SI Vault
Myron Cope
June 24, 1963
Like the little old lady who lived in a shoe, Manager Danny Murtaugh of the Pittsburgh Pirates is suffering from a surplus. In this case the problem is too many pitchers—and too few base hits
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June 24, 1963

The Pitching Explosion In Paradise

Like the little old lady who lived in a shoe, Manager Danny Murtaugh of the Pittsburgh Pirates is suffering from a surplus. In this case the problem is too many pitchers—and too few base hits

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To a pitcher, Forbes Field is related less to Pittsburgh than to Paradise. It is a huge ball park where baseballs driven 400 feet fall happily into the gloves of outfielders instead of into the stands, and pitchers fortunate enough to be traded to the Pirates—as Boston's Don Schwall and the Cardinals' Don Cardwell were last fall—immediately envision happy days ahead.

But it seems that Paradise, if not lost, has a long waiting list, and this year Pirate pitchers are finding it difficult to pitch in Forbes Field. The trouble is that they cannot get to the mound. There are too many of them, good ones, in line. The Pirates could use a few runs but they would hardly know what to do with another pitcher if someone should leave him on the doorstep.

"For a combination of quality and depth, I've never seen the likes of this pitching staff," says Smoky Burgess, a National League catcher for more than 12 years. And Harvey Kuenn, who spent nine seasons in the American League before joining the Giants in 1961, says that he has seen only one staff as deep as Pittsburgh's. " Cleveland in 1954," Kuenn says. "They had Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia, Early Wynn, Art Houtteman, Don Mossi, Ray Narleski and Hal Newhouser. I've probably missed one or two, but you can look them up."

The Pirate names, with the exception of Bob Friend, Roy Face (see cover), Harvey Haddix and Vernon Law, are hardly as familiar as those of the old Indians, at least to the public. There is not a man on the staff who won 20 games in 1962. But by the middle of June, with the season one-third gone, the Pirate earned run average was down to a remarkable 2.67 a game, and it was pretty evident that Bob Friend was not pitching every day. Around the National League no one asks, for example, "Who is Alvin O'Neal McBean?"

McBean is the jazzy string bean signed in the Virgin Islands in 1957 who caused a stir the first day he appeared in the Pirates' minor league camp. Seated among two dozen pitchers on the infield grass and wearing muttonchop sideburns, McBean listened to a pitching coach deliver a lecture. "Talk, talk, talk, talk," McBean said. Soon his head began to droop. He leaned back on his elbows. In a matter of minutes he lay flat on his back, sound asleep.

"McBean!" bellowed the pitching coach.

Eyes popping, McBean awoke; threw his arms to the side and kicked his right leg into the air. "Just practicing my slide, coach!" he cried.

McBean won 15 games in his second big league season last year and, according to San Francisco's Orlando Cepeda, has more stuff than any other Pirate pitcher. One day this spring he walked four men in one inning, but he dismissed his wild-ness as a lapse no more frequent than presidential elections. "I am wild once every four years," he explained. Alvin McBean has a 2.74 ERA this season and, when not starting, has been superb in relief, yielding only two earned runs in 15 innings.

Earl Coleman Francis, from Slab Fork, W. Va., had a so-so 9-8 record as a sophomore last year. But four of his defeats were by one run. Tn September alone he beat the Dodgers on four hits, the Giants on four hits and the Cincinnati Reds on two hits. "Slab Fork," Francis tells you, "is where a flood came down through the hills and washed out a little gully, so they put a few houses there. It's between four hills—Slab Fork Mountain to the south, Tipple Hill to the east, Five Hill to the west and a trash dump to the north. The trash dump is called 'Trash Dump.' "

Don Schwall is so handsome that his teammates call him Tyrone and sometimes Gregory. As he steps into the batting cage for his practice swings, a falsetto voice calls out to Manager Danny Murtaugh: "Hey, how come Donnie has to wear a helmet?" To such barbs Schwall turns a magnificent profile and says, "Eat your heart out."

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