THE TURNOVER OF MR. TURLEY
Should a pleasant, round-faced young man named Bob Turley, after teetering precariously for years on the verge of fame, finally become a 20-game winner this season, it will be largely because he has learned a rather useful lesson: glamour, in baseball as elsewhere, is a perishable commodity.
For Bob Turley, you see, has always been a strikeout pitcher, and the strikeout pitcher has long been one of the glamorous figures of the game. Part of this, like the excitement which surrounds a home run, is due to the strikeout's sudden, shocking finality. But even more it is because the great strikeout pitchers—Waddell, Johnson, Mathewson, Alexander, Grove, Feller, Score—have possessed that delicate blend of sharp skill and sheer, raw power which makes any athlete exciting. And so it is that the strikeout, if employed frequently enough, can bring a man fame and fortune and a garage full of Cadillacs.
It can also bring him a lot of headaches, says the sensible Mr. Turley, who already owns a Cadillac but takes no great pride in this particular fact since it is more or less part of the uniform of the team for which he pitches. Strikeouts and bases on balls frequently go hand in hand—Turley once managed to lead the league in both at the same time—and he has decided that, if by forgoing the one he can rid himself of the other, he is perfectly willing to be less glamorous. So this year, by the simple process of eschewing strikeouts in favor of pop flies and dinky little grounders, Bob Turley managed to win seven straight games in the first six weeks of the season, pitch four shutouts and generally resemble nothing so much as the best pitcher in all baseball.
"It hit me all at once about a year ago," he says. "I thought I had discovered the secret back in the '56 World Series but then I found myself falling more and more back into my old style of pitching. I was trying to get everyone out with my fast ball—and I couldn't even get it over the plate.
"So one day I just stopped and thought it all out. I realized then I was going to have to do something drastic. And suddenly there it was. For years I had been working and studying and all I had to do was quit trying to throw the ball past the batter on every pitch and place some confidence in all the other things I had learned.
"I suppose you might say I had to change over from depending entirely on this," and he patted his big right arm, ".... to this." And he tapped his head.
"The day was June 15, 1957, and it was the key point in my career," says Bob, who went on to win 12 games the rest of the season. "My fast ball is as good as it ever was, and I still strike out quite a few. I just don't depend on it so much, that's all.
"I used to throw 90% fast balls. Now I'm down to about 60%, with the rest breaking stuff. I'm trying to out-think the batter, to make him hit the pitch I want him to and hit it where I want him to. A strikeout can take four or five or six pitches; if the batter fouls off a few, it can take even more. On the other hand, one pitch is all you need if he pops it up or hits it into the dirt. One pitch and you have an out.
"The real tipoff is the number of pitches I throw in a game this year. I'm averaging about 110, and my highest has been 154. In the past that would have been a minimum. I can remember throwing 180 or 200 a lot of times.