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History, Even If You Ignore It

It seemed like a good idea. With our kid headed off to California with grandparents, I asked Emily if she wanted to go to the Mets game. Noah Syndergaard [1] was pitching, and tickets were 66% off. She thought it was a capital idea. We snagged two seats in the front row of the Left Field landing, got tacos and were in our seats before the top of the first was over.

Why on earth was no one here, I wondered? The Mets, warts and all, were in first place, they had an exciting rookie on the mound and it was an absolutely perfect late-spring evening. I surveyed the empty acres of green seats grumpily — and got grumpier when I realized the seats that weren’t empty were disproportionally filled with visiting Giants fans. Gangs of them, in orange that was the right color yet the wrong allegiance, chanting and hooting and being entirely too conspicuous.

None of us, of course, had any idea that something special was coming [2].

The Giants contributed half the Mets’ National League birthright, including the small matter of that signature orange NY on the caps. And the Giants have done an admirable job of remembering their New York origins, bringing back old heroes and World Series trophies to the remaining Gotham fans. The Mets have responded by giving that half of their legacy mulishly short shrift: Citi Field’s rotunda is an homage to the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers and a tribute to Jackie Robinson [3]. (Perhaps you’ve heard?) There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that, but the absence of any gesture towards that other team is unfortunate. The Mets once made noises about the green seats being a nod to the Polo Grounds, but nobody believed that; the closest they come to admitting they owe the Giants anything is by keeping Willie Mays [4]‘s No. 24 unofficially retired, and that has more to do with respecting original owner (and Giants diehard) Joan Payson than with the club that put the orange in the orange and blue.

Well, the Giants certainly pushed their historical narrative tonight.

You can’t call balls and strikes from the Left Field Landing, so I have nothing to say about whether Chris Heston [5] was hitting his spots or home-plate ump Rob Drake was helping him. I’ll wait for the pitching charts, while throwing down an early warning about sour grapes. (Anybody want to celebrate the slightly belated anniversary of Johan Santana [6]‘s one-hitter?)

From my distant vantage Heston’s stuff seemed pedestrian — high-80s fastballs mixed with curves. Later, looking at the highlights, I was more impressed: That curveball was a killer, and the sinker was perfect for pounding balls into the ground for an infielder to retrieve. I saw a couple of balls get called strikes, yes, but nothing screamed travesty to me.

Look, no-hitters are flukes; what makes them fun is that they come out of nowhere. Sometimes great pitchers throw them when they’re on top of their games and have smothering stuff, but great pitchers also throw them when they have lousy stuff. And sometimes lousy pitchers throw them when they have great stuff. Tom Seaver [7] has been open about having nothing the day he threw a no-no for Cincinnati; the likes of Len Barker [8] and Philip Humber [9] have been perfect on the mound. Stuff happens.

Heston hit his spots, didn’t make mistakes, and pitched to his defense. (A defense that was a lot better than ours — in the early going Syndergaard kept getting double-play balls that Met infielders turned into fielder’s choices.) The Mets hit one ball hard all night — Eric Campbell [10]‘s grounder to Brandon Crawford [11]‘s backhand. Everything else they swung and missed at or patty-caked to an infielder.

Heston earned his accomplishment; he should savor it. And so should the Giants fans who were lucky enough to be there to see it. I’m not pleased right now, but I suspect in a week or so I’ll be thinking, “You know what? I saw a no-hitter in person. That’s pretty cool.”

Anyway, by the 7th inning I was experiencing the opposite of that jittery sense of expectation you get when your pitcher is creeping closer to a no-hitter. I figured Heston would do it and wasn’t particularly surprised as he got closer and the Giants fans got louder. I wasn’t rooting for him, but by that point I didn’t see sneaking a ball through the 5.5 hole as lipstick worth smearing on this particular pig.

I went to the bathroom in the top of the ninth and walked back through the nearly empty section to take my seat next to Emily. Heston hit Anthony Recker [12], struck out the next three Mets looking and that was it. I took a picture of the scoreboard for my brother-in-law and his family and waited for the Mets to acknowledge the second Citi Field no-hitter.

I wondered what they’d say. The stadium-operations folks had proved graceful hosts in the All-Star Game, so I figured they’d have some congratulatory note for Heston, along with some historical context. Something about how that was the 17th no-hitter in Giants history and their ninth since moving to San Francisco. Or how it was the fifth Giants no-hitter since 2009, or the franchise’s second against the Mets. Or perhaps the video board would note that Heston was the seventh pitcher to no-hit the Mets and the first since the late Darryl Kile [13].

Amazingly — shamefully — there was nothing. The Mets followed a night of doing nothing at the plate by doing nothing to honor an opponent for something of historic significance. It was negligent and crass and embarrassing.

I don’t know why it happened. Perhaps somebody in stadium operations was afraid they’d get in trouble. Perhaps someone thought it wasn’t right to do that at home. Perhaps it just didn’t occur to anybody. Whatever the case, here’s hoping the stadium-operations folks get together with the Met powers that be and talk it through and come up with an answer that has the proper grace and class.

Because with this lineup, the situation could arise again very soon.