When Major League Baseball launched its 24-hour network on Jan. 1, 2009, the first broadcast was Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, what was up until last night the only postseason no-hitter in the history of baseball.
What Roy Halladay delivered to Phillies fans last night, and to all fans, was something that may never be duplicated in our lifetime; it was that rare. The no-hitter has been my Loch Ness monster since I first learned of one in 1975 as a seven-year-old, brand new baseball fan. I heard of a pitcher named Nolan Ryan tossing his second no-hitter of the season for the California Angels. This started my quest to see a no-hitter.
As a young Phillies fan, I would sit by the radio every time that Steve Carlton took the mound with hopes of hearing a gem. It wouldn't be until 1990 that the Phillies would get their first no-hitter in my career, but I was stationed in Germany at the time and read about it in the Stars and Stripes. I relived this again in '91 when Tommy Greene tossed a no-hitter against the Montreal Expos.
I have attended upwards of 500 MLB games in my lifetime and have been in the ballpark for some great moments. I have seen Roger Clemens go for his 300th win (he got a no decision), and Dmitri Young hit three home runs on opening day 2003 for the Tigers.
This season alone I have been in the park when Armando Galarraga took a perfect game into the sixth inning, a month after his near perfection, and saw Justin Verlander give up a hit in the first-inning only to mow down the next 21 in a row, but give up two in the ninth to finish with a three-hitter.
What Halladay delivered on Oct. 6, 2010, was worth the wait. There have been so many close calls. I have seen the last inning of countless no-hitters and a few perfect games when ESPN or MLB Network cuts to them already in progress, most memorably Jim Abbott in 1993. But the quest was to see a gem from start to finish, and somehow of all the thousands of games I have seen in my life, I could never slay that dragon until last night.
One of the oddest close calls in my life was on July 18, 1999. I was in an Atlantic City hotel room watching David Cone spin a perfect game against the Expos; simple enough. The only catch was that authorities were in the midst of a search for the plane carrying John F. Kennedy Jr., and the broadcast was interrupted multiple times, and at great length to cover that tragedy. As an American of Irish decent and a fan of the Kennedy family, I was torn because I had almost beaten my demon.
Mussina also broke my heart again in 2001 as a Yankee when he took a perfect game into the ninth inning on a Sunday night against Boston. With two outs and two strikes on pinch hitter Carl Everett, I looked over at my brother-in-law and said, "You gotta bounce one up there." My brother-in-law said, "Bounce two." Mike didn't listen. He delivered a fastball that Everett sent into left field for a clean single. Mussina's shoulders slumped and the heart was ripped out of my chest.
When Justin Verlander pitched his no-hitter in 2007, I had listened to innings two through five on the radio and saw the rest on TV. Close, but not quite what I have been seeking for so many years. It was incredible; people were pouring beer on each other and yelling and cheering, but I had missed the first inning. So close.
When Halladay took the mound last night and pieced together the greatest game that I have ever had the good fortune to witness from start to finish, he gave each and every one of us a gift that we can carry with us for the rest of our lives—something that we can tell our grandchildren about. What we saw last night was something that may never happen again in our lifetime.
What Halladay gave to Phillies fans last night and to all baseball fans was something that we should be eternally grateful for. I have seen my Loch Ness monster.