The hero of the bullpen has been Dave Giusti, who is 8-2 with 19 saves this year as a short reliever. But Pena, too, has been consistently effective, and the first two fingers of his right hand are a point of interest worth having on any ball club. Pena has habitually forced those two fingers apart while sitting on the bench, so that now there is twice as great a space between them as between the same two fingers on his other hand. That way he can grip his fork ball better.
"I used to throw a spitball," he confesses, "but now you have to leave the circle of the mound to wet your fingers. By the time you can get to the rubber they dry off."
Pena has more peace of mind this season, since he finally managed, after 8½ years, to get his father, sister and two nephews out of Cuba. During this whole time his father had obtained only two pairs of shoes, a statistic which may be compared favorably only to the fact that, until recently, Pena had not won a major league game since 1966. In his heyday, Pena recalls with pride, a Spanish-language newspaper once printed a detailed table showing that he had given up fewer home runs to Mickey Mantle than any other Cuban pitcher.
With Giusti and Pena in the bullpen, Murtaugh has patched up his tattered rotation with fill-in starters. Bruce Del Canton, 28, known as "Lurch," did not start pitching professionally until he was 24, perhaps because it was not until that age that he started slimming down to 195 pounds, after having held steady for some time at 258. Jim Nelson, another fill-in starter, ate watermelon and drank beer after pitching a surprise shutout, and he prepared for his last start by going to see Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
To each Pirate, his own way of loosening up. But the clubhouse boys of Montreal had better watch out for one thing the Pirates do for relaxation as a group. It was before one of the games last weekend in Atlanta that Trainer Bartirome began to lay bets that he could pick up three men at once.
"Hundred dollars," he was saying. "I can pick up any two men you pick, plus a third one I pick, as long as I can put the lightest guy in the middle."
"Naw, you got a bad back," somebody said.
"Hundred dollars, I mean it."
Finally, after a great deal of arguing and murmuring back and forth, Bartirome directed the two heavyweights, Stargell and Ellis, to lock their arms and legs securely around the clubhouse boy's. Player Rep Giusti got down close to the floor to judge whether all three would indeed clear it together.
"All right." said Bartirome, "when I say strain, you strain. Strain."