Zambrano’s No Hitter: An Eyewitness Account
On Saturday night at approximately 9:21pm I received the news from frantic Cubs Fan #43 that hurricane Ike had relocated the Cubs vs Houston game to Miller Park.
“Cubs are playing tomorrow night and Monday in Milwaukee. Road Trip?”
The only valid response to this question:
This prompted me to send a bunch of messages to round up the gang, rally the troops, get the band back together etc….
The silence was deafening.
Apparently the rain and the recent slide had taken its toll on my circle of Cubs Fans. They will be referred to only as the Idiots from now on.
After performing various spiritual rituals, escaping the teary eyes of my lovely Cubs widow, and dodging biblical floods on the streets of Chicago I arrived at the condominium village on the northwest side of Chicago (this place belongs in a suburb) to begin our epic journey.
Agent 43 and his trusty Cubs sidekick, Lisa, began our harrowing trip to the land of cheese in our heavily armored limo. Traffic was avoided, GPS systems enabled, smoke screens deployed, and special defensive driving allowed us to pass unholy numbers of fellow Cubs vagabonds. Lisa can haul ass- God bless her.
We arrived and paid Bernie the Brewer for parking. With 30 minutes to spare we dashed quickly through a couple pregame warm ups and collected our tickets.
I noticed a strange collections of baseball fans at will call – Cubs fans mixed with Brewers fans, and most curiously some idiot wearing a White Sox jersey he apparently stitched himself from used underwear. There is a good chance that no one will ever love this misguided southsider.
Act I: The Scoring
I’d never been to the Brewery and as we were escorted to our luxury right field bleacher seats I took in as much of the stadium as possible.
We arrived as the Anthem was playing and before the lineups were announced. During the first at-bat Fonzie smashes a towering blast that was going to hit the roof. I was concerned about Miller Park ground rules and probably had enough time to look them up before the ball finally landed in the left-field bleachers.
The crowd, after the long commute, erupts. A cute little 4 year old girl behind us in a little pink Cubs jersey freaked out and was insanely happy. That was fun. If the game ended here and we had to go home, it would have been worth it. The Cubbies go down quietly after that, time for the Astros at bat.
Zambrano starts dealing and he hits 96 and 98 with his fastball. I look to #43 and we agree the gun must be hot.. no way is Z firing like that.
It is obvious this isn’t the measured Z we have seen all year who has been taking his sweet time getting warmed up and slowly reaching his peak around the 3rd or 4th inning. This doesn’t look like inning management. He retired the side to some big cheers. I am positive the radar gun is broken.
*We are 500 feet away and Soto’s mitt is popping like we are calling balls and strikes. I bet Soto has to get the day off tomorrow to get the swelling down.
We are pretty easily distracted:
“No big deal- where’s the count in here anyway- oh neat there is a pitch count over there, that’s the slide where Bernie slides down, hey next Cubbie homerun lets siege the slide.. ha ha”
3 up, 3 down for the Cubbies and the Astros. An unlikely single next inning from Cedeno, then another single from Z puts runners on first and second. Fonzie hits another moon shot that doesn’t leave the infield this time and then TheRiot pops out.
“Oh crap- we can’t get the number 8 and 9 hitters on and not score this inning- and here comes D.Lee”
Agent 43 mentions that D.Lee has x home runs and all of them are solo homers and he is so unclutch they should move him to number 13 in the batting order, blah blah blah.
In my prescient but measured way I mention he could make up for that right now.
Boom: 2 Run Double!
The floodgates open with a couple more hits from Ramirez and Soto and after walking DeRo Randy Wolf gets the hook. 4 runs… we congratulate ourselves.
Act II: The Canoe of Cheesecurds
After that long inning, I’m a few beers in and a long car ride from Chicago in need of a bathroom. There is no trough in here… I’m confused and a little scared to be in such a small bathroom. The bathrooms at Wrigley are made for the thousands. I’m pretty sure my bathroom at home is bigger than this Miller Park fiasco.
Might as well grab a brat and some beer while I’m up. For some reason they are playing the Brewers-Phillies game on TV. This is confusing – I glance over my shoulder and notice a man on base, then I hear a double play go down, cheer, and return to the long line.
Fried Cheese Curds in a little paper canoe, a brat, and a beer. The little paper canoe makes me happy and I trot back to the loyal team. Lisa is out on reconnaissance but Agent 43 is holding the seats.
Cheesecurd Fonseca: “Hey- who got the hit”
43: “Shut up dumbass- that’s an error on the scoreboard”
Cheesecurd: “Erase that comment from your memory completely- I never said that- understand?”
I’m not even going to recount the Cubbie offense from here on, there might have been a hit somewhere but no one cared.
Defensively I am sure every Cub on the field was scared for their life. Think about it, if you screwed up on a normal day, Z might devour your children ala Iron Mike. Today, he would slay your entire family Kaiser Soze style, but with more panache and ferocity.
It is the 5th and soon after the cheesecurd enabled conversation, Carlos fires some inside heat and barely misses Hunter Pence- the blood thirsty crowd calls out to really nail him next time. Z complies and plunks him in the back. (I admit I was the only one who wanted Hunter to get hit, but I was only kidding)
The next batter senses weakness and hits a rope. Quantum physicists are at a loss to explain how this happened, but D.Lee puts a patented leaping stab on this ball that goes over any normally proportioned first baseman’s head.
It’s the 6th Inning and the Astros call in their 12th no-name pitcher of the night. It doesn’t matter, every Cub in the lineup is scared shitless that they are going to screw up in the field or look cross-eyed at Z in the dugout. The crowd is slowly starting to figure this out.
Lisa says something to 43 about there “not being much offense from the Astros”. There is almost a tragic end to this fairy tale romance. Luckily Lisa brought back 2 beers from her latest Bernie-Slide Recon mission. (Her suggested route involves a trapeze and a zip line… note: bring zipline next time)
Act III: Internal Conflict
It’s the 7th, at this point I start to worry about Big Z’s arm. we thought he needed an MRI only last week! He is still only around 85 pitches but I know he will do anything to make this no-no happen.
“He could kill himself out there”
Part of me almost wishes for a hit so we can relax and put Z on ice. That part of me is obviously defective and will soon be surgically removed regardless of cost.
By the 8th, the text messages and voicemails start piling up on the phones, the excitement is building and all of a sudden an Astro bat cracks a shot tailing towards the right field corner.
A strange feeling of dread mixed with relief hits me… then out of nowhere a streaking DeRosa finds an angle on the ball and barely snares it sno-cone style. It might look like an easy catch on the replays and it was easier than the D.Lee leaper earlier, but there was so much riding on that catch.
Oh man the crowd is going nuts at this point- this guy next to me almost breaks my hand on a high-five, another grown man is obviously hyperventilating and most everyone around us has completely lost their mind.
The next batter pops one up in foul territory- It’s DLee, Carlos and Soto heading towards each other in slow motion- all sorts of horrible collisions go through my tortured mind until Z waves his arms maniacally and scares every living human on the field away from the ball. I saw the 1st base coach flinch along with the entire section behind the dugout. That was funny- I can’t wait to see it on ESPN Classic.
At this point Z might be tiring- he has a small battle but collects another K and storms to the dugout.
Act IV: The Final Inning
We all look at each other in disbelief- there is a sort of strange silence before the Cubs come up to bat in the top of the 9th, not a murmer… I think everyone has something like this in their heads:
“Is this real? am I dreaming, is this what heaven looks like? did I just eat a whole canoe full of fried cheesecurds? Is this really just a brain embolism”
The first two batter hit tough choppers to TheRiot who gobbles them up. Pretty quickly we are facing the potential 3rd out…
What was already a boisterous, loud, and excited crowd has reached asylum bedlam levels.
Flashbulbs are going off all over the stadium- adults with jobs and responsibilities are jumping up and down slamming their palms on the seats like self flagellating holy pilgrims.
I still can’t believe it- Z threw a wicked breaking ball on the outside that had no chance of touching a bat and IT happened.
To say we all felt chills is not sufficient- we all felt a sub-absolute-zero-3rd-degree-simultaneous-climax. People were crying, singing, most of all cheering and screaming. I grabbed a stranger and shook the living crap outta him. A couple fools with no respect for the moment ran for the aisles to beat traffic.
The story doesn’t end here, but I can’t read what I am typing anymore.
To be continued….