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AH, THERE, DR. BENNETT
Just as the major league baseball season got officially under way, bad news emanated from Baltimore. Dr. George Bennett of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, widely known for his ministrations to the arms of ailing pitchers, issued a pronouncement:
"Pitching is a most unnatural motion. The shoulder was not constructed to throw a baseball."
Sixteen big league pitchers, stretching in readiness to throw their first deliveries of the 1956 season, paused and turned their heads, like the brontosauruses in Disney's Fantasia when, during The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky's music warned of the coming of the dread Tyrannosaurus rex.
"There are any number of things that can happen to an elbow or shoulder," Dr. Bennett went on. "The common phrase for an elbow injury is 'bone chips.' There is no such thing. There is a flaking off of cartilage in the elbow. Deposits form in the shoulder, too. The unnatural motion causes it."
Unnatural motion, indeed. Dr. Bennett may not realize what he has done, but he has attacked the foundations of the Republic. George Washington was not throwing underhand when he pitched that dollar across the Rappahannock, you know. And what about Eisenhower and the first ball in Washington? These were cold words indeed on the eve of the pennant race.
Fortunately for baseball (and the Republic), player and fan alike are used to hardship. Now, in April, it is cold in the shadows of the grandstand—coffee and hot chocolate sell better than beer and pop—but the spectators tend to group together, sharing warmth, in seats that are in the sun. On the field, the batter hits a pitched ball with the handle of his bat and curses and shakes his stinging fingers in pain, but when it's his turn to bat again he's up there, ready for the pitch.
Last weekend the players of the 16 major league teams came grumbling down out of the tortured hills of spring training and into the major league towns. They played a last exhibition game or two, took a hot shower, shaved and waited for Tuesday, Opening Day of the regular season. The fans blew on their fingers, wore sweaters under their overcoats and looked for seats in the sun.
And the pitchers looked down again at the batter—away from Tyrannosaurus rex—and prepared with their unnatural motions to throw the ball.