This was the
moment that every ballplayer dreads, but Score, typically, tried to soften the
scene for Lopez. "AI," he said, "I want to thank you for how
patient you've been with me. If you wanted to send me down I wouldn't have
anything to say about it. If you send me, you send me."
said Lopez, "I'm not putting it to you that way. I'm putting it to you that
going down for a while might be the best thing for you."
"I don't know
if it's the answer, Al. Maybe I should just quit. If I can't pitch, I can't
pitch. I don't want to hang around and be a handicap to the ball club and to
into one of his exceedingly rare speeches. He told Score that the team had all
the faith in the world in him, that his arm was still good, that he was still
regarded as a valuable property. "But Herbie," Lopez said, "I hate
to have you stay here, because you're wild, and you need to find the plate
again. You need to work every four or five days. You've got to pitch. You've
got all the stuff in the world."
After a while
Score said, "Let me talk to my wife. This is a decision that involves her
as much as me."
Lopez said, and added a humane non sequitur. "I want you to know one thing,
Herbie. If my own kid was to get to the majors, you're the player I'd want him
to model himself after."
with the Sox to New York the next day, called his wife and told her he would be
home that night. She asked what was wrong, and he said it wasn't something that
could be talked about on the phone. At 2 a.m. Nancy Score met her husband at
the airport in Chicago. Driving home, they agreed that it would be silly for
him to quit in the middle of the year. More than anything else, a touching
faith in Al Lopez had influenced Score. He told his wife, "If Al had said
to me, 'Herb, I think you've lost it, you can't pitch any more,' that would
have been the end. But I don't think Al would lie to me. And I feel the best I
have in two years. How can I feel so good and pitch so lousy?"
The next day he
went to Comiskey Park and picked up his gear. He called San Diego and found
that the team was at home. Between planes in Los Angeles that night he phoned
his former roommate and closest friend, Rocky Colavito, and talked to him for
an hour. The burden of Colavito's advice was the same as it has always been:
"Don't throw so hard. Take it easy." Then Score boarded the plane for
the last leg of the trip to the minors, where he would find the plate, or
The prospect of
Herb Score's fading out of baseball altogether is one that taxes the
understanding of the sport's best minds. He came into the majors, not so long
ago, after record droves of American Association batters had fallen beneath the
strikeout power of his classically delivered full-overhand fast ball—slung in a
javelinlike style with the full whip of his six-foot-two frame—and the sweep of
his murderously breaking curve. He went on to post records of 16-10 and 20-9
with Cleveland, maintaining the remarkable average of one strikeout per inning.
His famous teammate, Bob Feller, said, "Provided he doesn't have to spend a
couple years in the Army and barring unforeseen misfortune, Score should win
between 20 and 25 games a year for the next 13 or 14 years." The Boston Red
Sox management pondered the mathematics of Score's future and offered $1
million for him. The Cleveland team, to nobody's surprise, turned the record