Jordan Zimmermann announced his retirement today, via a statement by the Milwaukee Brewers, his latest, last, and hometown club.
You could be forgiven if you’d lost track of the 34-year-old pitcher: Zimmermann’s recorded only five appearances since 2019, for a grand total of 11 1/3 innings, as his career wound down in Detroit and Milwaukee amid arm problems and numerous stints on the disabled list. His heyday, featuring a couple of fringe Cy Young campaigns, a pair of all-star honors, and a no-hitter, came with the Washington Nationals back in 2013 and ’14, and didn’t include any particular postseason glory on teams that made a habit of deflating in the NLDS. He got a big contract to join the Tigers after the 2015 season, gave them one great April, and then just kind of receded and kept receding.
But man, if you witnessed that no-hitter, against the Marlins in D.C. on the final day of the 2014 regular season, there’s a good chance that seeing Jordan Zimmermann’s name today made your brain light up like a pinball machine. Every no-hitter is thrilling, of course, whether because the pitcher is dealing (as Zimmermann was that day, striking out 10 against a single walk in the fifth inning, on only 104 total pitches) or because it’s a shambling, accidental-seeming high-wire act (Arizona’s Edwin Jackson walking eight Rays and beaning another in 2010, for example) or because the pitcher is on LSD. Zimmermann’s no-hitter wasn’t the most dominating or the most shambolic I’ve ever seen, but for my money it had the most electrifying climax:
That’s then-rookie outfielder Steven Souza Jr., a ninth-inning defensive substitution, absolutely laying out at a sprint to snag, over his shoulder, a hard-hit fly ball in the gap for the final out, sealing the no-hitter and a 1-0 win. I’m biased, as a disgusting Washington, D.C. homer, but in my lifetime no baseball play except perhaps Luis Gonzalez’s World Series-winning walk-off hit against the Yankees in 2001 has ever caused me to flip out quite as egregiously as this one. Picture me leaping all around my living room, hooting and hollering like a complete lunatic as my then 5- and 4-year-old kids look on in terror-tinged confusion. It’s an absolutely perfect baseball moment.
After the game, a reporter asked Zimmermann about the rookie who’d saved his moment of history. “Whatever he wants he can have,” he said. “I’ll buy him anything.” Seems fair.