now a Philadelphia coach, began his pinch-hit career with the Chicago Cubs,
hated it, later came to approach his mission with devotion and self-assurance.
He never thought for an instant that he wouldn't get a hit until he didn't.
Says Peanuts, "I knew just how hard my job was, which was plenty. 1 was
supposed to get a hit; the pitcher was supposed to get me out. One of us was
bound to win." Blanchard lacks Lowrey's dispassion. "I pray all the way
to the plate, and then hope like the devil I connect," he says. Dave
Philley, a facile sort, claims he has mastered the ability to bear down and to
relax at the same time, if you can imagine. Philley's manager, Mike Higgins,
wants him to come off the bench swinging, and most pinch hitters think this is
sound advice. "You've got only one chance," says Blanchard, "so you
can't take the time to be giving the pitches the once-over-lightly." Denied
this examination, many pinch hitters quiz their teammates on what the pitcher
is throwing most, and go to bat set for it. Still, Smokey Burgess and Vic
Wertz, when pinch-hitting, will compulsively go for the first pitch; the
pitchers know it and feed them low. Says Burgess, "you're either going to
hit it or not hit it—simple."
It would be a
paradox in some endeavors (arithmetic, for example), but pinch hitters claim
they are only as good as the pressure is great. "Who cares what happens if
you're six runs behind?" says Richie Ashburn of the Mets, a team frequently
six runs behind. But pile on the pressure and great things can be accomplished.
"Give me the ninth inning, with a man on, two outs and the Reds one run
down," says Lynch. "Man, I lap that up." Faint heart ne'er made