I’ve always felt like the players I watched when I became a baseball fan were better than ones who play today. Memories put a soft hue on the past and the moments that were so monumental, because there were so few to compare them with, stood as towering accomplishments, whether they actually were or not.
(Of course, I became a Mariners fan in the 90s, and it’s tough, nay impossible, to argue the Mariners of the 90s actually weren’t better than they are now.)
The first no hitter I saw was Chris Bosio’s. I had already gone to bed and my Dad woke me up to see the end. The specialness of that moment has always branded Bos as a better pitcher in my mind than he was. I’ve never cared that Randy Johnson’s career was defined on teams other than the Mariners. My childhood worship of the fastballs he slung through the strike zone and the way Mr. Snappy made batters look like over matched fools are no match for reality
We view things differently when they are new and fresh and perspective hasn’t tainted our wide eyed wonder. I’d long accepted that I would never see the moments and players of my adult fandom with the same reverence and awe that I did when I was young.
Felix Hernandez came along at a time when I was mad at baseball for tarnishing my unblemished memories with steroids, and I was disappointed with the Mariners for squandering the chance to become a real team. I watched him with curiosity and appreciation, but I didn’t let myself get attached.
Then, during a tough part of my life, baseball was there. Felix was becoming Felix. Happy Felix Day was a thing, and I relished watching him develop and channel his cocky swagger of talent into the most entertaining pitching I’ve ever seen. I started to feel like he was special and I could be excited about the Mariners again.
But, he still didn’t feel like the fuzzy memory players.
Then, at 3:00 this afternoon, I was shut in my boss’s vacant office, clutching my phone like it was the source of life, listening to the game through its tiny speakers. Every time Felix set to throw the ball, my heart thumped like I had murdered and buried someone below the floorboards. My head was dizzy, my body was numb.
He did it.
Felix threw the perfect game he had been building towards his entire career.
I felt a feeling that I hadn’t felt since the Indians were defeated in the final game of the 2001 ALDS.
That moment, that pitcher. I am going to love them forever and they will live forever in that part of my brain devoted to sacred baseball memories.