John Means made Orioles history on Wednesday night, and his performance was "a gift" for a lifelong Baltimore fan fighting COVID-19 and his son.
Means fired a no-hitter against the Mariners, striking out 12 hitters with no walks on 113 pitches. It's the first by a single pitcher for the Orioles since Jim Palmer on Aug. 13, 1969.
But for a fan over 3,000 miles away, that moment was about more than a game.
Scott Graham, who retired in February after serving 30 years as a police officer, tested positive for COVID-19 last week and was admitted to the hospital on Sunday with low oxygen levels. Isolated from his friends and family in an ICU in Raleigh, N.C., the longtime Orioles fan and former Towson University baseball player watched Means's show stopping performance. And as the game headed into the bottom of the ninth, he started "lighting up" his son's phone.
Meanwhile his son Josh was "yelling and cheering at every pitch" in an empty room after finishing his radio show on Sports Hub Triad.
As Means snagged the final out, Josh cried. Scott wanted to share the moment with his son, and sent him a video from his hospital bed. Even while hooked up to oxygen, Scott can be heard celebrating along with the Orioles, saying several times out loud, "He did it!" and "Thank God!"
"Minutes later, when I got the video, I became borderline hysterical because I realized we had just shared that moment together," Josh said to Sports Illustrated. "Due to COVID-19, nobody is allowed in his room to see him. And him being alone was just such a heartbreaking thought to reconcile considering how scary this virus is. However, when I saw that video, I was reminded how much of a comforting, connecting force sports can be.
"That performance by Means was a gift."
In a text message to his son, Scott said that he hopes to one day meet Means—who lost his father to cancer last year—to thank him for encouraging him to continue to fight. Even while fighting COVID-19, Scott didn't waste time talking trash with his doctor, who happened to be a Yankees fan.
"The Orioles are the one team that me and my dad share a passion for," Josh said. "He's the one that got me into baseball—and really into sports altogether."
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