Announcers reflect on calling Alvarez's no-hitter
Broadcasters talk Marlins fans through walk-off no-no to end 2013 season
MIAMI -- Seeing history unfold at Marlins Park on Sunday was one thing. Putting Henderson Alvarez's walk-off no-hitter into words was another.
Until completed, no-hitters are considered taboo to talk about.
Teammates regularly stay clear of a pitcher during his quest. Fans cheer the moment, but they are skeptical to utter the words "no-hitter," reasoning that the mere mention could somehow alter history.
Announcers? They tend to choose their words carefully.
On Sunday, the Marlins radio and television broadcasters didn't mask what they were watching. They took a direct approach. They let the viewers and listeners know immediately something special was going on during the season finale.
Alvarez's no-hitter was ultimately secured in the bottom of the ninth when Giancarlo Stanton raced home on a wild pitch to give the Marlins a 1-0 win over the Tigers, and Alvarez an unconventional no-hitter.
The Fox Sports Florida team of Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton made it known Alvarez was seeking his place in the record books.
"First of all, it's an NFL Sunday. If somebody clicks into our game, just to see what's going on, if they don't know a no-hitter is going, they're going to click back to the football game," Hutton said. "It's imperative to say what's going on."
Hutton and Waltz may have refrained from saying "no-hitter," but they used every other phrase they could think of to inform their viewers.
"Rich said, 'They're looking for their first hit. They don't have a hit yet,'" Hutton said. "Now, if the viewer sees that, he's probably not going back to the football game. That's how you have to do it. Anybody who says that's a jinx is wrong because Rich didn't jinx it."
Dave Van Horne, the Hall of Fame Marlins' radio voice, and Glenn Geffner also kept their listeners on 790 The Ticket aware of Alvarez's pursuit.
"I started talking about the fact he had not allowed a hit through five innings," Van Horne said. "In the sixth inning, I remember mentioning he had gotten 21 outs and had not allowed a hit."
Geffner handled the seventh and eighth innings, and in the ninth inning, and the drama built, Van Horne was on every pitch.
"But I kept mentioning, there was no score in the game," Van Horne said.
Throwing nine no-hit innings, as impressive as it is, technically would not have been recognized as a no-hitter had the game progressed to extra innings and Alvarez eventually surrendered a hit.
So the pressure was on for Miami to score in the ninth.
"When something highly exceptional happens, it's baseball history, No. 1," Van Horne said. "This was the [sixth] time that it happened where there was a walk-off win to secure a no-hitter. Indeed, a very rare, rare accomplishment."
Not only was a no-hitter going on, but early in the game, Tigers starter Justin Verlander was breezing through the Marlins' lineup. Although the Detroit right-hander had allowed a few hits, he was racking up strikeouts.
Verlander finished up with 10 in six innings before manager Jim Leyland decided his starter had gone long enough.
"Watching Verlander, I thought he was going to be the one to step into the headlines with perhaps a record strikeout game," Van Horne said. "That really went through my mind. At this pace, if he stays out there, he could set a record in strikeouts, because the pace was tremendous in the early going. But we all know what they were doing. They were preparing for the postseason, and the Marlins were just playing out the string."
Because the Tigers sat Miguel Cabrera and other regulars, some suggest Alvarez's achievement was diminished in some ways. Van Horne doesn't buy into that thinking.
"That should not be held against what Henderson Alvarez did," Van Horne said. "I have seen a lot of no-hitters that are broken up by the 25th guy on the team, who comes up off the bench in the seventh or eighth inning, and gets that two-out base knock to spoil a no-hit bid."
Such a scenario actually happened to Miami rookie Jose Fernandez on Sept. 6 against the Nationals. The 21-year-old carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and it was broken up on a slow dribbler down the third-base line by Zach Walters, who was making his MLB debut. It was the lone hit Fernandez allowed in seven innings that night.
Being the last game of the season, there was so much packed into the afternoon. About an hour before the first pitch, the Marlins announced a shift in the front office, with Michael Hill being named president of baseball operations, and Dan Jennings being promoted to general manager.
For the Marlins, they were winding down what became a 62-100 season. The Tigers, winners of the American League Central, were freely substituting their regulars.
In the middle of a hectic day, Alvarez kept putting up zeros.
"There is no question there was a swirl of emotions going on in regards to this team and it's future," Van Horne said. "From the Marlins' standpoint, it kind of punctuated what we've all been saying and looking toward the future. We're waiting for these young players to come through and we had all these young players involved. We had a 23-year-old pitcher, and we had a 23-year-old standing at third base.
"It was kind of a peek into the future that this could be a pretty good thing. This is something that was pulled off by a very young team that just had gone through a long and very frustrating losing season."
Alvarez's no-hitter was the 12th Van Horne has broadcasted in his 43 big league seasons. Hutton, a former player, has lost count of the exact number he has been involved with. It's more than 10 as a player and broadcaster.
Hutton has been behind the microphone for four of the five no-hitters in Marlins' history.
Hutton's list does include Nolan Ryan's seventh and final no-hitter.
For all the big games he has seen, what stood out about Sunday is how rare it was to see the starting pitcher not allow a hit but not being able to celebrate on the mound. Instead, Alvarez happened to be standing on deck, wearing a batting helmet, when Stanton scored the decisive run.
"I won't forget this one, because it was so crazy," Hutton said. "Because he went nine innings, and almost kind of celebrated. When he got the last out in the top of the ninth, he kind of jumps up and then looks around. He was like, 'Wait a minute. We don't have a run.'"