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On the Cardinals: MAP, Carpenter put me to test

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 13, 2009 - It’s MAP testing time at Tillman Elementary School in Kirkwood. That stands for Missouri Assessment Program and, folks, this is a team effort.

Students, teachers, parents all have a role to play as the school tries to improve on its solid 2008 performance.

Rather than make it too stressful a time, Principal B.R. Rhodes and his staff mix the seriousness of test success with the proper amount of fun.

I think that, while he wears a scowl much of the time, the St. Louis Cardinals’ “principal,” manager Tony La Russa, feels the same way.

La Russa was certainly wearing a smile after Chris Carpenter’s one-hit seven-inning performance last Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Carpenter aced his first real test since a nerve injury in his shoulder and other ailments sidelined him much of last season. He almost made history. And I got caught in the drama.

As Carpenter took the mound at 12:40 p.m., I was taking a seat in Busch Stadium. My plan was to watch the game until about 2:45 p.m., then pick up my daughters, Bryson and Blaine after school.

Bryson, a fourth grader, is the MAP test taker. Blaine’s fellow second-grade classmates are learning how the world works through Tillman Town – a Brigadoon-type community that springs to life every year at MAP time.

Blaine owns and operates a Tillman Town electronics store, which is fitting because we call on her to often solve technological riddles such as programming the remote control.

With Thursday marking the last day of the first week of MAP tests, the Reids were going to have a celebratory snack of McDonald’s Happy Meals before heading home.

But daddy just couldn’t tear himself away from the stadium. Chris Carpenter was throwing a no-hitter.

By the fifth inning, light rain was falling as was the temperature. And the Pirates still had a ‘0’ in the hit column. You can’t walk out on a no-hitter can you? So, I watched the clock just as I watched every pitch.

Tick, tick, tick. Out, out, out.

Adding to the possible historic nature of the afternoon was the fact that Carpenter was losing the game 1-0. The normally reliable Albert Pujols made a throwing error on a possible force play at second base, then his poor throw to home later in that same frame allowed a run to score.

The Pirates held that lead even though they had no hits going into the seventh inning. I know a lot of baseball trivia, but I did have to look this up.

On April 23, 1964, Ken Johnson of the Houston Colt 45’s lost a complete game no-hitter in nine innings when he was beaten 1-0 by Cincinnati. In 1967, Baltimore’s Steve Barber and Stu Miller pitched a combined no-hitter, but lost 2-1 to the Detroit Tigers.

Since 1900 two pitchers, Andy Hawkins in 1990 and Matt Young in 1992 lost eight-inning unofficial no-hitters where the home team won the game. Alas, a pitcher in this situation is not credited with a no-hitter because he did not pitch nine innings.

So I couldn’t leave, could I?

I was reminded of the scene from the movie “The Odd Couple” when Felix calls Oscar in the Shea Stadium press box and tells him not to eat any hot dogs at the game because they are having franks and beans for dinner. Just as Oscar turns his head to speak on the phone, the Mets pull off a triple play.

Speaking of missing moments in history, have you ever wondered why there is no film footage of the final outs of Bob Gibson’s 1971 no-hitter in Pittsburgh against the Pirates? It’s because the lone cameraman at the game decided to leave early. The game was not televised, so a cameraman was there for a local TV station and that was it. He left early and missed history.

I would possibly be forced to do the same.

By the way, I would not have left the girls at Tillman all night. My wife was a telephone call away and certainly could have changed her schedule to be there in time to pick them up. Feeling my angst, Ramon Vazquez of the Pirates singled with two outs in the seventh, and I headed for the gate and then back to Kirkwood. Fittingly, the Cards rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh.

Carpenter got the win. Bryson got through her first week of MAP with a smile on her face. Blaine got plenty of Tillman Town customers. We got McDonald’s. And the Reids also got their tickets to the Friday June 5 game against the Philadelphia Phillies in the mail.

I give the day an “A.”

Alvin A. Reid is a weekend host on the new ESPN 101.1 FM. His weekly Major League Baseball - St. Louis Cardinals column, which is now published on The Beacon website, was honored by the Missouri PressAssociation as Best Sports Column in 2004 and 1999. He is co-author of the book, "Whitey's Boys: A Celebration of the 1982 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals" and was a member of the inaugural staff of USA TODAY Baseball Weekly.

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