You know the old saying, “If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around to see it, does it make a sound?”
Don’t rack your brain. The answer is yes, despite what common sense may tell you. Physics usually wins out over common sense. It’s an unfortunate feature of our universe.
But what does that have to do with baseball? Well, here’s my baseball corollary to “If a tree falls in the forest. . .?” If a historic moment occurs during a game, and nobody is aware (or cares), then should it be noted in the record books? Or for that matter, did it even happen?
To answer the latter question, yes it did happen. Same reasoning as the tree falls in the forest deal. I raise this deep philosophical question as a result of something I read in today’s New York Daily News (the offline edition; yes, I actually read paper publications; I know, I know, what a dinosaur): the Mets are the first team in baseball history to face four consecutives managers with at least 1500 career victories: Tony LaRussa (Cards), Lou Piniella (Cubs), Bobby Cox (Braves), and Joe Torre (Dodgers). Other than the folks at the Elias Sports Bureau, who amaze me with their ability to mine the deep recesses of baseball history to uncover these golden shavings of minutiae, I may be the only person to care about such mundane facts. But that’s what I love about the numbers part of the game. Randomly throw a game or a series of games against the wall, and something will stick that likely never or very rarely happened before.
Another case in point: two years ago, I’m at Shea for a Mets-Mariners interleague game. In the top of the second, M’s ace Felix Hernandez crushes Johan Santana’s first pitch over the right field wall (an opposite field shot!) for a grand slam. 4-0 Mariners, who went on to win, 5-2. Stunned, I turned to my friend and said, “A grand slam, by the pitcher, off Johan?” Then my mind started to race. “Wait a minute,” I said. “When was the last time an American League pitcher hit a grand slam? It has to be 5, 10 years!”
The next day I learned it was actually 37 years! A Cleveland Indians pitcher, whose name I can’t recall, hit one in 1971. You can thank the DH for that, but still! I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to witness what was arguably one of the rarest feats in baseball — an American League pitcher slugging a bases loaded dinger.
But I wasn’t done yet. I went a few steps further: has an American League hurler ever hit a grand slam to the opposite field, on the first pitch? Maybe, but then again — it is possible I witnessed something never before accomplished in a Major League game. I suppose I could contact the Elias Sports Bureau to see if they could possibly confirm this, but I’d rather just keep this obscure, arcane stat to myself.
If I’m the only one to hear the tree fall in this proverbial forest, so be it. It’s my forest.