“It has happened! In their fifty-first season, Johan Santana  has thrown the first no-hitter in New York Mets history!”
—Gary Cohen, SNY, June 1, 2012
“And what’s left of a never-got-one nature to ache for anyway? Put aside a World Series championship even if you’ve never seen one before, because the Mets have two of those. They have cycles, triple plays, a 6-for-6 night, 10 consecutive strikeouts, a batting title and now a no-hitter. What is left hanging out there on the vine that can be attained on the field? An MVP has to be voted on, so that’s not it. A perfect game would be something, but that’s like waiting for the clouds to rain candy. Not everybody has one of those, so it’s not as if the Mets are being left out. Ditto for a four-homer performance. We’ll love if it happens, but it’s rare enough to advise against holding breath for. The phrase “the end of history” was thrown around a bit as the Cold War faded, but history just kept on coming. We no longer have our one glaring quest to intermittently preoccupy us, but I’m sure a singular outcome we hadn’t anticipated anticipating will take the place of the First No-Hitter in New York Mets History.”
—Greg Prince, Faith and Fear in Flushing, June 3, 2012
Here’s the thing about things you’re sure you’ve never seen before and that you swear you’ll never forget: You’ve almost certainly seen something like them before — and sometimes you forget them.
But don’t let that stop you from believing what you are seeing is unprecedented and that it will stay with you into eternity, especially when you see something like this embedded toward the bottom of an otherwise random box score:
HR: Cespedes (10, 1st inning off Shields 1 on, 2 Out); Colon (1, 2nd inning off Shields 1 on, 2 Out); Wright (4, 9th inning off Villanueva 0 on, 1 Out); Conforto (5, 9th inning off Villanueva 0 on, 1 Out)
You know how to read the agate. You understand, for example, that the 10 immediately inside the parentheses that follows Yoenis Cespedes ’s name indicates he hit his 10th home run of the current season. Likewise, David Wright  cranked out his 4th and Michael Conforto  his 6th. The Mets scored six runs overall in their 6-3 victory  over the Padres in San Diego Saturday night and, as has been their wont to date this year, they drove in all their runs via the circuit clout. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Likewise, you’ve seen Cespedes, Wright and Conforto go deep multiple times as Mets. Their work on this front Saturday was highly gratifying, but hardly without precedent.
But the other HR in that statistical accounting, the one with the “1,” as in 1st home run of this year or — and you knew this, too — any year…you never saw that before.
Surely something like it in some way, but no exact match. It is to professional baseball’s credit, as it approaches its 150th anniversary as a going enterprise, that the sport can continue to generate vignettes laced with profound singularity yet simultaneously evoke, evoke and evoke some more things we’ve experienced before. It’s simply stunning how acres of the mundane will be spiced with dashes of magnificence when you’re in no way expecting it.
And it was hyperappropriate that this particular episode of That’s Incredible! unfolded in the second inning, before the ballgame was official. How could it have been an official ballgame when it was indisputably a sequence of events imagined simultaneously within the minds of a million Mets fans?
“Colon looking for his first hit of the year. HE DRIVES ONE…DEEP LEFT FIELD…BACK GOES UPTON…BACK NEAR THE WALL…IT’S OUTTA HERE!!! BARTOLO HAS DONE IT! THE IMPOSSIBLE HAS HAPPENED! The team vacates the dugout as Bartolo takes the long trot. His first career home run! And there’ll be nobody in the dugout to greet him. This is one of the great moments in the history of baseball, Bartolo Colon  has gone deep.”
—Gary Cohen, SNY, May 7, 2016
Colon (1). You never saw that before. Yet you have been party to enough interludes akin to it so as to recognize why Colon (1) surpasses Anybody Else (1). You wouldn’t be so quick to concur with Cohen regarding its greatness if you hadn’t. And you wouldn’t love it so much if you couldn’t comprehend how extraordinary it was.
How extraordinary? Aside from a man of nearly 43 years and shall we say unorthodox physical dimensions swinging his bat, maintaining his helmet’s place upon his head, making solid contact and shooting a ball over a fence fair for the first time in a career that stretches back far enough so that it encompasses facing Eddie Murray  and playing alongside Kevin Mitchell ? Those, by the by, were the designated hitters in Bartolo Colon’s first major league game, April 4, 1997.
The designated hitter, for anyone digging this up through an archaeological search in the distant future, was an “innovation” that turned fully and completely obsolete on May 7, 2016, when Bartolo Colon batted and homered for himself.
“Julio Franco  doesn’t intend to slow down any time soon. Franco became the oldest player in major league history to hit a home run when he connected for a two-run, pinch-hit shot in the eighth inning Thursday night to help the New York Mets rally for a 7-2 win over the San Diego Padres.”
—Associated Press, ESPN.com, April 21, 2006
Longevity is an irresistible hook. Julio Franco, in his season-and-a-half as a Met (a tenure that commenced nine years after he was the starting second baseman behind Colon in his Cleveland debut), seemed to give us another “he’s been around so long…” angle every time he stepped on the field. That Oldest Player to Homer mark, forged when Franco was 47, was set at the very same Petco Park at which Colon became the Oldest Player to Homer for the First Time. Yet when you’ve soaked in San Diego at all hours the last three nights, have you eyeballed the joint and thought immediately, “This is where Julio Franco did something good for the Mets”?
I didn’t think so. Some of the great moments in the history of baseball slip away. It’s nice when they resurface, however. There are no guarantees, given human bandwidth and the onrush of time, but you’ll probably never forget what Colon did Saturday night, and not because he set an age-related record. You’ll retain it because he’s Colon, because of the impression he’s made in three seasons as a Met, mostly as a pitcher, sometimes as a character, previously as the worst hitter you’d ever witnessed, now because someone who could barely stand straight at the plate has crossed it upon taking James Shields  deep.
Just to be on the safe side, maybe we should petition the Padres to change the name of their facility. The Bartolo Grounds has a nice ring to it.
Shields, for what it’s worth, offered no comment on his role in the heretofore unthinkable. Colon, who doesn’t say much for public consumption, patiently and warmly answered questions through an interpreter, on what he did to Shields. Big Sexy outdid Big Game James even after defeating him.
“The manager of the New York Mets watched his tired team score four runs in the top of the 19th inning to beat the Dodgers 7-3 in a game that started at 8:03 Thursday night and ended at 1:45 a.m. Friday. That’s Pacific Daylight Time. On EDT, the game was over at 4:45 a.m. Berra used 21 players while Walter Alston  employed 18 in the longest home game in Los Angeles Dodger history. There were 40 hits — 22 for the Mets — nine double plays, seven errors and 40 men left on base. The Dodgers stranded 22, one short of the National League record.”
—Wire service report, St. Petersburg Times, May 26, 1973
Yogi Berra  was never at a loss for memorable words, not even when he should have been sound asleep. That was not an option in the early hours of May 25, 1973, when the Mets took their sweet time vanquishing the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The franchise that distinguished itself for playing and losing some of the longest games in baseball history finally won one that went all night. Until 2010’s 20-inning marathon, the game that began on May 24, 1973, remained unsurpassed in length among extended Met victories.
Said Berra when it was all over (which was truly when it was all over), “The bus leaves in an hour — I mean the one back to Dodger Stadium tomorrow night. Oops, make that tonight.” Whether that counts as a Yogiism or a groggyism can be left to interpretation. What stand as certainties 42 years, 11 months and 2 weeks later are:
1) On the same date the Mets commenced at Chavez Ravine what would eventually become their longest win to date, Bartolo Colon was born in Altamira, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
2) In the late-night West Coast game Baby Bart’s future team played on that date, Tom Seaver  singled to lead off the third inning and Tug McGraw  (later a teammate of Julio Franco, for goodness sake) singled in the tenth. For that matter, Yogi used Jon Matlack  as a pinch-runner just sixteen days after Jon took a line drive to his head.
The year Bartolo Colon was born was also the year the American League inaugurated the DH. The Mets didn’t need it then and they don’t need it now.
Not in the box score that night/morning from Southern California: Willie Mays . Willie, 42 years and 18 days old at the time, was on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. But he’d be back in June, an active 1973 Met within the lifetime of Bartolo Colon, perhaps the most active 2016 Met going.
“But if the cheers were lusty for Rusty, they were wild for Willie when he won the 5-4 game against his former Giant teammates with a fifth-inning solo homer that broke a 4-4 tie. It’s a good thing Shea Stadium is made of steel and concrete, or the 35,505 rain-soaked fans on hand would have ripped the place apart with their enthusiasm.”
—Jack Lang, The Sporting News, May 27, 1972
Willie was also a 1972 Met. His first appearance in orange and blue, which itself was as shocking and exhilarating as Bartolo Colon’s first major league home run, came against his old club, the one that had been New York’s National League representative until it bolted for San Francisco. That Mays would homer versus the Giants, and that, when added to Rusty Staub ’s earlier grand slam, it would stand up as the winning run on May 14, 1972, made it — when you consider drama and joy for drama and joy’s sake and don’t get hung up on walkoffs or pennant races — one of the handful of most dramatic and joyous home runs any Met had ever hit.
Sort of like Bartolo’s, which left Petco Park one week shy of 44 years after Willie’s left Shea, and one day after Willie turned 85 years old, or not quite twice the age Bartolo is at present.
“Plawecki at second, two out, two-nothing New York in the second. The one-one…SWING AND A DRIVE TO DEEP LEFT FIELD, IT’S GOT A CHANCE, UPTON GOIN’ BACK, IT’S GONNA GO! HOME RUN! BARTOLO COLON!! Repeating: Home run Bartolo Colon! Seven Line Army in right field might tear this ballpark down. Colon carried his bat with him until he was about ten feet from first base, he’s taking the slowest home run trot you’ve ever seen. He is approaching home plate, he touches home plate with his first major league home run, and they are gonna give him the silent treatment in the dugout. They have vacated. The Mets have left the building. Bartolo Colon is the loneliest man in San Diego as he reaches the Mets dugout and there’s nobody there to greet him. And now here they come up the dugout steps. Wow!”
—Howie Rose, WOR, May 7, 2016
Ballparks were in danger of being deconstructed from within in Willie’s day, per Jack Lang, and can still teeter on the figurative eve of destruction, according to Rose. It was serendipity that the 7 Line Army scheduled an away game in San Diego on Saturday, allowing 1,400 Mets fans an up-close view of the no-longer unfathomable three time zones from Citi Field. As for why the players the Army roots home didn’t want to see Bartolo when he arrived in the dugout a conquering hero, that’s shtick. It’s a variation on the ironically cold shoulder. I’ve never really gotten why it’s hilarious.
But all agree it is.
“Where’s the rest of the car wash? Did they close for the season?”
—Gary Cohen, SNY, September 28, 2014
Remember the car wash? It was in operation not that long ago, a 2010s touchstone not wholly unlike the one Skyler White insisted Walter buy on Breaking Bad to launder meth money. Curtis Granderson  instigated it. A Met would homer — not quite the common occurrence in 2014 that it’s become lately — and everybody on the bench would grab a towel and give the slugger something akin to a wash, wax and dry. It was cleaner than the one the Whites ran (Lenny Dykstra ’s, too). It was also one of those gestures that was a hoot for no obvious reason. To paraphrase Red from the eminently quotable Shawshank Redemption, baseball time is slow time, so you do what you can to keep going. Some fellas ignore their teammates after milestone home runs, others create bizarre rituals.
In the case of Lucas Duda  blasting his 30th home run on the last day of the season two years ago, circumstances combined the two. Duda entered the Met dugout only to find everybody vanished. So being Lucas, he jogged through the car wash he knew so well and then back again, even if there were no attendants and no towels…until, as happened on Bart’s behalf in San Diego, everybody emerged from hiding to embrace him.
It was adorable to see at Citi Field with Duda, it was something else to see again at Petco Park for Colon.
“Bartolo rounding the bases was the most exciting two minutes in sports today.”
—@Bill_Veeck, Twitter, May 7, 2016
Nyquist was the winner of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, the 142nd running of the Run for the Roses, clocking in at 2 minutes and 1.31 seconds, the fastest winning time in the race in 13 years. Colon — who almost incidentally won his third game of 2016 with 6⅔ innings of three-run ball (aided ably by Jerry Blevins , Addison Reed  and Jeurys Familia ) — took a shade under 31 seconds to round the bases in San Diego. Since baseball mostly operates independent of clocks, how long it takes to go from home to home when nobody’s trying to throw you out isn’t usually noted. The unwritten rule is, essentially, don’t dawdle, don’t show up the opposing pitcher and act like you’ve been there before.
Which, as every child in Sunday school must know by now, Bartolo had never been.
“Here’s another look at that skyrocket, a towering drive that went out at about the 370 sign, and he knew it immediately. It’ll take him about 20 minutes to go around the basepath.”
—Vin Scully, NBC, October 27, 1986
Darryl Strawberry  hit the final home run of the 1986 World Series. It could be inferred by every move he’d make, every breath he’d take that he’d released a ton of frustration upon whacking Al Nipper’s ill-conceived delivery halfway to Douglaston. He’d been frustrated with the mocking his defense inspired at Fenway in Game Five. He’d been frustrated that he’d been removed from all-or-nothing Game Six. He’d been frustrated that he hadn’t homered until the eighth inning of Game Seven. Scully let it be known, not so subtly, that he didn’t approve of how much Darryl — author of to that point 108 regular-season and two NLCS home runs — was going to enjoy the post-frustration ride. Nor crazy about Straw’s slow time was Joe Garagiola , who observed, “Oh, he really took his time.”
Darryl, you see, had been there before. He’d be there again. But could anybody, even Big Game James, begrudge Bartolo his tour? These were bases he’d barely visited, other than in his dreams. He’d been to bat 246 times across 19 seasons and had scored all of 6 runs. Was Bart absolutely sure prior to visiting it on Saturday where they kept third base?
“In a team meeting earlier this season, Valentine mentioned the 1973 Mets, who won their division despite being in last place as late as August. Asked if miracles could happen, he replied, ‘One happened tonight. Al got a triple.’”
—Ken Davidoff, Newsday, August 31, 2001
Al Leiter , who spent a longer hitch than Colon in the National League, scored 15 runs in his otherwise offensively inept career. His lifetime slash line of .085/.142/.102, compiled in 613 plate appearances, is a reasonable comp for what Bart has done, home run included: .092/.099/.114. Al did somehow cajole 35 walks from his opposite numbers (whereas Bart has zero) and, most striking of all to me, as one who saw it from the Mezzanine, he tripled once. He tripled and he scored, all in the same inning.
For all the good-natured grief heaped on Colon for his crummy batting since becoming a Met in 2014, Leiter has stayed my standard for godawful-hitting pitchers. We often hear what a beast Colon can be in BP, how diligently he’s endeavored to improve his performance, that he did launch a Strawberryesque skyrocket when almost nobody was looking in Spring Training this year, that he’s not nearly the unathletic specimen he is made out to be. He may not be mistaken for Willie Mays in his Coogan’s Bluff days, but reliable sources continually report Colon’s buff.
Nobody ever said these things about Al Leiter. Al Leiter was allergic to lumber. Al Leiter wasn’t an entertaining strikeout victim. He was just a victim. Yet Al Leiter tripled. It took Preston Wilson  falling down to make it happen, but it did. It seemed every bit as impossible as Colon homering. It was unforgettable if you remember it.
Even if probably not too many do fifteen years later.
“Ramon Castro ’s blast off Ugueth Urbina  will surely stand the test of time as a touchstone in Mets history. It was a game-, season- and life-altering event. Unless we lose the next two.”
—Greg Prince, Faith and Fear in Flushing, August 31, 2005
It helps to flirt with outsize circumstances when you’re doing something that couldn’t possibly be forgotten, lest it fade almost entirely from memory. Among the many Mets and Met moments that zipped through my mind as Colon rounded the bases (and there was plenty of time to think of them) was Ramon Castro socking a home run over the Shea Stadium wall in the heat of a playoff chase. The Mets and Phillies were both going for the Wild Card in 2005, engaging in the first somewhat serious series at Shea since 2001. Castro, who leaned a little on the Colonian side in appearance — “our pudgy-cheeked Juggernaut of Clutch” and “Round Mound of Pound,” Jason delighted in describing him — made all the difference in that three-game set’s opener. The Mets moved to within a half-game of legitimacy. We were all weaving narratives all at once declaring how crucial the Castro Home Run was going to be when the story of the 2005 Mets was told.
Except the story of the 2005 Mets isn’t much told because the 2005 Mets lost the next two and plunged from contention in early September. Castro’s was a big home run that August 30, but it takes an aficionado to recognize it now. Sometimes a home run that makes the announcer go “Wow!” transcends its moment. More often, though, it is archived and warehoused and left for an obsessive sliver of the viewing audience to bring up years later. Surely it helps if the slugger in question is transcendent. Willie Mays hit his for a team was in first place in May, yet ultimately didn’t win anything in 1972…but he’s Willie Mays. Otherwise it helps if the home run is hit in service to an overwhelmingly successful cause.
Bartolo Colon is Bartolo Colon, who has both the power to go yard and the power to evoke. I wonder how that will hold up down the road. As for the 2016 Mets, they moved to within a half-game of first-place Washington Saturday night. It would have been a shame had the homer flown to left in a loss.
“Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.”
—Red Smith , New York Herald Tribune, October 4, 1951
The impossible did happen. Red Smith called it once, and Gary Cohen confirmed its recurrence. Bartolo Colon hit a home run. It was a midseason shot heard ’round the world for our times, one marveled at ad infinitum on devices barely bigger than the ball Bobby Thomson  sent soaring into legend with 20-year-old Willie Mays on deck. We saw it, we heard it, we emoted and emojied it and we relish reliving it the day after because it was just that inexpressibly fantastic.
Now let’s never forget it. It’s too good not to be remembered.