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Fan chases the elusive no-hitter

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP - Managing Editor
I have been an avid baseball fan most of my life. I am the rare person who actually enjoys watching the game on television. The only time I find the game boring is when it is a blowout or two teams that are struggling in the standings. Of course, growing up in Alabama, I have long been a Braves fan and watch them at every opportunity.
Through the years of enjoying the sport there are many unique things that have come up in the process of an 'ordinary game.' But, of all the thrills I've seen, I have never witnessed the one thing I have been waiting for the longest - a no hitter. Of all the games I've seen, I've never seen that type of performance from the pitcher's position.
On Sunday, former Brave Kevin Millwood reached the height of a single-game performance. Now a Philly, Millwood's performance was especially memorable as it came against the National League's best offensive team - the San Francisco Giants.
Now, you can bet when I saw the highlights from this game that I was just a bit jealous. After all, if he had thrown his no-hitter last year, or if he was still a Brave this year, the chances are pretty good that I would have been watching it.
I didn't grow up in a household that held sports in high regard. In fact, my stepfather was certain that the outcome of all games weren't determined on the field of play, but rather in Las Vegas casinos. Instead of watching football on Sundays, he would rather watch a John Wayne western.
When I got old enough, I started following baseball. Our cable system carried WTBS and the Braves were on all the time. These were the Braves of Dale Murphy, Bob Horner, Ken Oberkfell, Glen Hubbard, Rafeal Ramirez, and the so-called ace, Rick Mahler (at that time he had more opening day starts than any other Brave). These were the Braves before winning 11 straight division titles. They were more synonymous with last place. Each year, you could count on these Braves being at the bottom of the pile.
Despite their losing ways, I still watched a lot of their games and became a die-hard fan. You just never knew when something special was going to happen during a routine game.
One of those special games came on on the Fourth of July in 1985. Luckily it was a holiday, and I was able to stay up late to watch the Braves. It was a good thing too, because the game went back and forth and was not decided until 19 innings later and at 4 a.m. in the morning. I must confess, I did not stay up until four, I figured when Braves' pitcher Rick Camp hit a homerun to tie the game, luck was on our side. But, in typical 80's Braves' fashion, they still lost the game.
One year later, Bob Horner achieved a feat even more rare than a no-hitter. With the Braves well out of any playoff contention in early July, nobody had any business watching this game. But, I did and it is still one of the most memorable games that I've watched. On that day, Horner hit four homeruns. Of course, in typical 80's Braves' fashion, they still lost the game.
I did watch other teams and saw several memorable moments on network television. I watched as Don Sutton earned his 300th victory and saw Pete Rose smack his 4,191st hit to become the all-time hits leader. There is also the instances of heroics that come every October.
But, for all the baseball I've watched over the years, there are moments, like Millwood's no-hitter Sunday that is impossible to witness. Even with my commitment to the Braves, it is very possible to miss something. In April 1994, the height of my college bachelor days, I somehow missed my opportunity to see the elusive no-hitter when Braves' pitcher Kent Mercker hurled one against the Dodgers.
The no-hitter isn't as rare as many other less-famous baseball feats. There has been 198 of them since 1901. While stars like Nolan Ryan, Kevin Brown and David Cone have achieved no-hitters so have others like Bud Smith, John Montefusco and Len Barker.
What makes no-hitters stand out is that for one game, a spectator can see an athlete at the very top of his game. When someone throws a no-hitter he completely dominates the game and baffles every hitter he faces. It is that domination that makes the achievement so special and a joy for fans to watch … I assume.
robert.blankenship@brewtonstandard.com