Each day or night, as the Dodgers added victory after victory to their fast-breaking getaway, until they had achieved a modern major league record of 10, one man in the Brooklyn dugout—a pitcher—remained detached from the usual chatter; divorced from the unpire-baiting and the biting inter-bench jockeying. It wasn't always the same man, but he was always busy on the same job. He was keeping a chart, on a large, yellow piece of paper. The paper, strangely checkered, was attached to a conventional clipboard (below) the man kept in his lap.
One day he was Carl Erskine; the next, Russ Meyer; then maybe Billy Loes, or Clem Labine; or Carl Erskine again. Whoever he was, this was not his day to pitch. This was his day to watch intently every pitch made by his teammate and to record it on the chart. Fast ball...curve...change-up...slider...screwball. High, low, inside, outside, foul. And at the end of the 10 games, there, on the clipboard hanging in the office of Dodger Manager Walter Alston, was a record of every pitch thrown by a Brooklyn pitcher during that opening rush.
The streak ended on the 11th game, but the charts go on, win or lose. Later they are consulted, analyzed, discussed. They show:
How many fast balls Don Newcombe threw this day—or maybe it was Johnny Podres. How many he got over for strikes, how many missed for balls. How many curves were high, how many low. Which pitches were hit by Sid Gordon—or was it Willie Mays? And where were they hit—to left, right, center; on the ground, in the air?
What purpose does all this serve?
Says Alston, a former schoolteacher who has not lost his faith in instruction: "It will show me when a pitcher's curve is hanging too often, or when he's not getting his change over. And it'll help me show it to him, because he won't be taking my word for it; it'll all be there, in black and white, and I won't have written it down."
That's one reason Alston has the charts kept by non-working pitchers. But there's another reason, regarded by Alston as more important: "It keeps pitchers on the bench in the game every minute."
Fans who watched Rex Barney for years take sun baths on the edge of the dugout, head tilted upward for maximum benefit from the rays, and eyes closed for minimum benefit from the game, those fans know what Alston means by "keeping in the game." Other clubs have charted pitches, but the job was usually done by an assistant in the stands or press box. Alston has brought it down into the dugout, so that his men have to study the work of other pitchers.
Quite often the pitcher making the marks on the chart may be flanked by spotters who assist him in calling each pitch. Thus two, or even three non-playing pitchers, are "in the game."