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Is It a No-No to Utter the Words 'No-Hitter' on the Air?

Aug 24, 2010 – 12:00 PM
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Ed Price

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With two out in the bottom of the sixth inning on June 6, with the Yankees' Javier Vazquez pitching in Toronto, YES Network broadcaster John Flaherty said something on the air about Vazquez he never would have said to Vazquez as a teammate.

"This is the point in the ballgame, Bob, you start thinking about the possibility of a no-hitter," Flaherty said, addressing play-by-play man Bob Lorenz. "Two out here in the sixth, he has not given up a hit yet."

Yes, Flaherty used baseball's version of the N-word: no-hitter.

"I wouldn't have said it to him, but I would have said it to the guy sitting next to me on the bench," Flaherty, a former big-league catcher, told FanHouse in recalling the moment. "I wouldn't say anything to him, but when you're having a conversation about it, you definitely say, 'Oh, he's got a no-hitter going.' "

With so many no-hitters, and close calls, this season, broadcasters' superstitious sides have been tested.

In the end, they are determined to either avoid the jinx or ignore it.

When Matt Garza threw his no-no for the Rays on July 26, Tampa Bay broadcaster Dewayne Staats went the entire game without saying, "no-hitter."

Staats told the St. Petersburg Times:
"I framed it in every way possible without actually saying it. Fans start to catch on that something is happening. At one point, I said, 'Garza has faced the minimum and has allowed only one baserunner and that came on a walk.' So I'm essentially saying it without saying it. I say things like, 'We have something special building here.' I'm giving the viewers clues along the way and it helps them become more involved in the game, I think. And they can see the box score at the end of each inning showing that a team has no hits."
Added color man Kevin Kennedy:
"[A]s Monday's game went on and I looked in the dugout and saw players doing the same things, I started to get caught up in it. And then I thought, 'Oh man, I'm not going to be the one to say it.'' The last thing I wanted was to be the guy who jinxed the first no-hitter in team history.''
Others agree.

"It's probably not the correct way to broadcast a game," said Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper, a former infielder with Cleveland and San Francisco, "but I do not specifically say, 'This guy has a no-hitter.' [Or,] 'Jonathan Sanchez has a no-hitter.' I don't do it. And I do it just because I didn't do it as a player and for whatever weird reason, players don't do it. I've never done it.

"When Dennis Eckersley threw his no-hitter [for the '77 Indians], I listened to Joe Tait, who was our radio guy then in Cleveland. And he said everything but 'no-hitter' -- 'The only baserunners,' 'Has not allowed a hit.' Just for whatever reason, he just did not say, 'no-hitter.'

"It's just being superstitious. Which you try hard not to be, but in a lot of ways you are."

Tommy Hutton, who calls Marlins TV games and is also a former player, said it's easier for him to dance around the term because he's the color analyst and doesn't do play-by-play.

"I would avoid saying, 'no-hitter,' " Hutton said, "but I would say, 'The Orioles are looking for their first hit,' or things like that."

"I don't mess with that stuff. It's a lot of garbage. It's doesn't change anything."
- Jerry Coleman
Padres Broadcaster
But another ex-player, San Diego legend Jerry Coleman, doesn't hesitate to say the word.

"I don't mess with that stuff," Coleman said. "It's a lot of garbage. It's doesn't change anything.

"[Allie] Reynolds, when he had his second no-hitter [of 1951], he walked up and said, 'I've got a no-hitter. You can talk about it.' "

Like Coleman, some broadcasters feel a responsibility to inform the viewer.

"You're doing a disservice to the people watching if you don't tell them what's going on," Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen said. "The superstition has always been about not talking to the pitcher, not letting him know what's going on. If the pitcher can hear what I'm saying, then we've got a big problem.

"I know [Vin] Scully has always felt you'd totally be doing the viewers a disservice if you don't let them know. And as far as I'm concerned, if it's OK with him, it's OK with me."

Of course, on radio, there's no end-of-inning line score for the listener to see.

"I'm not superstitious at all," Giants radio man Dave Flemming said. "I think the worst thing you can do as a broadcaster is not tell the audience what's going on. If you just imagine yourself as a listener, and put a game on in, say, the eighth inning, and a guy does not tell you that there's a no-hitter going on, and then you turn the game off and go do something else, and you wake up the next morning and find out the guy threw a no-hitter, how ticked off are you going to be that he didn't tell you?"

Cardinals radio voice John Rooney, who has called big-league baseball full-time since 1987, agreed.

"I think I have an obligation to tell the fans," Rooney said.

"I'm not afraid to use the term 'no-hitter.' It's what it is. I've never figured I had anything to do with what happened on the field."

Flaherty said he did pause before using the word "no-hitter" on June 6.

"It was definitely a thought," Flaherty recalled. "Because people get fired up -- 'Oh, you jinxed it.' It was definitely a thought. But I'm not that powerful."

Two batters later, Vazquez allowed a home run to Vernon Wells.

FanHouse senior MLB writer Jeff Fletcher contributed to this report.
Filed under: Sports
Tagged: No-Hitter