Scottsdale and the Arizona desert were full of unforgettable sights during spring training. The giant saguaro cactuses towered like lost telephone poles over the brush-littered sand. The steaks at the Pinnacle Peak Patio looked like cross sections of steers. A blonde bounced her ponytail and everything else doing the swim atop the bar of the Red Dog Go-Go. But the biggest, most awesome, most impressive sight of all was The Monster standing on the mound in Scottsdale Stadium.
The Monster is Dick Radatz, and he is the best relief pitcher in baseball. He won 16 games and lost 9 for the Boston Red Sox last season, with 25 games saved (a "save" in baseball jargon is a game in which a relief pitcher successfully protects a team's lead), and even though Radatz never started a game last season he was responsible, more or less, for 41 of Boston's 72 victories. His trips, in an electric golf cart, from the bullpen in Fenway Park to the mound came to be looked upon as the most important rides in Boston since Paul Revere got the go sign from the Old North Church.
Radatz really does not look like a monster at all, at least not in the sense that he could be adopted by the Addams family. He is handsome, does not lurch when he walks and has unpleasant plans only for opposing hitters in the American League. He is just monstrously big, and when he leans in to get the sign, squeezing the baseball—which suddenly looks like an undersize golf ball—in his right hand, he looks even bigger. He is 6 feet 5 inches tall, and the Red Sox press booklet this spring listed his weight at 235 pounds, which seems to be reverse hyperbole. "Right now," Radatz said in Arizona, "I'm about 245. Or I will be when the season starts." The weight chart in the trainer's room at Scottsdale Stadium indicated 268 pounds. Red Sox Trainer Jack Fadden, sampling a cold-lunch buffet one afternoon in the locker room, guessed it might run as high as 280. Last year, toward the end of the season, teammates and sportswriters covering the Red Sox estimated Dick's weight at anywhere between 275 and 300 pounds. Bob Turley, Boston's pitching coach, had instituted a "fine for fatties" program in an effort to keep his troops in peak condition. The pitchers were weighed once a week, and if they came in over a prescribed limit they were docked a dollar a pound. The Monster and a few other ingenious eaters found a way to rig the scales so that they weighed as much as 15 pounds light.
"I was overweight at the end of last season," Radatz admitted. He had come through the narrow passageway from the dugout to the clubhouse, his spikes biting into a wooden ramp already chewed into splinters and sawdust by clump-clumping ballplayers, his bulk nearly blotting out the sunlight behind him. Except for his garb, he could have been a defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears coming off the field after a scrimmage. "I knew I had to do something about it. I live near Boston in the off season, so I went to Jack Fadden and told him I'd like to take the weight off. But I wanted to do it the right way. Jack told me about a Boston doctor named Warren Guild, who is an authority on physical fitness, and I went to see him. Dr. Guild's idea is that the best way to lose weight is to exercise, but to exercise in a way that's interesting to you. I ran. I couldn't think of anything more boring than running, but the more I did it, the more I liked it."
Dr. Guild set a schedule of four 30-minute workouts a week for Radatz beginning early in November that included running, weight lifting and sit-ups. Guild, who is middle-aged, worked out with The Monster once a week. On the first day, as the two of them were driving out to Harvard, Radatz said pleasantly, "You're not such a young man, Doc, so I'll take it easy with you today." Guild smiled and said, "O.K., Dick. That's thoughtful of you." The workout consisted of alternately jogging and sprinting the length and breadth of the football field, and before the 30 minutes were up Radatz was stretched out on the turf, white as an Alabama voter and gasping. Guild, of course, was not even breathing hard.
Radatz did not show up for another training session for two or three weeks, but when he did start the workouts again he was faithful to them for the rest of the winter. "Dick's training program was designed to give him explosive energy," Dr. Guild explained. "They differ from those a distance runner would use, because a marathon runner concentrates on stamina and sustained speed. In Dick's case, where he pitches an inning or two a day, we were looking to develop quick energy and strength."
The strengthened Radatz lounging in the clubhouse in Scottsdale had spent an hour and a half playing in a pepper game and chasing fly balls in the outfield, but his brow and his uniform were dry. This may have been due to the dry Arizona heat, which is fine for asthmatics and prairie dogs but is not conducive to working up the "good sweat" that athletes like, or it may have been the first result of Dr. Guild's conditioning program. If so, Dick may be better prepared for his career-shortening grind of 60 or 70 appearances a year. Last year he pitched in 79 games for the Red Sox, an eighth-place team that needed more relief than Appalachia. That was a major-league record until John Wyatt of the even poorer 10th-place Kansas City Athletics passed him with 81. Relief pitching is a specialty not designed for longevity. There have been a few exceptions among the brotherhood—Hoyt Wilhelm and ElRoy Face, for instance—but other relief stars, like Joe Page, Jim Konstanty and Larry Sherry, lost their powers after a couple of years. So far Radatz has shown no signs of slipping and no twinges of arm trouble.
More than 90% of the pitches he throws are fast balls, with a few sliders mixed in but no curves at all. This lack of variety has not been of much benefit to opposing batters, possibly because the Radatz fast ball sometimes sinks, sometimes rises and sometimes fools everybody by coming in perfectly straight. The Radatz pitching motion is simple, too. Some very tall right-handers, like Don Drysdale of the Dodgers, throw with an exaggerated sidearm whip, so that the ball seems to be coming at the batter from third base. Radatz does not whip the ball; he powers it. He throws like a golfer with a short backswing—strong, simple, no waste motion.
"Smooth as he is, he should be around for quite a while," said Red Sox General Manager Mike Higgins. "He's had three great years, and he looks better this year than ever. He shows no ill effects from all that pitching."
"If anything is going to prolong my career, it's the fact that I don't throw too many breaking pitches," said Radatz. "With fast balls, all you're doing is stretching muscles. With curves you're twisting them. There may come a day when I don't have the fast ball, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.