Javier Baez was already celebrating when he fielded the ball. The shortstop for the Chicago Cubs gathered himself, threw to first, and gave Alec Mills the second no-hitter of this pandemic-shortened baseball season.
There weren’t any followers in attendance, and there wasn’t an asterisk in sight.
Baez made it clear after the sport that he deliberate to savor the second perpetually, whatever the uncommon circumstances.
“This is something we’ll be part of for life,” he informed reporters. “Like a championship-type thing. No one can take it from you.”
The idea of asterisks in baseball report books has swirled across the sport ever because it was introduced that this season can be drastically altered due to the coronavirus. But John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian, mentioned that dialog was at all times a lot ado about nothing: We are witnessing a season that’s as actual as every other, he mentioned.
“In baseball there is neither crying nor the asterisk,” Thorn mentioned through e-mail. “No excuses, no pointless shorthand directing you to wrinkle your nose.”
Thorn praised baseball followers for having a eager sense of historic context, citing quite a few examples of information that may increase eyebrows for informal followers however are well-known and accepted by individuals who actually love the game.
“Advanced fans will take note that in 1930 or 1894 everyone batted .300, or that in 1968 a pitcher with an E.R.A. of 3.00 was below average,” Thorn mentioned. “That sort of fan will be sufficiently curious to find out why.”
The idea of an asterisk was thrust into the mainstream sports activities dialog throughout Roger Maris’s pursuit of Babe Ruth’s season dwelling report in 1961. Since Maris had 162 video games to achieve 61 homers, fairly than the 154 Ruth needed to attain 60, Commissioner Ford Frick floated the concept that separate information must be stored, and the journalist Dick Young advised that might require an asterisk in report books.
That theoretical asterisk turned ingrained within the report’s story — it impressed the title of a film, “61*” — but as Allen Barra detailed in The Village Voice, there isn’t an asterisk on Maris’s record, and there never has been one. Frick was merely stating an opinion, and baseball, to that point, did not even have an officially published record book, with “Total Baseball” not appearing until three decades later.
In his 1973 autobiography, “Games Asterisks and People: Memoirs of a Lucky Fan,” Frick confirmed that no asterisk ever existed. The clarification hardly seemed necessary, as Frick spoke openly about his decision not to push for an asterisk before Maris even broke the record, inspiring a memorable headline in The New York Times: “No * Will Mar Homer Records, Says Frick With †† for Critics.”
For single-game accomplishments, like Mills’s no-hitter on Sunday, the realness of the feat is undeniable, as Mills had to get the same 27 outs as any pitcher would in a normal season. But Thorn said the same philosophy applies to season-long accomplishments this year, even with 102 fewer games.
You will often see baseball records limited to seasons that came after 1901 — including regularly in this column — but Thorn says that is incorrect, and that the Special Baseball Records Committee in 1968-69 clarified things by saying, “Major league baseball shall have one set of records, starting in 1876, without any arbitrary division into nineteenth- and twentieth-century data.”
As a result of that ruling, Ross Barnes is credited with an official batting average of .429 in 1876, a season in which his team played just 66 games, lending credence to the idea that a .400 average this season should be viewed as legitimate. Thorn said that splitting the game into pre- and postmodern records is a “bad habit” and that no one should deny Barnes, or anyone else, his accomplishment.
The bigger question going forward is how people will view the 2020 World Series champion in the years to come. Plenty of past seasons, while not quite as unusual as 2020, were played under circumstances that spurred debate: The 1919 Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago White Sox, who were later found to have accepted money to intentionally lose games; the 1951 New York Giants had an elaborate sign-stealing scheme; the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers would not have qualified for the playoffs if not for a split season that changed postseason eligibility; and the 2017 Houston Astros were found to have used technology to one-up the Giants’ sign-stealing.
Thorn called the sport’s implausible outcomes over the years “legion and delightful,” and said that 1919 stands alone as the pinnacle of infamy.
As for this season, he is reserving judgment, while enjoying the show.
“My crystal ball is cloudy as to what folks might think a decade from now, but I view this as a season of unparalleled strangeness,” he said. “The upside — beyond the fine fact that baseball is being played at all — is that fans and pundits, although grumbling all the way, have given M.L.B. license to experiment with the grand old game. Some innovations were hated at the outset but then worked their charms on even grizzled veterans like me.”