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Flashback: Roaring Silence

Or: The time Janice and I covered Lucas Giolito’s 2020 no-hitter

Sam Sherman/South Side Sox

[On the occasion of Lucas Giolito facing the Pittsburgh Pirates at Sox Park just a little more than a year after his no-hitter, we thought it would be fun to revisit the game with one of our staff writers who was there, our main beat guy for South Side Hit Pen at Sports Illustrated, Sam Sherman. I have linked coverage of ours from that day in the body and at the end of Sam’s recollection.]

After a pitcher does something especially cool like throw a perfect game or a no-hitter, you usually hear about how their pregame bullpen sessions either went poorly, or weren’t notable at all. I don’t remember exactly how Lucas Giolito described his bullpen session prior to last season’s no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates (although his editor in fact asked that question of Lucas postgame ~the 9:30 mark), the team he takes the bump against tonight, one year later, still in a pandemic, but this time with fans.

I do, kind of, remember how I felt prior to arriving at Guaranteed Rate Stadium last season to cover that game. Also, typing that out now, a year later, is still wild that I even got to cover games, but we’ll fully reflect on that another time.

On paper, that game was nothing special, at least heading in. The White Sox were playing solid baseball about halfway into the shortened season, and the Pirates were playing bad baseball, as they are wont to do. Former worst pitcher in baseball turned very much not worst pitcher in baseball, Lucas Giolito, was on the bump, so that built in at least relative interest surrounding the game.

The other big thing that happened that night is I met Janice Scurio IN PERSON for the first time. A year later, Janice has become a great friend AND co-host of the best White Sox podcast this side of the Mississippi, North Side Sox. But at the time, we had only ever communicated through Twitter likes and interactions.

Other than being excited to meet my Twitter friend IRL, walking into the G-Rate that night didn’t really feel unique in any other way. I could lie and say I felt like something special was going to happen that night, but unless you were really high on Cole Tucker (which Janice was! And still is?) there wasn’t a whole lot else to note prior to this regular season bout against the Bucs.

Janice was seated in the row in front of me in the press box, and I think we were the only two in that specific box. We were both masked, so the vast majority of our conversation happened with no actual talking at all. As the game went along, Giolito still hadn’t given up any hits, which, I’ll have you know, is standard practice when a pitcher is on their way to completing a no-hitter, in masked pandemic times with social distancing or no.

As a baseball fan, you’ll see pitchers take no-hitters a few innings into games pretty commonly, so you really don’t start taking notice until the sixth-seventh area range. It was at that point that Janice and I started nervously looking at each other after each and every out. One of my favorite things about watching special sports moments, in person or on TV is that it normally doesn’t feel real at any point during the event, and often not until several days after the special event has occurred do you even start to accept it. I’d blame it on years of White Sox disappointment, but I don’t think you ever REALLY think your pitcher is going to complete the no-no because we’ve seen far more no-hitters get broken up than completed in our lives, so it seems like learned behavior to be a little doubtful.

The thing was though, he just kept getting outs. Giolito looked dominant from the first pitch, and facing a Pirates lineup consisting of names of guys I’m not even sure hold a place on a major league roster, there wasn’t a great deal of reason to believe they'd figure him out.

I don’t know for sure, but the way I’ll always remember the last six outs is that I don’t think anyone in the press box said anything. It was silent, but in so many other ways it wasn’t at all. Nobody was saying anything, but you could hear every breath, every sign, every nervous laugh. Not once, in the entirety of covering the 2020 White Sox, did I commit the mortal sin of cheering in the press box — but I did clench my fists several times while holding a straight face. That night, during those final six outs, I may have looked like a statue on the outside — a sweaty one at that — but inside I was as nervous as I can ever recall being at a baseball game. I, along with seemingly every White Sox fan, had the privilege of attending Mark Buehrle’s perfect game in 2009, but I was there strictly as a fan, and got to cheer loudly and show my nervousness outright. Here, in the press box, with my new IRL pal, Janice, we kept our emotions silent, optically. But internally, a storm was brewing.

The final out, as we all remember, was a sinking line drive that I was 100%, not 99%, sure was going to fall out of reach of Adam Engel and spoil the history in the making that night. Just like that ... it didn’t fall out of reach of Engel. He snagged it out of the air while running in stride, ending the game, and cementing history in front of our eyes.

I still didn’t cheer in the press box when it happened, but that deafening silence I was talking about before? That got exponentially louder. And for what it’s worth, I don’t know who — because I wasn’t looking, and didn’t care — but there were absolutely some members of the media letting out some tempered cheers when that final out was made.

Janice and I? The “bloggers” taking up space in the vaunted press box? We sat there in shock and awe, still not saying a word, just taking in, and beginning the process of understanding how exactly what just happened, happened.

After the game, we apparently recorded a postgame video. I say apparently, because I think I kind of blacked out lots of time after the final out, because I was still feeling such disbelief.

Lots of objectively awful things happened in 2020, and lots, if not most of those awful things have continued into 2021, because years aren’t real and time is a construct.

That said, one of the very much not awful things that happened in 2020 was Lucas Giolito’s no-hitter, and specifically the opportunity to share that experience with someone who has become a close friend in the incredibly talented and superstar-in-the-making, Janice Scurio.

Further Flashback reading: