The Significance of Zero

On June 2nd, 1990, my dad took me to a baseball game. I was five years old and we were going to see the Mariners take on the visiting Detroit Tigers in the Kingdome. Even at that age I went to so many ballgames that this particular day was no different than many others. But somewhere, amongst my collection of baseball-related things, I still possess a ticket stub from that contest. It’s unusually glossy, with a vibrant yellow trim, and weaves the Mariners’ alternate logo — a blue baseball stamped with “M’s” lettering — into its otherwise-white canvas. It indicates my preferred seating location — somewhere in the nether reaches of the Dome’s 300-level, on the first base side, directly across from the big screen, or DiamondVision to the initiated.

I don’t remember much about that particular evening. When you’ve only recently hit the halfway point of your single-digit years, memories tend to be fuzzy and shrouded in puffy, silver clouds. I’d like to say I recall every moment of that game, but that would be a lie. About the only distinct memory I do have is rising to my feet with a crowd, clapping and cheering as the ninth inning faded into oblivion. Next to me, my dad explained what was occurring. Baseball may not have done everything right in defining their terminology over the years, but the term “no-hitter” is pretty easy for anyone to understand, even a kid.

Much of what I know about that night and its place in history came in the following years. Tacked up on my wall, alongside my bed, hung a poster commemorating the events of that date. I studied that poster for more than a decade. Every time I rearranged my room, that poster found itself moving to a new location. I wanted to look at it always. It gave me something to focus on when I couldn’t sleep, something to think about when I needed to ease my mind, and most of all, it was just plain awesome.

The inset of that poster contained a box score from the historic game. Burned into my consciousness are all sorts of anomalies from that stat sheet that I won’t ever forget.

Ken Griffey, Jr., still just 20 years of age, had not yet endeared himself to the heart of the team’s order; he batted fifth that evening. Following Junior at sixth and seventh in the lineup? Third baseman Edgar Martinez and right fielder Jay Buhner.

Mike Brumley, who happens to be the team’s current first base coach, played shortstop and batted ninth. In the history of Mariners infielders, Brumley, a journeyman backup, was but a blip on the radar of relevance. Had it not been for this particular evening that he found himself penciled into the starting nine, few fans might retain any memory of Mike Brumley, the Mariner.

Scott Bradley, a left-handed-hitting backup catcher, was on the receiving end of every pitch thrown that night. He was spelling injured starter Dave Valle — a frequent visitor to the disabled list in his career.

Cecil Fielder, who would go on to hit a league-leading 51 home runs in the 1990 season, occupied the three-hole in the Tigers’ order. He didn’t manage a dinger, let alone a hit, on this night, however.

And at the bottom of that box, in the home pitching frame, read a line that will forever have meaning to Seattle sports fans. Having relinquished zero runs and zero hits, walked six, and struck out eight, Randy Johnson pitched all nine innings to record the franchise’s first no-hitter. Above those statistics, an image of Johnson surrounded by teammates and embraced by his catcher, Bradley, lay splashed in black-and-white across the vast majority of this work of art. Human emotion remained frozen in time. A man roared skyward, another grinned, a few more ran towards the embracing battery, and thousands of individuals cheered in the background. It was, in a word, significant.

Twenty-two years and six days elapsed between Seattle’s first no-hitter and its most recent. In this rendition of hitlessness, six hurlers combined to stymie the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.

Kevin Millwood started the game, then pulled his groin after six innings. He made way for southpaw Charlie Furbush, who would eventually yield to rookie right-hander Stephen Pryor. Pryor would issue two baserunners via walks to start the eighth, forcing manager Eric Wedge to turn to situational lefty Lucas Luetge to record an out, then the beleaguered (no pun intended) Brandon League to nail down the penultimate frame. In the ninth, newly-christened closer Tom Wilhelmsen set down the final three hitters in order, thus polishing off one of the rarer feats in sports: a combined no-hitter.

Much has been written about this moment already, so for me to recap it once more would be foolish. But the reality of the situation is that this game, for those who witnessed it, will never be forgotten. You can ask me where I was on June 2nd, 1990, and I’ll be able to tell you from now until the day I die. Likewise, for those in attendance at Safeco Field on June 8th, 2012, there will always be a certain importance attached to the date.

In the grand scheme of a season that may or may not end up being remarkable, Friday evening will stand out. And on the landscape of Seattle sports events, though it might not result in a championship or even have a direct bearing on the team’s performance from here on out, this no-hitter will resonate as a gigantic pick-me-up amidst a down era in the city’s athletic annals.

We needed this. I needed it. You needed it. If you’re a sports fan in this town of ours, what the Mariners did on one special night in June was a shot in the arm for all of us.

So to the Mariners and their six remarkable pitchers, because we don’t say it enough, and because it just feels good to say it sometimes, thank you. Thank you, M’s. You did great.

3 thoughts on “The Significance of Zero”

  1. I was in the centerfield beer garden! was awesome! Capped me being up for 30 straight hours!

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