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Warren Spahn of the Braves, age 40, pitched his second no-hit game last week. Photographer Mark Kauffman was there and caught these batter's-eye views, including one of the bat cutting through Spahn's windup (below).
'EVERYTHING SEEMED EASY'
Warren Spahn is almost the oldest and almost certainly the wisest pitcher in baseball. Last week he pitched the second no-hit, no-run game of his life, against the San Francisco Giants; the first came last September against the Philadelphia Phils, in his 15th year as a major league pitcher. Because it is so late in his career (his 40th birthday was just a week before his second no-hitter), Spahn depends in large measure upon his head rather than his arm.
"I guess I got farther than most people on my physical equipment," he says. "Hell, look at me now. I'm not a big guy and I'm 40 years old. I stand up there looking at a big, strong 25-year-old kid waving a bat and I know I can't overpower him. I have to outthink him. I have to keep him off balance. This is hard work for a 40-year-old. If there wasn't the satisfaction of winning the mental fight with the batter, I might not be out there."
( Willie Mays, the redoubtable Giant hitter who two days after the no-hitter had four home runs in one game off Milwaukee pitching, agrees. "He's not fast," Mays said. "He's not even sneaky fast. But he's always pitching you low and away and he mixes them up real good. You never know what to expect. He's amazing.")
"It was one of the easiest games I ever pitched," Spahn said about the no-hitter. He is a hawk-faced, nearly bald man with cold green-brown eyes and an air of immense self-assurance. "Everything seemed easy. I didn't think about it until after the fifth and then I figured I'm over the hump and it's downhill."
He drew a home plate with his finger on the table in front of him. "Here," he said. "Here's what you throw at. You can eliminate this part," and he drew a square inside the plate with the stubby, wide forefinger of his left hand. "You never throw there," he said. "You throw at the corners. Even when it's 3 and 0 on the batter, you throw at the corners. I don't think I could get the ball over if I threw up the pipe."
How, he was asked, could he hit so narrow a target so consistently?
"I spent my life throwing a baseball 60 feet 6 inches," he said.' 'Why shouldn't I be able to control it?" He spread his left hand and looked at it. It is not a big hand.
"I had to change my signals for this game," he said. He pulled a piece of paper over to him and drew three squares on it. "This is the way I been using signals since I came up," he said. "One finger for the fast ball, two for the curve, three for the screwball, four for the slider, five for the change. Then you set the call that you take from the catcher by the count on the batter. Say it's 1 and 0, for instance. Maybe that would mean I take the third finger signal the catcher gives. If he flashed two, two and one in order, I'd take the last signal. That would be the fast ball."