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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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How to Get to No-Hitter Street

Sesame Street came along a little too late to be of any use to me. It debuted while I was in first grade, when I already knew how to count, so my reaction to it was quit talking down to me, damn it (I also already knew how to curse). But because it was billed as this great educational breakthrough, our teachers in the West School on Maryland Avenue were directed to lead their classes down the hall to the one room with the one television in the building to make us watch Bert and Ernie and the rest of them on Channel 13 every now and again. It beat sitting at my desk and trying to explain for the umpteenth time to yet another suspicious classmate that I get to drink Grape Hi-C because I’m allergic to milk, but on the whole, after being shown repeatedly and redundantly the number 2…

2 hens…

2 spoons…

2 this…

2 that…

…I’d rather have been watching Bugs Bunny.

My wife, on the other hand, is a few years younger than I am and was at least a little indoctrinated into polite society by the Muppet machine. When the Children’s Television Workshop decided last year to release a collection of early episodes on DVD under the guise of Sesame Street: Old School, she wanted to check them out, partly to satisfy her video-historian impulse (though Stephanie, too, prefers Bugs Bunny), partly for good old nostalgia’s sake. She watched them and enjoyed them. I looked in on one or two eps and have to admit I got a larger kick out of them in my 40s than I did when I was in my Sesame-scornful single-digits.

“These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child,” according to a warning label attached to the box. I didn’t know counting had changed all that much in 35-plus years or that showing kids moldy television could do anything worse that bore them. Shoot, I wouldn’t have learned what war bonds and victory gardens were had not 1940s-era Bugs alluded to them regularly every afternoon on Channel 5. But whatever. We’re grown-ups, technically, so it was safe for us to see Volume 1 and the more recently released Volume 2.

In the latter collection is the first test episode, shot in the summer of 1969. It was apparently aired on a handful of stations prior to Sesame Street‘s national premiere in November of that year. It’s a little ragged in comparison to what would become the CTW standard in the early ’70s, but it contains an unexpected element that in terms of learning to count is as timeless today as it was then.

Zero.

Zero no-hitters.

In prehistoric Sesame Street Episode 1 is a segment in which a magician (in the service of promoting the letter ‘D’ somehow) tears up a newspaper — a copy of the Daily News — and conjures it back together. As I always do when I spy such a detail, I squinted to read the back page. Maybe there was a Met headline there. For example, in watching the DVD of Network last year, I was blown away when I noticed this back page of the Daily News from September 25, 1975:

CUBS NIP METS IN 11TH, 1-0
SEAVER NO-HITTER FOR 8 2/3

Come to think of it, if Sesame Street was being created in the summer of 1969 when I was on my way to first grade, there could be an amazingly intriguing headline on the back page. I asked Stephanie to pause, pause some more and freeze the picture on the screen until I could get the best look I could.

And there it was, from July 10, 1969:

SEAVER PERFECT TILL 9TH
QUALLS GETS ONLY CUB HIT

This was too good or perhaps too horrible to be true. On the very first episode of the most revered educational television program in the history of the medium, one of the very first lessons anybody learned was that no matter how well a Met pitcher pitched, no matter how great the Met pitcher was, he could never, ever throw a no-hitter.

Zero.

Zero no-hitters.

While the finer points of counting hens and spoons didn’t elude me in the summer of 1969, I was just young enough, 6-1/2 (when did we start dropping the fractions from our ages?) to have missed the Jimmy Qualls Game. Nevertheless after decades of reading about it — continually since I was 8-1/2 — I almost feel as if I saw it. I almost feel I was watching on the night of July 9 when, as Tom Seaver told it to Dick Schaap in The Perfect Game:

With two outs to go for a perfect game, I picked my first pitch to Qualls carefully. Almost all my pitches had been working well, the rising and sinking fast balls, the fast and slow curves, even the slider. I decided to throw Qualls a sinker, but the ball didn’t sink. It came in fast, too high, almost waist-high, over the heart of the plate. Qualls swung and hit the ball to left-center field. Cleon Jones broke over from left field, Tommie Agee raced over from center, two of the fastest men on our club, and neither of them could reach the ball. It fell in, a clean single.

“My perfect game,” Tom said, “was finished.”

One.

One hit.

So began in earnest the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York’s quest for its holiest grail. The gag that summer was man will land on the moon before the Mets win a World Series. Eleven days after that almost waist-high sinker, Neil Armstrong made that prediction come true. But 88 days after that (when my parents had the foresight to schedule for me an eye doctor appointment in the morning that conveniently kept me out of school the entire day), the Mets were officially no longer absurd and never would be again in quite the way they had been before Seaver flirted with perfection.

That grail of a world championship, as unimaginable as it had to have been to those who were learning their M-E-T-S while I was still stuck on my A-B-C’s, was taken care of. Seven years after expansion, the Mets had won a Series. But 46 years deep into the franchise’s operation, there is still no no-hitter.

Two world championships.

Zero no-hitters.

The dream has been torn to shreds by batters often no more magical than Jimmy Qualls dozens of times. Unlike that magician on that little-seen first installment of Sesame Street, there’s been nobody to weave the dream back together, not yet anyway.

You learn to live with it. You learn to have that internal dialogue like the one Tom Seaver had with Nancy Seaver six minutes (according to The Year The Mets Lost Last Place) after perfection proved unattainable.

TOM: What are you crying for? We won 4-0.

NANCY: I guess a one-hit shutout is better than nothing.

You constantly remind yourself that a W is a W, that the H column is incidental. You remind yourself of that, it seems, at least once a year when you begin to believe the zero will take care of itself at last. You rationalize away every single disappointment as long as a win is involved. To do otherwise, you tell your Met self, would be greedy. And you can’t do anything about it anyway.

You do it for Bobby Jones when he’s tagged by Jeff Kent because a one-hit complete game shutout that clinches a playoff series is way better than nothing. Hey, we won the NLDS today! Would have been nice to have had the no-hitter, but that’s not the important thing.

You do it for John Maine when Paul Hoover — who wouldn’t even be playing in the eighth if Miguel Olivo hadn’t been such a hothead in the fifth — ruins an otherwise brilliant day, because a combined one-hit shutout while you attempt to maintain life on the edge of impending disaster is immensely better than nothing. Hey, we’re back in first place! Would have been nice to have had the no-hitter, but that’s not the important thing.

You do it for the Mets you barely know, the Mets you wish weren’t Mets, the Mets you’re thrilled to have, for any Met pitcher who will ever come as close as carrying the 0 under the H to the end of 9 as Tom Seaver did the night before the Sesame Street props department secured a Daily News for its magician sketch.

It would have been great had it been Jones against the Giants in 2000 or Maine against the Marlins in 2007. It would have been just as splendid if it had been Gooden (Keith Moreland, 1984) or Reed (Wade Boggs, 1998) or Cone (Benny Distefano, 1992) or Darling (Vince Coleman, 1987) or Fernandez (Davey Concepcion, 1985) or Estes (Eric Young, 2002) or Trachsel (Chin-hui Tsao, 2003) or Heilman (Luis Castillo, 2005) or Martinez (Chris Burke, 2005) or Dotel (Phil Nevin, 1999) or even T#m Gl@v!ne against the Rockies when he took it to the eighth inning and I magnanimously allowed the Manchurian Brave the honor of the first no-hitter in Mets history before he allowed a hit to Kit Pellow. I sat in The Broadway Theatre, straining hard through the static to hear the last Met I ever wanted to throw the first Met no-hitter over the overture of a Sunday matinee performance of Bombay Dreams on May 23, 2004 and rooting hard to hear the last Met I ever wanted to throw the first Met no-hitter throw the first Met no-hitter. A couple of numbers into the show, I tapped Stephanie on the knee and shook my head. (So much for Bombay Dreams.)

I imagine I would have rooted for all of those guys whose flirtations stand out in my mind had Tom Seaver’s sinker sunk a little lower on July 9, 1969, if the most marginal Major Leaguer in the Cub lineup had lived down to the obscurity he so richly deserved. Even if Seaver had made Jimmy Qualls his 26th consecutive out of the evening and then retired pinch-hitter Willie Smith to make it perfect, I would have wanted another. I’m sure I would have wanted Seaver to have duplicated the feat when the Phillies of Mike Compton or the Pirates of Vic Davalillo or the Padres of Leron Lee or the Cubs of Steve Ontiveros slipped away with the moral victory of having pinned another one-hit win on the Mets or, especially, when Jungle Joe Wallis did in Seaver in September of ’75 with two out in the ninth and the score inconveniently knotted at nothin’ and nine one-hit innings went completely for naught as CUBS NIP METS IN 11TH.

But if none of those had worked out, if the 0 under the H always became a 1 just as has happened from July 10, 1969 onward, I know I wouldn’t have taken it as hard as I have every time it’s occurred.

ME: Why aren’t you crying? We just missed out on a no-hitter.

ME AGAIN: Tom Seaver threw a perfect game on July 9, 1969. Anything else would be anti-climactic.

ME: It doesn’t bother you that you don’t remember it personally even though you remember the moon landing from just eleven days later?

ME ONCE MORE: No. It’s not my fault I wasn’t born eleven days sooner.

We would have that no-hitter filed away forever. It would be on the wall in the Diamond Club and would be packed up in bubble wrap and moved to swankier digs at Citi Field. I might not have the scratch to get a look at it, but I would know it’s there and that would be good enough for me. There would be no Jimmy Qualls Game. There would be Tom Seaver’s Perfect Game, the first no-hitter in Met history, perhaps the only no-hitter in Met history, perhaps not. But we would have 1, and 1 is as high as I absolutely need to count when it comes to no-hitters.

14 comments to How to Get to No-Hitter Street

  • Anonymous

    Don't I know this. Every single game I watch, I'm thinking about it. Every single solitary game. If we retire their leadoff batter, I'm thinking, “maybe this is how our no-hitter starts.”
    I was at the Reed/Boggs game in 98. It was easily one of the most intense games I'd ever experienced. From the 5th inning on I kept thinking, “all he's gotta do is get Boggs in the 7th and it's a sure thing”. Dammit.
    I was also at Shea for “Reed all about it”'s next home start on 6/19, and he was once again perfect into the 7th. I was losing my mind. A friend I kinda knew had field-level tickets and asked me if I wanted to tag along, so of course I agreed. Unfortunately, he was like too many people in the orange seats: paying no attention to the game. Sometime in the 5th he said, “hey, you wanna move down towards the field a bit?” Hell no, we're not leaving these seats. Are you crazy? “Why? How come we can't move?” I can't say. Get it? “What are you talking about?” Ugh… look at the scoreboard. “I don't know what I should be looking for. Is it because the Mets are winning?” Ugh… look harder. And don't say a word. “OOOOHHHHHH I get it. You don't want to move because it's a shutout. Right?” ………..right.
    Then 2 innings later, with one out in the 7th, some douche stranger sitting next to me leans over and says, “have the Marlins had a baserunner this game?” FUCK! I shake my head no. The guy says, “so he's throwing a no-hitter?” FUCK FUCK FUCK! The guy was looking for a response from me, so in a move I will never forgive myself for doing, I replied: “actually, he's throwing a perfect game.”
    –crack–
    3 seconds after the words escaped my mouth, Edgar Renteria stood on first base after a weak single and the douche stranger turned and laughed. “Oh well! Haw haw haw…” Of course it only got worse, as you may remember. Old Uncle Cliffy eventually launched a 3-run homer (scoring Todd Zeile as the tying run before crossing the plate), and we would go on to lose 3-2.
    I really, really, REALLY hate sitting in the field level.

  • Anonymous

    Was there for Boggs. The joint was electric. Nobody (mezz) didn't know what was going on. This was going to be it…until it wasn't. I was listening to Floyd at work and was actually unaware how close to perfection it was because I wasn't paying much attention. Just as well.

  • Anonymous

    It's as a parent that you truly appreciate Sesame Street. As opposed to the banality of Barney, Sesame Street is a masterpiece.
    Good find!

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if Castillo has ever said anything to Heilman since, like “sorry, for going against baseball etiquette and ruining your no hitter by dropping down a bunt”
    Luis owes us and if a mets pitcher goes deep and it's a no-no he better have the best range of his life over there…lol

  • Anonymous

    I remember that Seaver near perfecto. Come the 7th inning I was allowed to leave my bedroom and watch it with my frantic Brother. Even after all these years I remember the crushing disappointment we felt..
    Rich

  • Anonymous

    What's amazing about those 1-hitters is that most of the no-nos were broken up by complete schomes. Sure, there is a Kent and a Conciepcion and a Boggs mixed in there. But most of those guys, with that one hit, secured the first sentence in their obits.
    Jamie Qualls, who broke up Tom Seaver's perfect game in 1969, was eaten by a walrus (or however he eventually succumbs.)

  • Anonymous

    Don't you mean TIM Seaver?

  • Anonymous

    Wade F**cking Boggs. >:-( I saw him not long after that in a hotel lobby, and it was all I could do not to tell him how much I hated him. He probably thought that intense look on my face meant “heh, that chick recognizes me… I'm-a gettin' me some tonight!” No, buddy… that's a glare. I HATE YOU.
    And Greg can confirm just how long it took for me to forgive Cliff Floyd (and how I seethed upon seeing a picture in the paper of Reeder SPEAKING to him at the 2001 All-Star Game).
    Naturally, I was at both games, hanging on every pitch (orange seats notwithstanding). And now I know who to blame, KEVIN. >:-(

  • Anonymous

    I missed the entire Maine game. I was in New Haven, watching a friend of mine perform in a play at Yale Rep. Obviously, when I'd agreed to go, a game at the end of September SHOULD HAVE BEEN A FORMALITY. So I'd figured it was OK to miss one. (HA!)
    Another friend, knowing the situation, was sending me updates by text message throughout the play (yes, I was “that” theatre patron… but hey, this was important). Then she sends the bombshell… “Maine loses no-hitter.” WHAAAAAT?! I'm dying there, in a dark theatre with serious Shakespeare people all around me, realizing with horror what I almost missed and unable to say anything. My friend texts me “it was killing me not to tell you…” (See, Kevin, she knows how NOT to jinx a no-hitter!)
    It happened near the end of the play, so of course I continued my day of Met-induced rudeness by being “that” dinner companion, leaping for my phone to read texted Philly game updates throughout the meal.
    Of course nothing could have prepared me for… THE NEXT DAY. Wish I'd missed that one too, but alas…

  • Anonymous

    I know. I deserve it.

  • Anonymous

    The Maine game, the Pedro game, the Glavine game, ANY game where the no-hitter goes past 5 becomes a problem. That's when I start getting phone calls and text messages from my dad and a few friends. “YOU WATCHING THIS?!” God dammit. No matter how much I yell, they always do it. That's the sick irony of being a batshit crazy Met fan: when a no-hitter's happening, everyone calls you to talk about it.
    I remember being in college for the Estes game. By the 5th or 6th it was dark out, and I sat in my dorm room without the lights on. I wouldn't move. My roomate came back and said, “why aren't the lights on?” I screamed at him to leave them off. Of course, he needed to know why, but I wouldn't budge. Finally, he walked out. 10 minutes later he came back in, “OH! You won't turn the lights on because Estes is pitching a no-hitter!”
    I threw the nearest text book right at his head. Of course, I missed. After all, it was Estes on the mound.

  • Anonymous

    I remember in the glory days of Braves broadcasting (Skip Caray/Don Sutton, to be exact), heaven help any opposing pitcher with a potential no-no. They went out of their way to mention it as many times and in as many ways as possible. “In case you're just joining us…” and the producers would keep showing the scoreboard, while Skip would say “and you know what that zero means, don't you?” etc. It was utterly hilarious, how they would find ways to drop it into the conversation, each one sillier than the last. I'm sorry, but I loved those guys. Never a dull moment. And Don Sutton could never heap enough praise on our Reeder. That's one surefire way to get me on your side. :-)
    The Glavine game. Ugh. I never thought I could ever root so fervently against a Met no-hitter. Kit Pellow was my GOD.

  • Anonymous

    As much as I love Howie Rose, he is the worst when it comes to no-hitters. If he doesn't believe in jinxes, that's fine. But why can't he realize that 80% of his audience does believe in jinxes, and it would serve him right to respect our beliefs and to not shove his in our faces?
    One game last season with one out in the first inning, McCarthy was razzing Howie about his jinxing ability due to something that happened in the previous game. Howie blew him off, of course, citing that the words he chooses to broadcast have no outcome on the game and to think otherwise is ridiculous, etc etc etc. To drive it home, the next 2 sentences out of his mouth were:
    “Well hey, El Duque's got a no-hitter going right now. And a line drive, base hit into center field!”
    I didn't care it was the first inning, I still wanted to strangle Howie.

  • Anonymous

    I'm also of the logical Howie persuasion, but I still don't dare mess with the rules. And I don't like when anyone does. There's some things you just have to respect whether you logically agree with them or not. I'm with Kevin on this one.