No-No No…No!

It’s a too-warm summer night in Langhorne. Mid-August. Moments ago, my sister carried her shrieking child out of the living room and as her wails and shrieks dopplered away from us and became the problem of those upstairs, my mood enhanced as if someone had removed an iron rod from my colon. It’s time for beer and the Phillies.

The Phillies are a large part of my visit home. My dad and I watch the games pretty religiously and we hang out and chat and make lists (top five war movies not including WWII) or A to Z (on author’s second book titles) or we have in-depth discussions about our favorite sandwiches and why we hate specific people on the TV. Or, my dad’s favorite topic, how and when someone died. Bonus points if it was unexpected and violent.

My friend Collin is visiting. He’s from Wisconsin so we spend a great deal of time explaining things to him like non-dairy creamer and electricity. We have spent the day walking around the city and in between second hand bookstores and houses of founding fathers we found our way to more than one pub and lubricated our happy spots. After dozing on the train back we stopped at a pub placed about 100 feet from the train station and refilled. We are ready for baseball.

Michael Lorenzen is on the mound against the Nationals. It’s his second start. My father has stayed upstairs, as one trip downstairs is enough in a day for him. A second would be something like the hubris which makes rich people frozen twinkies on Everest. My mom sits with Collin and I. we all chat and watch the game.

Collin knows baseball, but football’s his game. He knows the inside out of everything when it comes to the sport. Baseball is his casual sport and he watches it with a passing fancy and it becomes secondary to his beer and our chat.

In the fourth inning, my mother and I make eye contact and actively don’t speak. We know what’s happening, but it is strictly against family rules – and against all of Philadelphia sporting rules – to say it aloud, to acknowledge it, or to call attention to it in any way.

Michael Lorenzen is pitching a no hitter. A no-no.

My mother and I shake it off and go back to the game. My mother asks Collin about his family and his family’s makeup and hand cream allegiances. There’s not a peep from upstairs.

Superstition is very important to any sports fans. Of course, there are those superiorly-posed fans out there who roll their eyes and with nonchalance claim that we mere observers have nothing to do with the outcome of a sporting event, but this is simply insane.

Evidence. August 15, 1991. Terry Mulholland is 6 innings into a perfect game against the Giants. My mother, brother, and I are watching in silence. Nobody has said a word. My mother brought crackers with jam and cream cheese. And then, suddenly, my best friend Eddie popped through the front door and announced:

“Hey! Did you guys know Terry Mulholland’s pitching a perfect game?”

The looks and admonishment from us to him took days off his life (a thing to be verified in 45 or so years). And then we all watched in horror as Charlie Hayes botched the throw on Rick Parker’s grounder. Eddie was ejected from the house and his father was called on the phone before he got home. His punishment was no doubt vicious and accepted by the gods of baseball because Mulholland later achieved the no-hitter via Charlie Hayes’ great play to end the game.   

Fast forward to May 1991. Tommy Greene is pitching a no-hitter against the Expos. Eddie and I had made plans to watch the game together, but he had been detained by a need for Tastycakes – a fully understandable excuse. However, Eddie never arrived and, when it became clear in the third inning that Tommy Greene was throwing a no-hitter, my family understood and silently nodded our assent. The man had learned his lesson and Greene’s no-hitter went on unhindered.   

So you see why nobody can say anything to Collin. He doesn’t seem to understand what’s happening and all I can do is say to him “Do you know what’s happening? Do you have any idea?”

Collin, thinking this is one of our fun drunken word puzzles, says “Sure I do, buddy. Sure I do.”

He gets up to get another beer. A few moments later, he hands me one with a wink and a nod.

When my sister arrives downstairs, we glare at her and the five-alarm fire waiting to happen that she has attached to her hip. If anyone in the family will ruin a sporting event, it’s my sister, a woman for whom sports rules are on her personal Totem of importance around the daily temperature of Mars or the habitat of the Eurasian otter.

“What’s going on?” she asks.

“Nothing. How are you?” I quickly ask, cutting off my mom. My mom will give away too much and this will lead to questioning. We don’t want questions. We want quiet.

My sister brings forth no requests from my dad, who has been in his room watching in absolute quiet. He has not engaged any of us, least of whom my mother, who would by this point in the evening often have received a text message for a bag of peanuts or a ginger ale or other things suggesting he’s mistaken her for a Lufthansa slight attendant.  

In the eighth inning, when Tom McCarthy says “Lorenzen has given up no hits here in the eighth” the quite in the booth is palpable. One imagines John Kruk staring in awe at McCarthy. Seconds later, Kruk says “Now, what did you just say right there?”

McCarthy: “What?”

My mother and I glance at each other. The gall.  

When Lorenzen pitches the final pitch and only after Johan Rojas catches the ball, celebrates, and then runs to the infield, do my mother and I celebrate. Collin jumps up and, no more prompting needed, jogs into the kitchen. He returns with celebratory beers. Amanda comes in, the celebration has upset her daughter and we need to keep it down. We don’t. Amanda heads for upstairs.

“Do you know what just happened?” I ask Collin.

He stares at the screen and realizes that the celebration is more than your normal mid-August slog celebration. “Did he pitch a no-hitter?” he asks.


“Why didn’t you tell me?”

My mother’s phone beeps the answer, though he doesn’t know it.

“Amanda, bring dad some peanuts and a ginger ale.”   

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