A story of redemption

When I see the word “redemption” I immediately think of the word in religious terms. Thirteen years of going to Catholic schools will do that to you. But I abandoned that religion a long time ago. I don’t begrudge anyone who chooses to believe in it, but it wasn’t for me. However, I will cast that word in religious terms here, if only for what Susan Sarandon’s charater in Bull Durham called “the church of baseball.” That’s about the only creed that I have, anyway.

Redemption means to redeem or make up for something. The idea that a mistake doesn’t have to be the definition of the person who made it. Everybody makes mistakes, and some of them are harmful, but life goes on. And to make that point, I picked a baseball game from long ago. Twenty-one years ago, to be exact. Its lessons are just as relevant today as they were back then.

Terry Mulholland pitched for eleven different organizations in the major leagues, before his career ended in 2006. But early in his career, he had the kind of a performance that every pitcher dreams about. Pitching for the Phillies against the defending NL West champion San Francisco Giants, Mulholland was mowing down hitters. After six innings, he had gone through the Giants lineup twice without allowing a hit or a walk. He was working on a perfect game.

Even a no-hitter is a rare feat. The Phillies had been playing in the Vet in Philadelphia for almost twenty years, and no one had yet thrown a nine-inning no hitter there. So the fans, understandably, were getting excited at the prospect of witnessing something historic.

To lead off the seventh inning, Giants lead-off hitter Rick Parker hit a groundball toward the hole on the left side of the infield. Charlie Hayes picked it up, but made a throwing error and Parker reached base. If the play had come in the second inning, no one would have paid too much attention to it. But in the seventh, with a perfect game in the balance, I imagine that Hayes heard some booing from the crowd. This was in Philadelphia, after all.

The Phillies had a six-run lead, so the outcome of the game wasn’t impacted by Hayes’ miscue. And Mullholland kept his composure, getting the next batter to hit into a double play. The inning ended without any further damage, and the no-hitter was still intact. Mullholland went 1-2-3 in the eighth inning as well, leaving just three outs to go until the no-hitter was complete.

The first two outs in the ninth were also recorded, and Mulholland stood just one out away. The Giant sent future Hall of Famer Gary Carter in as a pinch hitter. Carter smashed a line drive to third, and Charlie Hays made a diving grab to preserve the no-hitter. He may have cost Mulholland the perfect game with his earlier throwing error, but he saved the no-hitter with his play on Carter’s shot. That right there is redemption.

As this new year begins, I realize that I will be making some mistakes. However, there’s always the opportunity to make up for them, somehow. And life always goes on.

As a postscript, there was only one other no-hitter pitched in the Vet, and it came 13 years after Mulholland’s effort. Charlie Hayes, Gary Carter, and Rick Parker were out of the majors by then, but Terry Mulholland was still pitching. He did, in fact, have a long career.

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