I don’t know if John Means’ no-hitter is a turning point for the still-in-last-place Baltimore Orioles, but — who knows? — we might look back on Means’ nearly perfect game in Seattle as an important marker in the club’s redevelopment.
I know what you’re thinking: “Let’s enjoy the moment, dude, but let’s not get carried away.”
I agree with the caution. Declaring a “turning point” is a job for historians, not those of us who record and comment on the first smoky draft of history.
I’ll say this much: The Means no-no might not turn out to be a turning point, but it has the feel of one.
Allow a memory, from my days as a kid in small-town Massachusetts. My team then was the Red Sox. Early in the 1967 season, April 14, a Boston rookie pitcher named Billy Rohr almost notched a no-hitter against the Yankees in their home-opener at old Yankee Stadium. I remember listening on a transistor radio. It was tremendously exciting. Rohr was only 21 years old. He was one strike away from a no-hitter when Elston Howard managed to hit a single off him. (Howard later played for the Sox that season.) Still, it was an incredible feat for Rohr and for the Sox, who had finished in ninth place in 1966. (The Orioles finished first.)
Rohr’s performance felt like a turning point. It felt like 1967 would at least go better than the season before.
And it surely did. The Red Sox went on to win the pennant and face the Cardinals of Bob Gibson and Lou Brock in the World Series.
Rohr’s career did not take off, however. He beat the Yankees twice in 1967 but only won one Major League game after that. Still, I remember the feeling he instilled with that almost no-hitter way back at the beginning of a most memorable season for the Red Sox.
Here’s hoping John Means provided some of that magic for the Orioles on Wednesday, and may John enjoy a long and successful career in Baltimore.