But first Detore decided to give his young pitcher one last try. He put the boy on a warm-up mound one day and told him to throw the ball as hard as he could. Necciai threw a few mediocre fastballs, and Detore threw up his hands in disgust. "Chrissakes, son! Can't you throw any harder than that?" he said.
"Then why the hell don't ya?"
"Because in high school I broke a guy's ribs," Necciai said. "My coach made me promise not to throw that hard again."
Detore was disbelieving, but he told the boy to cut loose one time anyway. As Necciai began his motion Detore started to walk away. Necciai fired. The ball rocketed off the catcher's shin.
"It was a bullet," Detore says. "He had it all along. Then I told him to throw a curveball as hard as he could."
"Watch this!" the pitcher said. The ball exploded straight down just as it reached the plate. Detore was stunned.
"Buddy," he said. "You got it."
"He had a smooth, overhand motion," Detore remembers. "He threw without effort. Now, his curveball he threw different from any other pitcher I ever saw." All efforts at teaching Necciai a conventional curveball had failed. It was only when he was allowed to throw it the way he felt most comfortable that it exploded downward. Instead of rolling his two fingers over the top of the ball to give it downward spin at the point of release, Necciai would fling his curveball with the back of his hand toward the batter in much the way a young boy flips a yo-yo to make it sleep. Only Necciais curveball didn't sleep. It dropped like a duck shot on the wing.
Necciai won four of his last six decisions at Salisbury and then was sent to New Orleans where, inexplicably, he seemed to lose his stuff. He finished the season with a 1-5 record and an 8.45 earned run average. Still, Rickey remembered Necciai from that night in Salisbury and invited him to the Pirates' spring training camp at San Bernardino.