A highlight of every March is a frenzied series of emails, phone calls and at least one meeting that determines an important series of events over the next six months. It’s the distribution of the San Francisco Giants season tickets my seat partner and I have had since 1989.
My recollection of 1989 is that we were eighteen at the time, season tickets at Candlestick Park were about $65.00 a year, and Willie Mays played center field. But I could be wrong about some of this.
Part of that once-a-year process is choosing a dozen games I want in my back pocket prior to the start of the 81 game home season. So in March I chose the Wednesday June 25th game because it was a mid-week day game (and those are nasty tight).
And, thanks to trading tickets with the seat holder next to mine, I could take my wife (who still hasn’t found the time to get that second job) and daughter (I’m grateful she’s still talking to me no less going to baseball games with me).
And on that day we saw Tim Lincecum throw the second no hit ballgame of his career, against the San Diego Padres.
What initially struck me is that from the first inning Tim Lincecum had a great rhythm going in his delivery and release point. After he got the first two Padre hitters, Will Venable and Everth Cabrera, to strike out I mentioned that Lincecum’s slingshot-like delivery seemed smooth and unhurried. He was in a good groove from the first pitch of the game.
It’s been noted that this was a game without any of the spectacular defensive plays that typically seem to be part of no-hitters and perfect games. Like a miraculous catch made in the outfield or an impossible double play turned on the infield. Not this time.
Lincecum looked like a guy expertly doing a job he is really good at. He moved the game forward and his defense was as workman-like as he was on the mound. Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow noted after the game that Lincecum had four pitches working for him– the split, curveball, slider and his change-up. Lincecum threw some fastballs, but he popped those in sparingly in specific situations.
What I noticed most from our Section 110 Field Box was Tim Lincecum’s splitter. Coming in fast and nasty, to the San Diego hitters it must have looked like a fastball or, at the last minute, a curveball– right before it dipped on top of the plate. Catcher Hector Sanchez did a great job of keeping a crisp rhythm going and recognizing early on that his pitcher was dealing with four separate pitches.
Another thing also stood out: the fans at AT&T Park that day. They also had a good rhythm going; not getting overly hyped up but realizing they were watching a beautiful moment unfold in front of them. The crowd stood a couple of times in the 8th inning (how could you not?), but took their seats to watch Padres Chase Headley ground out to first base, Tommy Medica pop out to first, and second baseman Alexi Amarista fly out to Gregor Blanco in center.
But the single moment that grabbed me, that really made the small hairs on the back of my head stand up, was the start of the 9th inning. As Tim Lincecum threw his warm-up pitches, standing in front of us in the on-deck circle were Padre Manager Bud Black‘s last best hope to stop Lincecum.
The best pinch hitters on the Padre bench, Chris Denorfia and Yasmani Grandal, stood next to each other swinging their weighted bats, psyching themselves up to stop history. The third batter of the inning, standing just in front of the dugout steps, was lead-off hitter Will Venable— a longtime Giant killer.
The moment was electric. Tim Lincecum, after setting down 24 of 25 San Diego batters (Chase Headley walked in the 2nd), now had to face the best fresh hitters Bud Black could throw at him. And, of course, Denorfia struck out, Grandal grounded out to Lincecum and Venable ended the game with a grounder to Giants rookie second baseman Joe Panik.
The final line on Tim Lincecum’s pitching was as crisp as his delivery: 13 ground balls, 8 fly balls, 6 strikeouts; game over in 2 hours 37 minutes.
The split second Will Venable was out at first base, Giant players tumbled out of the dugout to congratulate him. At that same second, as noted by the Elias Sports Bureau, Tim Lincecum joined Dodger Sandy Koufax has the only pitcher in MLB history to win multiple Cy Young Awards, multiple World Series Championships, and throw multiple no-hitters.
So let’s see if I can repeat my no-hit pick next March.