A PRACTICAL DEMONSTRATION OF PALMER'S LAW
Wes Parker, the Los Angeles Dodger first baseman, is a major league ballplayer, a tournament bridge player, smooth, rich, damned good-looking and very bright. He likes to discuss things—even extremely personal things—clinically. In the first game of the 1966 World Series, Parker had struck out ignominiously with the bases loaded, at a time when a base hit might have turned a losing game back to the Dodgers. They had been shoved stunningly on the defensive in the first inning when a wild Don Drysdale gave up successive home runs to Baltimore's Frank and Brooks Robinson. The Oriole starter, Dave McNally, atrociously wild-high and unable to handle his heady 4-0 lead, had in 2? innings given up a home run, a double, two savagely hit fly outs and five bases on balls, the last three in succession. In came Moe Drabowsky, who was later acclaimed the hero of Baltimore's 5-2 win but who was shaky to the point of disaster in the first inning he pitched (he walked Jim Gilliam on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded to force in one run and went 3 and 2 on John Roseboro and threw nine pitches to him—one a "fourth" ball that was fouled off on a checked swing—before Roseboro finally popped out to end the inning). But Parker was the first batter Drabowsky faced and he had looked silly on a halting sort of three-quarter swing as he struck out. Parker is a reasoning man, and he can accept such humiliation as experience, but first he had to understand what Drabowsky had done to him.
"The first pitch was a hard slider, up and in," Parker said, clinically. "It was a strike. The next pitch was the same, a good one but too far in, a ball. Then the fast ball, low and away, a real good pitch for a strike.
"But that last pitch did something that I don't know," Parker said. "It could have been a curve, but.... If you talk to him, would you please ask him if it was a spitter?"
"No," said Drabowsky, who is the rare breed of cat who would have said yes if that were the answer. Drabowsky was something of a phenom in 1957 when he was a bonus player (they still called them that in those days) with the Cubs. Before arm trouble reduced him to mediocrity he could throw as hard as—well, as hard as he did against the Dodgers, when he gave up one hit in 6? innings and struck out 11, six of them in a row. It may have been the best relief-pitching job in Series history.
Drabowsky knew the Dodgers were groping for an explanation of why their bats had been shoved down their throats, and he wanted to help them understand. "I've thrown better," he said, "and lately. I struck out those six guys [it was eight guys] against Detroit. That pitch to Parker was a good slider, on the outside, and it moved in on him. It must have looked to him like it jammed, because he didn't get a good cut at all, but you can tell him it wasn't a spitter."
Baltimore's No. 2 starter, Jim Palmer, thought he had found something, too, as he watched Drabowsky put down the Dodgers. Still a few days short of 21, he delivered the penultimate of baseball insults—the ultimate is "choke"—by declaring, "You can beat the Dodgers with a fast ball." Now, even good hitters have trouble with the breaking pitch, but the major-leaguer who cannot hit the fast ball is no hitter at all. Palmer was trying to tell the Dodgers something about themselves. In effect he was saying they were a fraud, and the next day it would be his turn to put his fast ball where his sassy young mouth was.
One thing was certain: you can't get the Robinson boys out with fast balls, or at least not with the hip-high-or-better kind Drysdale served them. Two swings and the Orioles had produced one of the dramatic innings in Series history and had taken away the go-go Dodgers' tools—the bunt, the hit-and-run and all that. Still, after Maury Wills led off the last of the first with a walk, he got a 40-foot jump on the first pitch and stole second laughing.
"Maury had to let us know he was there," Baltimore Manager Hank Bauer said in an understanding way.