If you have watched any of the past couple games-of-the-week on FOX, then you have heard Tim McCarver’s irreverent observations on the practice of not using the phrase “no hitter” when a hitless game is in progress. If you missed it, let me fill you in. The issue first arose several weeks ago during the Rays-Yankees match-up that saw CC Sabathia bidding for the first no-no of his career. Mr. McCarver was very open in denouncing what he believes to be a silly, stupid superstition and peppered the sacred words liberally into his commentary. Mr. Sabathia, of course, lost his bid in the 8th inning. The subject was revived all too soon when St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia twirled a few no-hit innings against the Mets (this was during the game that New York eventually won in the 20th inning.)
I’m not saying that either of these no-hitters was lost because of Tim McCarver (he has, as he freely boasts, called several in the past having freely spoken the words “no hitter.”) Just the same, his stance on the subject irritates me. I’ve decided to state my case in the form of a letter addressed to Mr. McCarver… so, here goes.
Dear Tim McCarver,
In response to your distaste for the practice of not saying “no-hitter” when one is being pitched, I really feel that you are missing the point.
In the first place, most superstitions are somewhat ridiculous. I do not know whether you disapprove of them all, but the superstition in question isn’t any more or less silly than any other in baseball.
In the second place, certain “superstitions” have been around for long enough and become so widely accepted that they really cease to be superstition at all and become more like traditions. The thing in question, I feel, falls within these bounds. Compare not saying “no-hitter” to putting on a rally cap. Does anyone who turns their cap inside out honestly believe that the action has the power to effect what happens on the field? I don’t think so. It is done in the spirit of the game and I look upon it as a rich tradition.
I see the no-hitter issue in the same light. To me, it isn’t a superstition or even an iron-clad rule that must be strictly adhered to. It is just one of countless fun, weird quirks in this great game of ours. I wish you’d see it this way, Mr. McCarver.
Of course, for broadcasters this whole thing is a different animal. Were I in your shoes, though, I would relish the challenge of calling a no-hit game; of communicating to the audience what was taking place without letting the magic words escape my lips. Cubs’ radio play-by-play man Pat Hughes did a masterful job of it while calling Carlos Zambrano’s no-no in 2008, as I’m sure my fellow fans can attest.
I am not here to tell you how to do your job, and I imagine that you are too set in your ways to pay any mind to my arguments. I wish you would consider it, though, Mr. McCarver. Because you’re just plain wrong!
Elizabeth R. Kipps