Life, for Robert Lee Turley (see cover), has been one continuous hurrah ever since he pitched the New York Yankees to victory in the seventh game of the World Series last October. He was toasted at winter banquet tables. He was given awards. He appeared on the big television shows. When he signed his 1959 contract, it reflected 1958 appreciation.
No one deserves success more than Bob Turley. He is baseball's Jack Armstrong, tall, wholesomely attractive, forthright and genial. He has worked hard at his profession. He can throw a baseball fast and, generally, where he wants to. He is healthy and only 28. Last year he won 21 games. The Yankees are counting on him to win approximately as many this year and for several years to come.
If the Yankees were to place Turley in a display window with a $500,000 price tag attached to his right arm, there would be a stampede of general managers, checkbooks in hand. Each would think he was getting a bargain, and perhaps he would be, but he would also be taking an expensive gamble. For it is a sad truth that in recent years, and with increasing (and alarming) frequency, big winners have stopped winning with the abruptness of a stalled motor.
Don Newcombe won 27 games for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956, after which Cincinnati offered $300,000 and three players for him. The Dodgers declined the offer. The next year Newcombe got a sharp pain in his pitching arm and he won only 11 times. In 1958 he lost his first six games, and the Dodgers finally accepted a Cincinnati offer for him. But by then his value had decreased by $300,000 and one player.
Bobby Shantz was the American League's Most Valuable Player in 1952, when he won 24 games for Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics. He was not for sale at any price. In 1953 his shoulder hurt and he won only five games. In 1954 he won one game. In 1955, five. In 1956, two.
Mel Parnell of the Red Sox won 21 in 1953. In 1954 his left forearm was broken by a pitched ball and he won only three games. Later he developed bone chips in his elbow, and by 1957 he was out of baseball.
AND THERE ARE MORE
There are others. Billy Hoeft won 20 in 1956, then, when his arm "lost its zip," nine in 1957. Herb Score, after he had recovered from his dreadful eye injury, came up with a sore arm which even now leaves his future uncertain. Physical problems have hampered top-rated pitchers like Don Larsen, Bob Buhl, Whitey Ford, Johnny Podres, Gene Conley, Curt Simmons—the list grows.
The principal reason why baseball has a sore pitching arm is that pitchers work harder today than ever before. Years ago, the baseball was a muffin, and pitchers paced themselves without fear of the big home run. Only when a runner reached second did the pitcher have to throw his best. And when he threw his best he was throwing at a larger strike zone.
Today the accent in baseball is on the score, big and quick. The ball is built for distance. Bats have the streamlined look, with narrower handles, all the better to whip a ball with. Fences are, if anything, closer. Anybody can hit a home run. No lead is safe, for five-run innings appear in box scores almost every day. So today's pitcher must bear down all the time.