My colleagues did a nice job reacting to the Randy Johnson perfect game last night, but I just wanted to give everybody a sense of what it’s like in the newsroom of a paper when there’s a no-hitter (especially a perfect game) going on. As you may know, I work in the sports department at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, NY and I was there last night.
First of all, we generally don’t want them to happen. There’s even one guy who works at our paper who monitors any no-hitter that gets past the fifth or sixth inning and says what every batter does in the hopes of breaking up the no-no. He obviously has no effect on the game, but he has a kind of joke reputation as being able to break them up and there have been very few no-hitters thrown while he’s been in the office in all his time there (and he’s been there a long time). He wasn’t working last night, though.
The reason we don’t want no-hitters is that when they happen, it almost always means you have to completely redesign the front page of the sports section (and usually, at least one of the inside pages as well) without much time before deadline. Our first deadline most nights is 11:30 p.m., so even a no-hitter that starts at 7 p.m. will probably only end a couple hours before deadline. At this point, changing the paper could remove a wire story that somebody has already worked up, which means they wasted their time.
There are two TVs in the sports department, and we originally had one on the NBA playoff game and one on the NHL playoff game. I first checked the Arizona/Atlanta game on the internet at the end of the fourth inning and saw that Johnson had seven strikeouts and hadn’t allowed a hit. I started flipping one of the TVs over to TBS while the Braves were at bat at that point to check on Johnson’s game.
Once Johnson made it through the sixth inning with the perfect game still in tact, we left one TV on TBS for the rest of the game and people kept drifting over to the TV to watch a couple of pitches or a couple of at-bats. At this point, the page designer was starting to think about what he’d have to do if Johnson actually got the perfecto.
Once the ninth inning rolled around, most of the people in the newsroom stopped working. There were at least half a dozen people clustered around the TV in the sports department and another dozen or so people clustered around the TV near the graphics and metro departments.
Throughout the ninth inning, everybody’s chatting about the implications of the perfect game. Would he be the oldest pitcher to throw one? (Yes) Would he be the first pitcher with a no-hitter and a perfect game? (No) Would he be the first pitcher with a no-hitter in one leage and a perfect game in the other? (No) Who was the last pitcher with a perfect game? (David Cone)
One of the guys mentioned that the last pitcher he faced as a high school baseball player was Randy Johnson in a scrimmage. He said he swung at one pitch, but didn’t make contact. That’s just cool, if you ask me.
Anyway, that’s one of the great things about working at a newspaper. Yeah, it’s fun to cover games and write stories and follow sports (if you’re in the sports department) for a living, but the best part is the camaraderie among all the people who work there. And if you’re going to watch a perfect game (or parts of it), it’s cool to watch it with a bunch of other sports fans, like I did last night.