- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

When you throw a no-hitter, people tend to pay attention.

Jordan Zimmermann is not a fan of attention.

Oh, he loved throwing the no-hitter Sunday — the first one in Washington Nationals history, coming on the last day of the 2014 regular season against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park — but he would rather no one make a fuss about it.

That’s not going to happen.

He was named National League Player of the Week by Major League Baseball for his no-hitter. That may not be such a big deal, since it is the second time he’s won the honor in his career. Heck, Nationals utility man Willie Harris was once a National League Player of the Week.

No one remembers the National League Player of the Week a week or two later.

The Hall of Fame, though — that’s a little different.

Cooperstown will be calling for a game-day artifact from Zimmerman’s no-hitter. It will then go on display at the museum in its “Today’s Game” exhibit — where it will stay for a season.

So if Nationals fans make the trip to upstate New York over the next year, they will likely see Jordan Zimmermann in the Hall of Fame. His plaque won’t be on the wall in the actual Hall, but he will be in the building, representing baseball in Washington — which, up to 10 years ago, was nothing more than a historical exhibit.

Any presence in Cooperstown can be something special. The late manager Johnny Oates once told me he took his young son to the Hall of Fame once, and the boy lit up when he saw his father’s name on the April 8, 1974 lineup card for the Atlanta Braves when Hank Aaron his home run number 715 to break Babe Ruth’s record. “Dad, you’re in the Hall of Fame,” the boy said proudly to his father.

Zimmermann’s ball will be the 14th artifact collected by the Hall since baseball returned to Washington in 2005. A number of those artifacts at Cooperstown — in storage when not on exhibit — are from that memorable 2005 return.

Cooperstown has the road jersey worn by Brad Wilkerson from the Nationals’ first game in Philadelphia on April 4 of that year. Wilkerson got the first hit as a National. The ball thrown by Phillies pitcher Jon Lieber is also at the Hall. Terrmel Sledge’s home run ball — the first by a National — is also there.

The Hall also has artifacts to commemorate the first Nationals home game at RFK Stadium on April 14, 2005 — the cap worn by manager Frank Robinson; the ball from the first pitch by Livan Hernandez; a souvenir medallion given to fans who attended the game, and dirt from the stadium pitching mound.

It also has the bat used by Vinny Castilla to hit a double, triple and home run, driving in four runs in a 5-3 win in that home opener over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Hardly a proud moment in Nationals history — but one that Mike Bacsik seemed to be pretty pleased about — is the cap that Bacsik wore on Aug. 7, 2007, when he handed up Barry Bonds’ 756th home run in San Francisco.

Another cap collected by Cooperstown is a far more memorable moment for Washington fans — the one worn by Ryan Zimmerman when he slammed the game-winning home run in the ninth inning for a 3-2 win over the Braves on March 30, 2008 — the opening of Nationals Park.

Stephen Strasburg made it to the Hall before Zimmermann, his fellow rotation member. The cap he wore on that night that Nationals fans will never forget — his major league debut, when he struck out 14 Pirates in seven innings on June 8, 2010.

There are other artifacts in Cooperstown from Nationals who weren’t here very long, but left something to remember — the jersey worn on Alfonso Soriano on Sept. 16, 2006, when he stole his 40th base.to become one of four players to hit 40 home runs (he had 45 that season) and steal 40 bases. There is also the bat used by Josh Willingham when he hit two grand slam home runs in consecutive innings in Milwaukee in a 14-6 win over the Brewers on July 27, 2009.

Now, Jordan Zimmermann will take his place alongside Terrmel Sledge, Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg — memorable and forgettable Washington Nationals — at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. When his ball is no longer exhibited, it will be stored in a climate-controlled room, along with balls from Bill Stoneman (who had two), Charlie Lea, Dennis Martinez (who threw a perfect game) — all pitchers who threw no-hitters when this franchise was in Montreal. It will take its place along with balls from Bob Feller, Warren Spahn, Sandy Koufax and Jim Palmer — every no-hitter thrown in major league baseball since 1940.

Even attention-shy Jordan Zimmermann may be able to appreciate that honor.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com.


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