By Richard Cuicchi | May 11, 2014 at 08:55 PM EDT | 2 comments
At one time or another, we’ve all wished we could witness an historic moment at a professional sports event. Well, I had one of those wishes come true last week.
It’s not every day you get to see a no-hitter pitched in a game. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a high school, college, or professional game. It’s something special to watch, even if it is your hometown or favorite team that is putting up the zeroes on the scoreboard.
But that’s exactly what I got to experience last Wednesday when the Triple-A Iowa Cubs played the New Orleans Zephyrs at Zephyr Field in a daytime game. What made the game even a bit more special was that I was able to watch it with a group of guys (Phil, Bob, Danny, and Charlie) with whom I had played countless softball games for about twenty years. (We missed you, Steve and Coach Wayne.)
Pitcher Chris Rusin was the hero of the day for the Cubs. He no-hit the hometown Zephyrs with great control, facing only 30 Zephyrs batters in the game--walking two, with another batter getting on base due to catcher’s interference. However, Rusin isn’t a flamethrower. He only struck out three in this game, but he was really consistent with keeping the ball over the plate and keeping the Zephyrs’ hitters off balance with only upper-80s speed.
Frequently during a no-hitter you see a few defensive gems that contribute to the historic outcome. Cubs third baseman Christian Villanueva turned in a Brooks Robinson-like play in the middle innings, and centerfielder Matt Szczur raced in to catch a soft, shallow fly ball to end the game and secure Rusin’s place in history. We also saw Cubs manager Marty Pevey get tossed from the game by the home plate umpire for arguing balls and strikes. He wound up missing a good game.
None of my buddies or I had ever heard of Chris Rusin before. We surmised his performance that day would merit his first call-up to the big league Cubs, who could actually use some help since they are currently in last place in their division. However, checking his playing career after the game, I found out Rusin already had a few “cups of coffee” with the Cubs in 2012 and 2013, and even made a five-inning relief appearance with the Cubs this season on April 12. I suspect he’ll get another promotion relatively soon.
This was my first time ever watching a no-hitter in person, although I previously experienced two really close situations. Back in August 1970, I saw Ken Holtzman pitch a one-hitter for the Chicago Cubs in San Francisco. Giants infielder Hal Lanier hit a two-out single in the 9th inning to spoil Holtzman’s “no-no.” And ironically, the same group of softball buddies and I saw a near-no-hitter by Philip Humber in August 2007 at Zephyr Field. He was pitching for the New Orleans Zephyrs (then a Mets affiliate) against the Iowa Cubs and lost his bid for a no-hitter in the ninth inning. Humber later pitched a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox on April 21, 2012.
There was a “school day” promotion at the Zephyrs game last week. There must have been a couple thousand middle school kids attending the game. I’d be pretty safe in saying there weren’t more than a handful of them who appreciated the significance of what was happening on the field, and it’s not likely they went home talking about the actual game.
Nevertheless, do you have a memorable baseball game that you would like to share? Let this audience hear from you by posting a comment on this blog page.