Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Jinx no, curse yes: Reds' Bailey makes no-hit statement

I'm often asked to name the best events I covered during my sportswriting career, and I'm lucky that I can rattle off a pretty nice list:

1991 World Series (Twins over Braves in 7 amazing games); 2002 Super Bowl (Tom Brady's legend is born); Michael Jordan's last NBA Finals game (the steal, the shove, the swish, the pose); 1994 Stanley Cup (Rangers win first Cup in 54 years); 1982 ALCS (as a kid reporter right out of college for AP, I was assigned to write about the Angels of Reggie Jackson, Fred Lynn, Rod Carew, Bobby Grich, Don Baylor and Gene Mauch); 2005 NCAA Midwest Regional final (Deron Williams carries Illinois to an amazing comeback victory over Arizona); and so on and so on.

But you know, sometimes the "regular" events that turn into something special ended up being even more memorable. Scott Erickson, who for two years allowed the most hits of any pitcher in baseball, threw a no-hitter for the 1994 Twins. The Vikings lost to the Bears when their punter dropped a snap; teammate Keith Millard ripped the punter after the game and then, one week later, suffered a career-ruining knee injury. Before the Bulls' first game of the post-Jordan, post-Pippen, post-Jackson era, Bill Wennington promised fans over the P.A. system that the team would compete hard; Wennington then didn't jump for the opening tip. Good stuff, eh?

Though I no longer cover events big or small these days, I still occasionally get treated to an event I won't soon forget.

Homer Bailey's no-hitter on Tuesday night is in that category for two reasons:

1. I didn't watch the game until the ninth inning. Channel-surfing, I paused momentarily when I got to that game and saw a clip of the final out of Bailey's no-hitter the previous season. Fox Sports Ohio announcers Thom Brennaman and Jeff Brantley immediately brought me up to speed: Bailey was three outs away from yet another no-no.

Some other announcers and team networks would have pretended the no-hitter wasn't happening because they wouldn't have wanted to "jinx" the pitcher. As a viewer, however, I'm glad Brennaman, Brantley and Fox Sports didn't prescribe to that ridiculous ritual. If they had, I would have kept clicking and would have missed the final three outs. Because the announcers and the network did their jobs, viewers like me got to see history being made.

Bailey became only the 31st pitcher in big-league history to pitch more than one no-hitter. He also became only the second -- following his idol, Nolan Ryan -- to throw the last no-no in the majors one season and the first in the next season. Cool.

2. Afterward, Bailey was interviewed by the station's Jeff Piecoro, who asked the pitcher about the seventh-inning leadoff walk he issued to Gregor Blanco -- San Fran's only baserunner in an otherwise perfect game.

Piecoro: "It's right after you had an at-bat. You didn't have really time to relax between innings. Did that have anything to do with it?"

Bailey: "No man, I mean I just f---ing walked a guy. This game's pretty tough."

That's right. Minutes after throwing a no-hitter, celebratory shaving cream still all over his face, Bailey threw an F-bomb on live TV.

He said it matter-of-factly, too. Just another adjective.

Sports. The only Reality TV worth watching.

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