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Superstar or not, there's no doubt Zambrano's effort shines
No way. Carlos Zambrano's arm is killing him, so he doesn't pitch for 11 days, but he comes back and throws a no-hitter? No way.
A hurricane hits Houston, so the Astros go all the way to Wisconsin to play a "home" game, so everybody in the stands can cheer for a no-hitter to be thrown against them? No way.
Zambrano chooses a day when a certain columnist for a certain company that owns a certain baseball team makes a couple of unflattering cracks about him to throw the first no-hitter by a Cub in 36 years?
No doubt about it. History gets made when you least expect it.
It came for a 27-year-old Venezuelan after a natural disaster had forced his team and his adversaries to leave home on a Sunday and make a pilgrimage to a neutral field. Zambrano mastered the Astros 5-0. He struck out 10, including the last one, Darin Erstad, on a pitch that must have been at least a foot wide of the plate.
It was the 13th no-hitter for a franchise that has been in 19,590 games. So did Zambrano know the last Cub to throw a no-no? You bet he did.
"Milt Pappas," he said.
It was a September day like this one when Pappas pitched his no-hitter in 1972.
Like Pappas', Zambrano's was near perfection. He walked only one. He worked fast, perspired freely and gave it everything he had, even running hard off the mound in the eighth inning to catch a foul pop fly himself. He looked every bit a star, even though a column in that very morning's Tribune suggested that calling Zambrano a "superstar" was inappropriate for a guy who had won only 13 games all season and never won 20.
A half-filled park for an unscheduled game received an unexpected treat. Only 23,000-plus made it to Miller Park on a rainy evening, but they were in the right place at the right time.
"Let's Go, 'Z!' " many chanted as he zeroed in on the final outs.
Houston was hit hard by a hurricane, and its baseball team was unable to hit back. And for the Cubs, a 36-year drought without a no-hitter is finally at an end. A longer drought they would also like to do away with is a 100-year one, but first things first.