The Big Unit

Last night was one of those rare occasions when I was glad The Superstation exists, because when the Cubs’ announcers mentioned that the Unit had a perfect game through 8, we were able to switch over and watch the 9th.

The Unit was throwing as well as I’ve ever seen. He looked a little sweaty, but not tired.

With one out to go, he stepped off the mound and kind of composed himself, and Skip Carey said, “Johnson holds a little team meeting with himself.”

With two outs to go, the Braves home crowd stood, cheering for Johnson to get the last out. But Stacey noticed at least one guy wearing a rally cap. Her thought: only a Braves fan would attempt to root for both a perfect game against his team and a rally for his team at the same time.

Then Johnson struck out the last hitter, and his catcher, Robby Hammock, leaped into the air, high, several times while the Unit smiled. That was the best part, I think, seeing the Unit smile. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that.

And seeing his teammates touch his hair. I know I’ve never seen that.

So congratulations to the Big Unit, one of my very favorite players. Couldn’t have done it to a better team.

Original comments…

Jon Solomon: Thankfully they made similar mention during the NBA playoffs (or was it the Mets game on MSG?) that Johnson was perfect through seven, so my Dad and I were able to switch over and watch it together.

sandor: My friend Jason was at the Yankee/Red Sox game a few years ago when Mike Mussina pitched 8 2/3 innings of perfect ball, only to have it ruined with a hit by ugly ducking Carl Everett. He said the entire Fenway crowd was on its feet, as Atlanta’s was here, but not to cheer on the pitcher about to make history; he said they were still rooting for their Sox to break it up. Even with Everett, who pretty much everyone in Boston hated, at the plate. Which I guess makes sense, if you’re the Red Sox and you’re about to be put in the history books for the wrong reason, thanks to those bastard Yankees.

I tried to console him (Jason, not Mussina) by explaining he probably witnessed a rarer feat: “Sure, a perfect game is rare, but isn’t a pitcher going perfect for only 8 2/3 innings only to have it broken up on the last out is even rarer!” (I don’t actually know if this is true, but I imagine so.) Anyway, he wasn’t consoled.

Levi: I will go to my grave believing that the reason Jim and I didn’t see Frank Castillo throw a no-hitter against the Cardinals on September 25, 1995 is that, with two outs in the 9th, I cheered for Castillo to retire Bernard Gilkey.

The god repaid my breaking faith with the Cardinals by allowing Gilkey to hit a triple into the right-field corner.

Never again will I root against the Cardinals for any reason in any situation. Sorry about that, Jim.

thatbob: The Unit isn’t as fat as I’d like, but he sure is ugly! And I’m a big fan of anything that strikes out Braves. Go Big Unit!

Levi: Re: my post above. That should read “The gods.” I’m nothing if not a polytheist. Well, except for an athiest, that is.

Jim: Well, “the god” is probably appropriate if you’re a polytheist, because there is probably one specific god of Punishing Levi for Rooting Against the Cardinals. Obviously, he doesn’t have as many responsibilities as, say, Zeus, so when he gets a chance to do his thing, he’s going to take it.

Jason: PLRAC? (pronounced pul-rak)

Levi: My coworker, Jim, says, “Maybe touching the Unit’s hair is like touching a snake’s skin. You know, you expect it to be all slimy, but it’s really cool and dry.”

Secho: I was in the pressbox at Shea Stadium scoring the Mets-Cards game during the perfect game hubbub. I happen to sit right in the middle of several members of the Japanese media, who were unfazed by reports of the Unit’s perfection through 8, but outraged when Colin Porter was sent to pinch hit for So Taguchi in the top of the 9th. Taguchi had entered the game in a double-switch in the bottom of the 8th, an inning after 74-year-old Ray Lankford butchered a can of corn in left.

Anyway, the point: Longtime Met and Yankee official scorer Bill Shannon was sitting nearby, recounting every no-hitter he remembered in New York, and recalling who the official scorer was for each off the top of his head. It was unbelievable, hearing him talk about Larsen’s game in ’56. He noted there were 3 official scorers that day, as there are in World Series games, and tossed their names off as if he’d seen them yesterday, and then talked about a couple of pitches Larsen got away with in that game: “He threw a 2-2 hanging slider, but it was fouled back.” How does he remember this stuff? I don’t even remember most of Game 7 of the NLCS last year.

Levi: My memories of last year’s NLCS game 7 are clouded with despair.

I think that’s how you know the Cubs are only my backup team. If they were my real team, the despair would only bring the events into ever-clearer focus. Leading to more despair.

toby: Do I detect a bit of Braves-hating in that entry, Leviticus? I hope so.
A loyal Pirate fan

Francisco Cabrerra is the devil.

Anonymous: It could be worse, you could be a red sox fan

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