in the seventh): Sanchez was over 100 pitches in the seventh, putting Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez in much the same position as Roenicke. “We were paying a lot of attention to the pitch count,” Rodriguez said in the Miami Herald.
Save for Verlander, of course, none of these pitchers was able to finish what he started—developments that had nothing to do with the perpetuation of superstition in their own vigilant dugouts.
Then again, it’s not like it would have mattered.
“If a pitcher tells you he’s not thinking about it, it’s not true,” said Gallardo in reference to people trying to avoid the subject with him. Which is entirely the point.