Back in 1978, I was in college. In June, I had just completed by my sophomore year.
Everyone who knew me knew I was a huge Cincinnati Reds fan. Living on my dorm floor my first two seasons were twins David and Mark Block who just so happened to graduate from my high school in Indianapolis. But since there were 1,400 kids in my graduating class, I didn’t really know them then.
We because fast friends over baseball. They were huge, epic, avid Saint Louis Cardinals fans.
We always threatened to go to a game but for one reason or another never did.
Before the last day of college that year, we decided we’d go to a Cardinals-Reds game. We bought tickets. Back then, you sent in a check and a few weeks later you got your tickets in the mail
We picked a random day. June 16th.
That afternoon, the three of us hopped into my Mazda GLC and made the two-hour trip from Indianapolis to Cincinnati.
“Who’s pitching tonight?” Nobody knew. There was no internet back then. You had to actually pay attention to the world. We were college students. We didn’t pay attention to anything. When I stopped for gas, one of the Block brothers bought a newspaper. He jumped in the car and said, “Oh my God, Tom Seaver is pitching tonight.” He had no opener. He needed no opener. He usually needed no closer.
Seaver had been traded to the Reds the year before, the Mets having executed one of the stupidest trades in major league history.
Tom Seaver? How lucky could we have gotten. We made out way to Cincinnati, to Riverfront Stadium, then to our seats way out in the boondocks in left field.
In the sixth inning we realized something. The Cardinals didn’t have a hit. It said so on the big scoreboard.
That’s nice. But there were still three innings left. (This was back when a starter went nine innings, unless it went into extra innings, then he went ten or eleven.)
The seventh inning came. One-two-three, the Cardinals went down.
One-two-three in the eighth.
Wait, this might happen. This random game we decided to attend a few weeks ago might be anything more than random.
Seaver walked the first batter in the ninth. Then got the next batter out. Then the next batter. Then the final batter.
In the 396th start of his brilliant Hall-of-Fame career, Tom Seaver pitched a no-hitter.
“I had my best stuff at the end,” Seaver would recall. It’s a good thing he wasn’t pitching now. Because after six innings he would have been removed. Sabermetics ignores how good one’s stuff is. Or how a pitcher gets better as the game goes on.
Tom Seaver died yesterday. He was one of the greatest pitchers of all time. I was lucky to be in the stands in Riverfront Stadium to see him on one of his greatest games of all time.
Godspeed, Tom Terrific. Thanks for the memory that June day in 1978.
Lance Lynn (4-1, 1.93) vs. Zack Grienke (2-0, 2.69)