Immortality takes on a different meaning for someone who has lived through cancer.
But on a magical, windswept night in May, 24-year-old Red Sox lefthander Jon Lester claimed his special piece of baseball lore Monday night when he threw a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals in a 7-0 win at Fenway Park.
Lester struck out 25-year-old infielder Alberto Callaspo to end the 18th no-hitter in club history, the first since rookie Clay Buchholz threw one against Baltimore last Sept. 1 at Fenway Park in his second big-league start.
Lester became the first Sox lefthander to throw a no-hitter since Mel Parnell against the Chicago White Sox on July 14, 1956.
Lester walked two and struck out nine, throwing 130 pitches in his gem. On the receiving end, Jason Varitek tied Ray Schalk's major league record for no-hitters caught, with his fourth. Varitek was also behind the plate for the Sox when Hideo Nomo (2001), Derek Lowe (2002), and Buchholz accomplished the feat.
Lester, who had set down 20 Royals in succession, walked Esteban German to start the ninth. Tony Pena Jr. hit a chopper to third baseman Mike Lowell, who threw him out. David DeJesus then hit a tapper to first base, where Kevin Youkilis made the play himself.
With 37,746 in Fenway Park roaring, Lester struck out Callaspo on a 94 mile-an-hour fastball.
When Lester combined with Jonathan Papelbon on a one-hitter against the Royals on July 18, 2006, the suspense factor was eliminated early. Mark Teahen singled in the second inning off the lefthander, then in his rookie season.
Only four Royals who were in the starting lineup played for Kansas City that night: Teahen, DeJesus, German, and Mark Grudzielanek.
Grudzielanek had an embarrassing time of it at second base. He dropped a popup in a 23 mile-an-hour west wind that allowed two runs to score in the third inning, when the Sox scored five times off Royals rookie Luke Hochevar, who walked three straight batters just before Grudzielanek's gaffe. Grudzielanek also struck out twice and was thrown out on a comebacker to the mound before he was replaced by Callaspo in the bottom of the seventh.
Through seven innings, the closest the Royals came to a hit was in the fourth, when Jose Guillen, who earlier in the day had been named American League Player of the Week, hit a sinking line drive to right center. But rookie Jacoby Ellsbury, who was shaded to left-center, sprinted to the ball and gloved it with an all-out dive.
Lester set down the side in order in six of the first seven innings. With one out in the second, he walked Billy Butler. Miguel Olivo erased him on a force play, but advanced to second when Lester threw wildly to first while trying to keep Olivo close. Teahen bounced to the mound to end the inning.
The Royals have a history of breaking up no-hitters in the ninth inning. They've done it three times, once to John Farrell, now the Sox pitching coach, on May 4, 1989, when Farrell was pitching for the Cleveland Indians and Kevin Seitzer singled with two outs.
The Sox inserted Coco Crisp into center field, shifting Ellsbury to left, at the start of the eighth. Lester set down Butler on a called third strike and Olivo went down swinging, Lester's eighth strikeout of the night. Teahen flied to Crisp, and Lester was three outs away. There was no activity in the Sox bullpen.
The Sox sent 10 batters to the plate in the third.
J.D. Drew singled to open the inning, and Varitek sent him to third with a hit-and-run single. Julio Lugo hit into a double play, Drew scoring, but Ellsbury revved up the inning again with a triple to the triangle.
Hochevar walked Dustin Pedroia on four pitches, then lost David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez on full counts to force home another run. Grudzielanek then dropped Lowell's popup for two runs, and Youkilis's ground-rule double brought home another run.
The Sox made it 7-0 in the sixth when Drew was hit by a pitch and Varitek homered into the right-field seats, his fifth home run of the season.
Minor league callup Chris Smith was warming up at the start of the ninth. Alex Cora also came in to play short.