Only five days earlier, not one but two messages in the Banner Day parade read "No-Hitters Are Overrated." You won't see that one again next year, or ever again. One of the authors, John Barron of New Jersey, in fact tweeted about his bedsheet composition, "I'm burning it tomorrow."
Unlike any of the batters who faced Johan Santana Friday night, that fan really hit on something. It was the darnedest thing, unlike any no-hitter anybody has ever seen. Usually, all of the attention goes from the crowd toward the stellar pitcher. This time it was the other way around. What really made it special wasn't the guy on the mound but the people who had been waiting 50 years to see someone like him do it.
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As Santana himself said, saluting his no-hitter-starved public and using the oldest word in the Mets vocabulary, "Amazing!"
Knowing that the team never had thrown a no-hitter always was part of a Mets fan's DNA. It was a strange distinction, somewhere between a nagging frustration and an odd badge of honor for fortitude. It wasn't nearly as wrenching as the Rangers fans' 54-year wait between Stanley Cups -- nobody raised a sign Friday that said, "Now I Can Die in Peace" -- but it was at least a distant cousin.
It was enough to inspire Howie Rose, who broadcast both the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup in 1994 and Santana's no-no, to add a second phrase to his signature game-ending call on Friday, saying, "Put it in the books. In the history books."
Rose knows because he has been a Mets fan from the beginning, as has friend and television counterpart Gary Cohen. The amazing thing, though, was that you didn't have to be around since 1962 to get a feel for what this meant. Everyone involved, especially Santana, realized it instantly. He told his teammates in the clubhouse, "We all made history."
You put on a Mets uniform for any of the previous 8,019 games, you knew about the drought. That added to the drama and the urgency. Maybe Terry Collins doesn't risk hurting Santana's surgically repaired shoulder if someone had thrown a no-hitter last year, or in 1986 or 1978.
The manager first heard about the streak last year, his first with the team, when R.A. Dickey took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
"I was extremely, extremely excited for everybody. I was excited certainly for Johan, but [also] for the Mets, for all the Mets fans for 50 years," Collins said before Carlos Beltran broke up Dickey's no-hit bid in the second inning Saturday afternoon. "I was quite aware of what was taking place last evening, that's for sure."
Bobby Parnell, who was warming up in the bullpen late Friday night, just in case, said, "We hear about it all the time. We just got done playing San Diego and we heard about it for so many games straight. Every time somebody gives up a hit, it was 'that's so-many games.' "
Now the Padres are the only team that never has thrown one. Said Parnell: "We're glad we're not going to have to worry about it."
Now Mets fans have one fewer big boulder of angst. It had been a huge pain to see so many guys throw no-hitters after they left the Mets: Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Mike Scott, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Hideo Nomo, Philip Humber. That die-hards such as Barron could joke about it was a sign that it does take a thick skin and a sense of humor to root for the perennial second team in a two-team market.
Santana gave them a chance to rejoice, and to reminisce about good times. "It was only fitting for it to happen this year, being it was the 50th anniversary of the Mets," said Gooden, who was one of the Banner Day judges and considers himself an ardent Mets fan these days. "I have the MLB package and I watch all the games that I can."
On Friday, from his home in Florida, he got to see Santana's teammates swarm him, all knowing that they had done something to make a lot of people really happy and relieved. It definitely was not overrated.
"It was a good day," Dickey said in the clubhouse Friday night, "to be a Met."
It was an even better day to be a Mets fan.