MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

How poorly are things going for the Cincinnati Reds these days? Very poorly, as witnessed by their mere 9 wins through the first 35 games of the season.

A lot of us around here can certainly empathize. A lot of us can even say we’ve seen worse – much worse; at least those of us who were around and care to admit we were around for the 1988 Baltimore Orioles starting that season with 0 wins through the first 21 games.

That is correct. You read that right — a big fat donut hole and 21.

0-21.

Dem ‘O’s, hon, did, however, rebound to win 54 of the next 141, so …

Anyway, things are going so badly for the Cincinnati Reds these days that when they do receive a rare well-pitched game, they go close to all the way and pitch themselves a no-hitter.

Good day to be a Red, eh? Not so fast.

On Sunday, Reds rookie starter Hunter Greene and reliever Art Warren combined to pitch a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates. And lost, 1-0.

Pitch a no-hitter and lose? Never happened before? Well, it’s doubtful many fans who attended the game or watched it on TV had ever seen it happen, because Sunday marks just the sixth time in Major League history it ever has happened.

Even I, for instance, remember the second time it ever happened. It was 1967 and the Orioles’ Steve Barber and Stu Miller combined to no-hit the Detroit Tigers, yet lose the game, 2-1.

As but a lad at the tender age of seven, I just could not wrap my head around how something like that could ever happen. Yet it was then I learned that no matter how many baseball games you’ve seen in your life, you’re likely to see something take place in any and every game you watch that you’ve never seen before, whether it has happened previously or not.

This is the true beauty of baseball – no clock (pay attention Weasel Manfred), so there’s plenty of time for anything to happen.

Take, for instance, something close to home:

In May of 2003, two future big-league pitchers, Allegany High’s Aaron Laffey and Nick Adenhart of Williamsport combined to allow two hits and strike out 33 batters (in seven innings, remember) in a West Region playoff game at Allegany. Yet it was the late Adenhart who pitched a no-hitter and lost the game, 1-0, to Allegany.

I guarantee you, nobody who was standing along the fence on the sidewalk of Sedgwick Street that day had ever witnessed A.) two future MLB pitchers square off against each other and B.) one of them pitch a no-hitter and still lose the game.

At least not in a game beyond the level of pee wee or little league.

Perhaps the Reds’ no-hit setback had something to do with the Super Flower Blood Moon lunar eclipse that took place on Sunday. A lot of weird stuff happened on Sunday – the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs, the top-seeded Phoenix Suns were wiped off their home court by 33 points (and it wasn’t that close), the Baltimore Orioles lost a baseball game (see what I did there?) and I found a $10 bill Sunday morning on Mechanic Street while taking a walk.

Just as the great Earl Weaver said, “Everything affects everything,” the moon really does affect us all. For instance, I can promise you and I can bet on my life and know that I will win that this column marks the first time in 42 years of being a sports writer I have ever written the words, “Super Flower Blood Moon lunar eclipse.”

Of course, the bottom line is, it’s just baseball and remains beautiful fact that you’ll see something for the first time in nearly every baseball game you watch.

Would have been in the 1990s, perhaps? I was covering a high school game at Donahue Field and the legendary Al Martin was umpiring behind the plate. If you knew or remember Al, you know he was easily exuberant about life, his love for Notre Dame and for the game of baseball.

So Al takes a vicious line-drive foul ball straight back to the top of his old-style single-bar umpire’s mask. The ball is hit so hard (the batter just missed hitting it 400 feet) it’s lodged into Al’s mask right between his eyes.

Al calls foul ball and play dead. He then tries to get the ball out of his mask, but can’t. And he is perfectly thrilled by it.

He runs out in front of home plate, holds up his mask and announces to the crowd of about 200, “The ball is stuck in my mask! What are the chances?”

To which a cynical fan (not me; I was working) yells, “Get back behind the plate, Martin! It’s happened before.”

“Yeah!” Al retorts to the fan, while shaking his finger towards him, “… But you’ve never seen it.”

Two weeks later when he was pictured holding his umpire’s mask with the ball still lodged into the top of it on Page 2 of The Sporting News, the centuries-long Bible of Baseball, Al was proven correct once more.

As the great Bill Klem, “The Father of Modern Baseball Umpires,” is said to have said, “I never missed a call in my life. Not in my heart.”

You just gotta love baseball.

Unless you’re currently playing for the Cincinnati Reds.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT