Topic: "No-No, No" (3)
There are times, as an athlete, when one can do no wrong. For whatever reason there are moments when every fly ball will be caught, every jump shot will hit nothing but net, every pass sticks to outstretched fingers. Simply knowing that one will not fail is beyond explanation. Fleeting though such moments may be, sit-ups and wind sprints seem like a measly investment against such reward. Frodo had experiences such as these, so he understands and appreciates watching others enjoy their moment.
John Smoltz, a "gallant Brave," is 40 years old, and at the virtual end of the physical capacity to play professional baseball. In this year when disappointment permeates the accomplishments of his team-mates, Smoltz has pitched well. Last night, confronted by the inferior opposition from Washington, Smoltz made his "slider" seem as if it were slowly rolling across a tabletop before falling straight down to earth. The befuddled batters from the District of Columbia swung weakly at where the ball had been, and stared at the emptiness called for the third strike, time-after-time. Despite all his success, Smoltz had never pitched a "no-hitter," but by the end of the fourth inning, everyone was anticipating the opportunity for the master of the pitching mound.
Smoltz struck out 10 Washington batters through seven innings, and had thrown the ball 109 times to his catcher, and still he had allowed no safely hit ball to fall. He also had a head cold, and his magnificent strength was ebbing, noticeably, when the last batter was out in the seventh.
The first hitter in the eighth inning was not a star, but he was a good hitter. He "fouled off" several pitches from Smoltz, knowing that Smoltz was weakening. Finally, a pitch failed to fall as crisply as its predecessors and the fortunate Washington player slashed the horsehide-covered sphere into right field in front of the frenetic charge of Jeff Francoeur.
The silence was broken by the slow march of the Manager, Bobby Cox, to the mound. He took the ball from Smoltz, patted his shoulder, and sent the exhausted pitcher back to the dugout. It goes without saying that the fans stood and cheered the gallant effort as Smoltz walked slowly off the field, with a moment to be shared in his memory for the remainder of his days. When Smoltz has his last moment on this earth, he will wish that it could be watching his last pitch elude the swing of the batter and hearing the great umpire yell, "Strike Three." Frodo knows.