That one doesn’t talk about a no-hitter in progress is widely known. Players are not only religious in their restraint from discussing the topic (save for the rare instance of the pitcher himself trying to relieve pressure by bringing it up and subsequently freaking out all his teammates), but will physically move as far away from the pitcher as possible over the course of the game. (“You start to see the guys easing away,” said Oscar Gamble. “When they get that no-hitter, you start to notice a little bench space on both sides of the pitcher getting bigger and bigger.”)
One of the big topics of the unwritten rules as a whole is how they change over the years, and this particular slice of the Code is no exception—sort of. This is one of the rare rules rooted not in respect, but superstition. In that regard, the rule is the same as ever; only the medium has changed.
Once, it was only players who were able to lay down a jinx. With the advent of radio and television, broadcasters were kissed into the unofficial contract. (Phillies broadcaster Scott Graham, talking to his wife off the air during Kevin Millwood’s no-hitter in 2003, couldn’t even bring up the specific reason he didn’t want her to take their increasingly antsy young children home. “Listen to me,” he said, pointing to the scoreboard. “You can’t leave here until that number under the ‘H’ changes.”)
Today, we have bloggers and tweeters.
This last point became especially salient during the course of opening day, when Toronto’s Shaun Marcum held Texas without a hit into the seventh inning. Apparently, people on the Interwebs don’t have quite the same standards as those on the bench.
Take a message board at the Baltimore sun, where a user started a mid-game thread to discuss the no-hitter.
no hitter thru 6 innings
Lind and Wells with HRs.
No way the O’s are better than Toronto…. last place is ours and ours alone!!!
Of course, a few posts later, came this response:
BBOnly a moron would start a thread like this.
Seems like somebody has ALOT to learn about baseball.
Blue Jays 4
Because this is just a fan dabbling in some heavy ju-ju, a degree of leeway seems fair. Of course, even the pros felt similarly few compunctions when it came to restraint from staying overly on-point. Traditionally, beat writers have been exempt from this piece of code, since their copy is filed after the game ends. Now that they live-blog, however, everything’s changed.
Richard Griffin: With a no-hitter going on, the old-school baseball scoring credo is that the first hit needs to be clean and inarguable. As such, when Young slammed a hard topspin three-hopper just to Encarnacion’s right, he took one step, went to one knee on the backhand, clanked it to the dirt, picked it up barehanded and two-hopped a throw to first that Overbay couldn’t handle. It looked like an error, it smelled like an error and this time even in the other team’s ballpark it was called an error.
Guest: Rich, you already mentioned ‘youknowwhat’ when referring to EE’s error. I was quite taken aback that you would mention it so frivolously.
TorontoStar: That was the moderator, Guest, and I was referring to the thing that must not be mentioned when it happens in baseball. Youknowwhat. look at the hits line. that’s all I’ll say.
Richard Griffin: I am not one of those believers in the power of the spoken word when it comes to breaking up “you-know-whats” from afar. I don’t think Marcum can hear me from where I’m sitting.
Richard Griffin: I am being chastised by my own moderator. What’s next?
When the medium shifts to Twitter, not much changes. John Lott, a baseball reporter for the National Post, offered this string of clearly remorseless tweets:
Marcum has a no-hitter through 6. Two more Ks in that inning.
12:33 PM Apr 5th via TweetDeck
Marcum pitched six scoreless innings to start a game eight times in ’07 and eight times in ’08. Hold your breath …
12:39 PM Apr 5th via TweetDeck
Vlaid breaks up no-no with clean 1B to right.
12:47 PM Apr 5th via TweetDeck
Just now getting the chance to review all the tweets from folks blaming me for jinxing Marcum. You’re right. What was I thinking … (more)
2:49 PM Apr 5th via TweetDeck
That weakling Guerrero would have fanned for sure if not for me. And I willed Cruz to reach down with one arm and hit one up into the wind.
2:50 PM Apr 5th via TweetDeck
These are the powerful demons I must constantly fight. I will endeavour to rally against them.
2:53 PM Apr 5th via TweetDeck
There’s no real way to pin Marcum’s failure on Lott, if only because Lott wasn’t even the only person talking about it on Twitter. Here’s a string from Toronto’s MLB.com reporter Jordan Bastian (whose game account is referenced above):
Marcum dealing through four innings: 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 4 K.
12:08 PM Apr 5th via TweetDeck
Blame this person when it doesn’t happen Jays fans —-> RT @rrwillerton: @MLBastian no hitter no hitter no hitter
12:20 PM Apr 5th via TweetDeck
Dave Stieb’s no-hitter came during a 3-0 win for the Blue Jays… Umm, Toronto is up 3-0 right now…
12:32 PM Apr 5th via TweetDeck
Why am I getting so many angry replies? Because I said Shaun Marcum was throwing a no-hitter? A no-hitter thru six innings?
12:35 PM Apr 5th via TweetDeck
(After Marcum gave up both hits and runs)
I hardly think my tweeting has any influence on the game below. Everyone… deep breaths.
12:53 PM Apr 5th via TweetDeck
This rule clearly elicits more passionate responses than virtually any other section of the Code (a tall order, considering how inherently silly it is). Now that we have so many more ways to communicate with each other, it’ll be interesting to see how closely policed these loose-lipped tweeters and bloggers will actually be.