January 30, 2023

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10 years later, the oral history of Johan Santana's no-hitter

27 min read

On the night of June 1, 2012, in the 8,020th game in franchise history, Johan Santana delivered the Mets’ first no-hitter. It required a Herculean pitch count, a questionable foul call and a generational catch by a Queens native at Citi Field.

Ten years later, those who were present offered their recollections.

PART I: NO NO-HITTERS

Entering their 51st season, the Mets were one of only two teams never to throw a no-no. It was a fact that frequently astounded, considering the club’s status as a pitching-rich franchise that had employed Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden and many others. Seaver, Ryan and Gooden all threw no-hitters only after leaving the Mets.

Gary Cohen, Mets broadcaster: It was almost a badge of honor, the fact that the Mets had had such an incredible lineage of pitching — guys who had pitched no-hitters before they came to the Mets, guys who pitched no-hitters after they left the Mets — and somehow, through all of that, had never had one. I became convinced that it would never happen.

Howie Rose, Mets broadcaster: Most Mets fans would tell you that they wore it as a sort of scarlet letter. For me, it was this organic gap that I felt in the 50-year narrative of the franchise. There was a void.

Dirk Lammers, creator, NoNoHitters.com: I’ve been a Mets fan all my life, and I’ve always been obsessed with the no no-hitters streak. I started keeping a count, and then I started adding all the pitchers that had one-hitters, pitchers that threw a no-hitter after leaving the Mets or before coming to the Mets. I sort of got obsessed with it.

Josh Thole, Mets catcher: Think of these guys that have come through here, starting pitchers. And there was never one? I’ve got a hard time believing that.

Lammers: I liked the whole idea of the Nolan Ryan trade curse, and then Seaver finally getting a no-hitter with the Reds. It seemed doom-and-gloom, and doom-and-gloom is where Mets fans go whenever possible.

David Wright, Mets third baseman: I was very aware. It’s not like I thought about it on a daily basis, but at the time, it was us and the Padres.

Sandy Alderson, Mets general manager: I had been with San Diego, and San Diego never had a no-hitter either — or a cycle.

Santana: I would lie to you if I said I knew the whole history. But I knew it had never happened before.

Jeremy Hefner, Mets starting pitcher: R.A. [Dickey] had flirted with some earlier in the year. It seemed like he was going eight or nine innings every time out. He was going deep into games, and he was carrying no-hitters deep into games. There was enough written about it that I was aware.

Rose: It got to the point the way some of them were broken up that I had come to begrudgingly accept that they probably were never going to pitch one. … I certainly didn’t have an inkling when I drove to the ballpark that day, that’s for sure.

Although Santana carried pedigree to the mound, including a pair of Cy Young Awards with the Twins, he had undergone surgery in October 2010 to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder. After missing the entire 2011 season, Santana produced a 2.75 ERA over the first two months of 2012.

Cohen: He had had a major operation on his shoulder. I don’t think anybody even knew that he was definitely going to be able to come back, much less at that level. I certainly don’t think that he was the pitcher in New York that he was in Minnesota, but there were moments that he displayed a majesty that you just had to admire.

Terry Collins, Mets manager: I wasn’t around him when he was really, really good, but I had seen him pitch enough to know that his fastball was not the same anymore. But he still had a great changeup, and he had that moxie.

Thole: There’s this competitive edge that Johan has always had from the day that I met him, and that was something I knew would never, ever go away. The competitiveness kind of takes over the skill. He would find a way to execute the pitches pretty much at all costs.

Wright: The biggest difference to him in my eyes coming off that shoulder injury was his velocity was down. He pitched off his changeup, so … when your fastball dips down a bit, it creates a smaller gap between your fastball and your changeup. You could tell stuff-wise, he wasn’t the guy that he was before the shoulder problems. But intensity-wise — that’s what made him so great. Johan was very much like Pedro [Martínez] in that he knew how to pitch. So therefore, he could still get outs.

Santana: Coming back from surgery, one of the things I didn’t do was think about it when I was on the mound, even though in between starts, you do whatever it takes — your maintenance, your exercises. I knew I was coming off a major shoulder surgery, but every time I took the mound, I didn’t think about it. I just thought about competing.

Mike Baxter, Mets left fielder: More than anything, he was bouncing around the clubhouse. He was always in a good mood. It felt like the pitcher that he was early in his career. I think we all felt good when he was on the mound.

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PART II: EFFECTIVELY WILD

During Collins’ pregame press conference, two topics dominated: Carlos Beltrán’s return to Citi Field for the first time as an opposing player, and Santana’s pitch count. The lefty had thrown a 96-pitch complete game in his previous outing. Reporters wanted to know how that would affect the team’s plans.

Rose: Knowing how sometimes overprotective they were, it didn’t really line up that a good start could become a historic start.

Thole: From my vantage point of warming him up and taking him into the game, it wasn’t incredibly sharp. We knew we had some work cut out for us.

Santana: I struggled in the beginning of the game to command all my pitches. My changeup was OK.

Thole: When he walked out of the bullpen, I felt like, OK, we’re working with the slider right now. It was to that extreme.

Cohen: He walked four batters in the first five innings. He was at [79] pitches through five. And given what we already knew about what Terry had laid down as the parameters for his usage in that game, there seemed to be no way he would ever be given the opportunity to throw a complete-game no-hitter, much less than he’d be able to.

Rose: At some point around that time, I remember saying, “And if you think tonight’s going to be the night, forget it.” He had already thrown too many pitches to reasonably expect he was going to go deep enough into this game to flirt with a no-hitter.

If I gave up a hit, [Collins] was not even going to take me out of the game. I was going to walk away from the game, because I knew exactly what was going on. I knew at that point, I would have to give up the ball.

Johan Santana

Collins: You’re thinking OK, if he can get us to the seventh, how are we going to get through the last three? That was exactly how we thought the game was going to unfold.

Baxter: If anything, it just felt very normal, because there were some walks scattered in there. It felt like a very normal game until you cross over the fifth inning, and then it takes on another layer.

Thole: Probably fourth inning or so, there was a tipping point. His stuff got that much better. He had good feel for his slider pretty much the entire day, and we had the ability to use the changeup at will. Having those two pitches to navigate the back end of the game is what I believe set us up for this opportunity, because his fastball wasn’t going to blow the doors off anybody.

Wright: Even with the lower velocity, guys were swinging at 55-foot changeups. So there was something working that day that had these guys off-balance on a pretty good offensive team. He was making pretty good hitters look foolish.

Yadier Molina, Cardinals catcher: He was keeping the ball down. The changeup was amazing. We hit a couple of balls hard. But his changeup was good that day.

David Freese, Cardinals third baseman: You get toward the middle innings, maybe sixth, seventh inning, and guys are yelling, “Someone get this guy!” That type of stuff. “Break it up!” We had a really good team, a composed lineup. I know he threw a lot of pitches. I know he had a handful of walks. We were working ABs.

Santana: I was one swing away from getting out of the game. If I gave up a hit, [Collins] was not even going to take me out of the game. I was going to walk away from the game, because I knew exactly what was going on. I knew at that point, I would have to give up the ball.

The hit nearly arrived when Beltrán led off the sixth with a line drive down the left-field line. It appeared to strike the chalk in front of umpire Adrian Johnson. Instead, Johnson signaled foul. Cardinals third-base coach José Oquendo and manager Mike Matheny argued to no avail.

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Rose: You knew that “Well, they got away with one there.”

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals starting pitcher: There was a mark on the clay about a foot fair that proves there might have been one hit. But if I’m him, I’m not talking about that.

Wright [laughing]: It was foul!

Freese [laughing]: It was a one-hitter.

Santana: I just looked at the umpire and saw the reaction of the umpire when he called it foul. That’s the end of it. You’re trying to focus and trying to get ready for the next pitch you’re going to throw. Honestly, it happened so quick that we don’t pay attention to those things. You look at the umpire, the call is made, and that’s it.

Thole: I don’t even recall having my mask off. It was hit that hard down the line. And the fact that it barely caught the edge of the chalk? I’ll go on my soapbox for a moment — this is the element of human error that is important. Adrian Johnson is not perfect. Adrian Johnson made a gut-instinct call, and in fact, yes, he was wrong. But when it happens that fast, there’s probably no human eye that can do that. The ball was to his right, hard off the bat, and he effectively made a guesstimation.

Matheny: “I could see where it was marked on the ground. I told him he missed the call. I just pointed at it, and he got real defensive real fast. And then when I walked down the line to go point at it, he kind of lost it. I said, “I didn’t miss it. You missed it. Come here and look at it.” That was heat-of-the-moment. … It’s crazy how one little thing like that changes history.

Cohen: I know a lot of people felt for sure it was a fair ball. To me, it wasn’t that clear-cut. I mean, if the ball hit the line, it was only the outside of the ball that hit the outside of the line, and it was pretty close to being a foul ball. So I’m not 100 percent sure either way. … It was just one of those things. It became larger as the no-hit bid got later.

Johnson, through a league spokesman, declined to participate in this story. Had the play taken place today, it would not have been reviewable because it happened in front of the umpire.

Rose: There may not be an asterisk attached to it, but there is that little, tiny feeling of, well, there was that ball. But who cares? It’s a no-hitter. He had to pitch the last four innings thinking he had a no-hitter going.

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PART III: THE CATCH

Lucas Duda homered in the bottom of the sixth to give the Mets a 5-0 lead. Then came the game’s pivotal play. With one out in the seventh, Molina hit a shot to left, where Baxter caught it, crashed into the fence and collapsed on the warning track.

Baxter: Kind of like a high line drive, not quite a fly ball — a ball that you know it’s going to stay in the yard. A ball that off the bat, your instinct is it’s catchable. And it was. No-hitter or no no-hitter, you’re out there trying to make plays.

Molina: I remember I hit it pretty good. I never thought it was going to be a homer, but at least a double. But he made a hell of a catch.

Rose: On contact, it sounded pretty ominous. And the fact that it was Molina only flavors the angle, given his history against the Mets. You just figured this rascal would play a role in it somehow. Off the bat, it seemed like trouble, no question. It sounded like trouble.

Cohen: It was Molina, who had had such an enormous impact on this fan base six years earlier.

Wright: I still wake up in cold sweats when I hear the name Yadier Molina. The guy’s had a Hall of Fame career and a heck of a career, but I’ll be glad when I don’t have to hear his name anymore. I was like, “Here he goes again. He’s done it again.” Whether it’s the playoffs or the regular season or whatever, it just seems like this guy’s always killed us.

Santana: I thought that was the end of it. And then all of a sudden, he crashed into the wall. You don’t see the ball anywhere, and then it’s in his glove.

Baxter: Really, all that happened at the end was I stumbled a little bit. I wasn’t able to get my feet under me so I could get my back against the wall and take some of the energy out of that collision. I just couldn’t get under control. I hit the wall, and it knocked me out of the game.

Baxter returned to the clubhouse, where he received an initial round of X-rays. Subsequent testing revealed a separated collarbone and fractured rib cartilage, which forced him to the disabled list. Baxter didn’t play again until late July and was out of the Majors by 2015.

Cohen: The fact that he got hurt on the play added to the import of it — somebody willing to do whatever it took to make sure that the no-hitter would stay intact. It basically ruined his career. People talk all the time about Santana and the effect it had on his career, but Mike never really came back from that.

Baxter: I thought I might have broken my arm. More than anything, I was having a hard time breathing. Something was wrong. As I was on the ground and I was walking off the field, I had no idea what I had endured.

Collins: I didn’t know that he was hurt that badly. I thought he was going to be all right. But he got hurt. A separated shoulder and the internal stuff, bruises, some of the organs. I mean, he hit that wall hard. Until you saw the replay, you didn’t realize how hard. When you went in the training room afterward, he could barely move. And I said, “Oh, Jesus.” His career after that was never the same.

Santana: At that point, I was like, “I’ve got to do this for Baxter, too.” It was maybe a sign of something.

Duda: Once that happened, you knew that something mysterious, something that doesn’t happen often was going on. You kind of had that feeling in your stomach.

Thole: Every no-hitter or perfect game has one of those zoo plays. There’s a whole storyline that goes with it. At that moment, I said, “OK, we’ve got to stay the course, because we really do have something.”

Following a delay, Santana retired the final batter of the seventh, then worked around another walk — his fifth of the game — in the eighth.

Rose: I give Santana credit for settling down and getting back to work, because that could unnerve a less experienced or a less steeled competitor. But Johan had that great tunnel vision. He was so good at shutting down any adversity, whether it had come from an umpire blowing a call or a player making a mistake behind him, or in this case something that was painful to watch.

Thole: It’s really [about] trying to rein everybody back in. That clubhouse was tight. We were really close. To watch a teammate come off the field but know we have to reset now with two outs — how to we get guys to get their focus here? I think as a group, we did that great.

Baxter: The crowd was amazing. I remember the energy from them. In terms of the gravity of the moment, I wasn’t processing the no-hitter at that time, just because I didn’t feel great. But I do remember the crowd. That was pretty cool. Then when I got back into the clubhouse and got X-rays, it started to slow down, and you recognize that this guy is pretty close. Hopefully he can close it out.

Cohen: It was not until the Baxter catch that it really seemed as though it was a possibility. But even with that, I’m sure [everybody] was watching the agony that Terry was going through pitch by pitch, knowing how difficult it was for him to watch this happen, and yet at the same time knowing that he really didn’t have a choice.

Collins: Now all of a sudden, we’re looking at his pitch count and going, “Oh, s—.”

Here’s the thing: once you get to a certain age, you’re too old for pitch counts during no-hitters. If it goes, it’s been a good run.

Adam Wainwright

PART IV: NAUSEA

Santana finished the seventh inning at 107 pitches. He completed the eighth at 122. In the dugout, Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen fretted about Santana’s shoulder.

Rose: There’s two things happening now. There’s the no-hitter, and there’s the pitch count rising.

Collins: I went to the mound in the seventh or eighth inning and said, “Hey look, let’s get some easy outs here. We need a couple of two-pitch outs or three-pitch outs.” He just nodded his head and went about his job.

Santana: At that point, I didn’t even know how many pitches I had. That’s one of those situations where you just want to get it done, whatever it takes.

Thole: The competitor in Johan, he’s not coming out of this ballgame, period. However, I can’t run him up to 150. So I’m playing around with that. The ultimate decision came down to Terry, Dan and Johan, but when I’m calling a game, those things are going through my mind.

Baxter: You’re just begging for easy outs.

Collins: That’s the only thing that I was on my mind. I knew he was coming off surgery. I knew about the shoulder issues. I also knew he had gone deep into the game the time before. Dan said, “How long do you think you can let him go?” I said, “125 has got to be max.” And Dan said, “Yeah, I think so also.” Then when it got to that point, I just said, “S—.”

Wainwright: Here’s the thing: once you get to a certain age, you’re too old for pitch counts during no-hitters. If it goes, it’s been a good run. So that’s probably where Johan was. He’d been through a lot. He’d won two Cy Youngs. One of the greatest pitchers of our generation. He had done pretty much everything you could do on the field. He needed that opportunity.

Wright: If it was one of our young guys that had a 10-year career ahead of him, that would have been a lot tougher.

Rose: I really felt for Terry. We all did. Anybody who knew him knew that his whole mission was to protect this guy at all costs. But as it evolved, it became evident that it was going to be Johan’s call. By about the eighth inning, it would have resulted in a wrestling match on the mound if Terry tried to get the ball from his hand. It was not going to happen. Terry begrudgingly accepted that and went along for a very painful ride that I’m not sure he’s ever fully recovered from.

Collins: I went down in the seventh inning and said, “How you doing?” And he said, “I’m fine.” I said, “Look, you’re getting up in pitch count.” He said, “Yeah, I know. But I’m fine.” And then in the eighth inning, I walked down, and he looked at me and said, “Trust me. I’m fine.” That’s when I told him, “You’re my hero.”

Santana: I was like, “It’s OK man, take it easy, I’m fine.” I was being honest. It’s one of those situations that as a professional baseball player and as a pitcher, you might never have another opportunity. I just happened to be at the right time, at the right place, at the right situation to accomplish something special. That’s how I approached it.

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By the ninth, Collins had resigned himself to the decision, but Santana still needed three outs. The leadoff man, Matt Holliday, obliged by swinging at the first pitch.

Rose: He hit a soft liner to shallow center, and Andrés Torres got a good jump on it. I remember almost saying in disbelief, “One out!” Because now it was close. The only pitcher ever to take a no-hitter into the ninth inning for the Mets was Seaver. I had been there for the one he lost with one out, the near-perfect game. He lost another one with one out in ’72 with Leron Lee. And then he lost one with two outs in the ninth inning in Chicago in ’75, and that was a nothing-nothing game.

Cohen: No one had ever taken one into the ninth since Seaver, but we’d seen a fair number of no-hitters broken up in the eighth. John Maine had one. David Cone had one. Tom Glavine had one. There had been enough times that we had seen Met pitchers go deep into games with no-hit bids intact, and the fact that Seaver and Gooden and all the elite guys had never had one — I was firmly convinced that it was never going to happen.

Santana: I didn’t even know what the score was. I knew I had a possibility to accomplish something very important. I knew they were swinging, because they were desperate to put the ball in play and get a base hit. So I just happened to throw the right pitches. They had a couple chances where the ball was well-hit, but we were able to make a couple plays.

The second batter, Allen Craig, hit a 2-2 changeup to Kirk Nieuwenhuis in left.

Cohen: The first two hitters in the ninth were running catches in the outfield. Both of those were edge-of-your-seat moments, because those balls could possibly fall in.

Santana: I worried about everything. Every time they hit it, I was like, “Oh my God.” And then you see it’s an out. “OK, great!”

Wright: It was this double pressure where you want to make outs as quickly as possible, as cleanly as possible because you want to keep his pitch count down. But also, you want to get to anything you can to try to save a hit. Everything seemed to be going our way with the foul ball/fair ball call, with Mike Baxter’s catch. It seemed like the stars were aligning.

Rose: It was just incredibly intense. My stomach was doing backflips.

The third batter was reigning World Series MVP David Freese, who worked the count to 3-0 before Santana battled back with consecutive strikes.

Cohen: I didn’t think that was going to be the at-bat to end it. It almost seemed as though if he walked him, now you’re up to 130-whatever, now you’ve got to face another batter …

Rose: Of course, it’s not at all lost on me — or most of the rest of us — that it was Molina on deck if it had come down to one more batter in the ninth.

Santana: I didn’t want to walk him, but I knew I was going to throw changeups.

Wainwright: The last inning was almost all changeups, it seemed. He knew it was coming. You knew it was coming. The hitter knew it was coming. The people in the stands knew it was coming. And it didn’t matter, because it was such a great pitch.

Thole: I think the entire park knew. It’s like, OK, we’re here, we’re at the end. Let’s go best stuff versus best stuff and see where we end. We were going down swinging with his changeup. No matter how good his slider was that day, his changeup was his bread-and-butter.

Freese took a called strike and fouled off a changeup to run the count full. Finally, Santana threw another changeup that Freese swung through for strike three.

Freese: I probably didn’t sit heater 10 times my whole career. Maybe I guessed or anticipated here and there, but I always tried to load up on the fastball and hope that my eyes could keep me back on offspeed. A few years ago, me and Santana went back and forth a little bit joking around on social media. He [said], “You know a changeup was coming there.” I just swiped over it.

Thole: I couldn’t wait to turn around and show Gary Cederstrom the ball and be like, “Just make sure this is strike three.” When he signaled out, I took off for the mound, and I kind of blacked out after that.

Rose: When Thole caught strike three, I just kept staring down at the plate, waiting for the ball to have dropped or the umpire to have said something, or for an extra second to pass by before I could accept it. I couldn’t believe it. I know we say stuff like that all the time: “Unbelievable, I couldn’t believe it.” But I couldn’t believe it! A Met pitcher had finally pitched a no-hitter!

Cohen: It’s mostly disbelief and the shedding of an albatross. That’s really how it felt. It had seemed as though this was an insurmountable obstacle, and then all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

Freese: Those types of moments, when I’m in the middle of it, I think about the other side and the fans and what they go through. Obviously, I want my team, the city I play for to come out on top and be happy. But when you think about the joy of the other side, man, it’s cool. It’s just a game, and it’s fun to be a part of. Knowing it was the first one, it was really cool. I know everybody loves Santana and how hard he worked over his career, and what type of career he had. What better guy to get the first no-no in Mets history?

Following the on-field celebration, the Mets returned to their clubhouse, where Santana fulfilled several media obligations before coming in to deliver a speech to his teammates.

Santana: The whole atmosphere in the ballpark — how it goes from just another game, regular game early, to a playoff atmosphere? At that point, to celebrate this game like you won the whole thing, it was really nice. It was one of the best memories I ever had as a baseball player.

Hefner: I remember J.T. [Justin Turner] throwing the pie in his face on the field. He saluted the crowd, and then he came in and we were all in there.

Baxter: If there was any regret, it’s that I wish I was on the field for that celebration, but it wasn’t an option at that point. Watching it in the training room, everybody ran out there to be a part of it. I was hanging back, watching it on TV, but I remember I was really excited, and I was thankful that he finished it.

Rose: I don’t think it was until 60 seconds after the last out that I even remembered to say, “Put it in the books!” I said, “Put it in the history books!”

Thole: Coming off the field, it was crazy. First one in Mets history. Every media outlet wanted a piece of Johan. Obviously, Johan wasn’t going to have the time to do all of it, so [PR director] Jay Horwitz was like, “Thole, can you go do some of this?” It was one interview after the other. I don’t think I left the park until probably midnight or 1 that night. It really didn’t set in until that was all done, and I had dinner, and it was like, “Holy s—. Did that just happen?”

Baxter: He had to do some media stuff, so he came in last. Then he spoke to the group in his own way. It was a party, for sure. Opportunities to celebrate with each other like that, unless you’re in the playoffs or the postseason, they’re pretty rare. It leaves great memories.

Santana: When I walked in, I thanked all my teammates and everybody. We did it together. I had to say we did it together, because everybody said, “It was you.” No, no. It was a team effort. I didn’t have my best stuff. Thole … Baxter … to me, it was a team effort. It will always be a team effort.

Rose: I had to go down to the clubhouse and congratulate Johan. I did something I don’t think I had ever done after a game before or since, and I asked him to sign my scorecard. That’s still in the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum. I told him, “I don’t know if you even know how emotional this was. As I was announcing that you had pitched a no-hitter, I had to hold back from crying.” His eyes lit up. He said, “Did you cry?” He was hoping I would say I broke down on the air. I said, “No, sorry to disappoint you, but I held my own.”

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PART V: THE LEGACY

A week after his no-hitter, Santana allowed six runs in a loss to the Yankees. In sum, he made 10 more starts with an 8.27 ERA before the Mets shut him down due to lower back inflammation. The following April, Santana underwent a second shoulder capsule surgery. During his rehab, he tore his left Achilles tendon. Santana never pitched in the Majors again.

Rose: It’s unmistakable that those dots can be connected. It was evident that there wasn’t much left there at that point. I guess the million-dollar question for Johan would be would he trade that for another two or three healthy seasons?

Santana: No. I don’t have a crystal ball to look into the future and predict what’s going to happen. You learn from the past. You live in the present. And if you do everything fine, you should be fine in the future. That’s the way I approached the game. So I learned from my years in the game, but I’ll tell you: I enjoyed every single minute that I spent on the field and in the clubhouse with my teammates throughout my whole career.

Alderson: Obviously, 134 pitches is quite a lot for any pitcher today. But I think he got caught up in the moment and wasn’t going to allow that opportunity to pass. Did it contribute to later physical issues? Who knows? It’s hard to tell. But that was a decision he made.

Who would have thought that would have been my last season competing at the Major League level? I had a lot of great times and great memories. That’s how I want to see it, and that’s how I want people to remember me.

Johan Santana

Hefner: With injuries and workload and pitches and all that kind of stuff, it’s very rarely one thing. But in that situation with that amount of stress, and at his age and injury history, it’s easy to draw that line. I do think there’s probably some correlation to him doing that. But if I was in Terry’s position, I would have done the exact same thing. It’s hard not to, right? The organization’s never had a no-hitter. You’ve got one of the best pitchers of all-time. He’s got a chance to do it. Who am I to take that chance away from him?

Santana: It’s not just that particular outing that took me down. A lot of people blame that no-hitter, but it’s not. There were a lot of things involved in that whole thing. In fact, the second time when I had that surgery, that’s when I felt my best compared to the first one. But unfortunately, that’s when I tore my Achilles. And from there, I couldn’t come back.

Alderson: Is it reasonable to think it was a factor? Yeah, it’s reasonable to think that. Of course, it’s always easy to rationalize the result going back and looking at things and dissecting what did or did not happen.

Thole: I’m not a doctor. I’m not going to speculate whether that was why Johan was never the same. But let’s be honest. The career that he had was thousands of innings. The career speaks for itself. He’s got what? Twelve seasons in the Major Leagues? That’s a pretty hefty career for a starting pitcher to do what he did: Gold Gloves, Cy Youngs, no-hitter. If we try to shred apart the idea of what ended his career, the legacy kind of gets lost.

Collins: I talked to Johan on the phone [after Sports Illustrated published a story on the no-hitter in 2015], and that’s when he said, “Hey look, you’ve got to let this go. I’m not mad. I’m not upset you decided to let me finish it.” And that helped too, hearing that from him.

Santana: Who would have thought that would have been my last season competing at the Major League level? I had a lot of great times and great memories. That’s how I want to see it, and that’s how I want people to remember me. Not feeling sorry or feeling bad, or, “Hey, if he would have spent two or three more years in the league, it would have been a different story.”

Collins: Years later, I was at a banquet one night, and this man comes over to me and he says, “I always wanted to be able to meet you and thank you for leaving Johan Santana in the game. I took my father to the game. He was a huge Mets fan. He saw the no-hitter. He died a year later, and the final week as he was dying, he said, “The greatest thing in this life was being able to see the no-hitter that Johan threw. Thank you for letting him have that.” And you know what? After that, I felt better.

On May 16, 2019, the Padres completed their 8,020th game without a no-hitter, passing the Mets for the longest drought from a franchise’s inception. Less than two years later, Joe Musgrove gave San Diego its first. The Mets added their second no-hitter on April 29, 2022, when five pitchers combined on the feat.

Lammers: Everything’s changed now. We have two no-hitters. That, to me, is weirder than the Santana one.

Cohen: It’s like when the Red Sox won the World Series or when the Cubs won the World Series. It changed the whole dynamic of what those franchises were about. Their droughts [had been] their defining characteristics. This may not have been the Mets’ defining characteristic, but it was certainly a major one. It will render every other no-hitter that follows it of less importance. The combined no-hitter by its nature doesn’t have the same import as a single-pitcher no-hitter. Unless somebody goes out and throws a perfect game, every other no-hitter will have something historical about it but will carry just a little bit less weight.

Baxter: Five guys, that’s probably what it’s going to be now. I think leaguewide, you’ll see more of these combined ones. But Johan’s still got that, man. You put nine innings on your back — they’re all great accomplishments and they’re fun for the fans, but Johan still has that being the only guy to throw one by himself. That still probably needs to sit in its own little bucket.

Santana: I had the opportunity to give the fans something very special that they always wanted and never had. … I remember talking to John Zajac, who was my PT at the time when I was recovering from my surgery. I was like, “Hey, Zajac, there’s three things I would like to accomplish in my career. One of them is definitely to throw a no-hitter. Win the World Series was the other one. And the other one was to steal a base.” [Laughing]

Cohen: What was great when it finally happened was that it was a pitcher of stature. While it would have been great if some no-name pitcher — a Chris Heston type — had thrown one along the way, it wouldn’t have been quite the same as to have the first one thrown by somebody who stood with that incredible lineage.

Wright: It was the perfect guy at the perfect time. There’s a short list of guys that I would want to have the first no-hitter for the Mets, and Johan’s on that list.

Santana: To throw a no-hitter, it’s tough. You can have the best day of your life and wake up feeling good, strong. That doesn’t guarantee you anything. And that day was not an exception. I didn’t feel my best. In fact, I didn’t have my best stuff that night. It just happened to work out.

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