"A baseball wife is very important to an organization man's career," Huyke once said. "They can make life miserable if they are always nagging him to quit. But my wife and I are very compatible. She encourages me to play. I knew I would stay in baseball all my life; I explained to her before we were married that baseball was everything to me. She accepted that."
When Ann Marie Huyke was 12 and combining wheat on her father's farm in Gardner, N. Dak. she used to dream of marrying an athlete. She was tall and slim even then, and in a small town she naturally gravitated to sports, and to basketball in particular. Often she competed against the boys on equal terms, and she played on a girls' high school team that won the state championship three years. "All through high school I only dated athletes," she says. "I was sure I would marry someone athletically inclined. After college I worked as a bank teller in Fargo."
One winter Ann Marie took her first real vacation, flying to Puerto Rico. Almost the first thing she did in San Juan was to board a bus for an hour's ride to Arecibo to watch a Winter League game. She met Woody Huyke that day, and they were married two years later.
"I don't mind the traveling much after living in Fargo and Gardner most of my life." she says. "I admit, though that I still carry a picture of the house I would like to settle down in someday. But I have nothing to be disappointed about. I knew what Woody was when I married him. He made that perfectly clear. But sometimes it's difficult to explain it to others. To the wives of prospects, for instance. They are always making comments about when their husbands get to Pittsburgh. When they talk like that, what am I supposed to say? You hate to have people think you do not have faith in your husband just because you know he will never make the majors. But you have to salt your inner feelings with an honest evaluation of what he is. People are always asking me when he is going back to college. I know what they are hinting at, it's certainly obvious, but I just give them a blank look. I would like to say, 'Look, my husband could have been a doctor but he gave it all up to play baseball. This is what he loves. It's his job, and one day he is going to fade into another position in baseball and that is all there is to it.' But I never do."
In the bottom of the second inning Bruce Kison walks the first batter, retires two and then gives up a single. The single comes off a slow, hanging curve ball. After the pitch Huyke walks halfway out to the mound and tells Kison to "put something on the damn ball." Red Davis has again moved to the top step of the dugout. He says something to Huyke as he gets down in his crouch. Woody nods. Davis turns immediately to the bullpen and signals for Cordiero to begin throwing.
Kison throws all fastballs to the next batter and gets him to hit a grounder to second base. As the second baseman fields the ball, it rolls off his glove and back into the dirt. Bases loaded. Kison works the next batter to 2 and 2. A hard, sharp curveball that the batter hits for a soft fly retires the side. As he walks off the mound there is a faint smile on Bruce Kison's lips.
In the third inning he gets two outs on fastballs and one on a hard curve. In the fourth he cuts loose on fastballs and curves and strikes out all three batters. He is throwing considerably harder, mixing almost an equal number of fastballs and curves on each batter. After each strike Huyke bounces out of his crouch, fires the ball back and shouts encouragement. After the third strikeout the catcher remarks out loud, to no one in particular, "That kid is throwing some kind of heat."
Huyke walks over and sits down on a small chair outside the dugout as is his custom. It is even cooler now, and he wraps his hand in a towel. "My fingers get numb," Woody explains, holding up his throwing hand. The fingers are fat and discolored. The blood vessels have been broken so many times and the circulation is poor. Huyke tries to warm the hand. Sitting there, he seems only partially occupied with the scoreless game in progress. He turns often to talk with the fans and seems particularly amused by a very fat woman with whom he has been carrying on a running dialogue each half-inning. The woman has neatly lined up 10 empty beer containers on the dugout roof in front of her.
"Hey, cutie, talk to me some more," the woman says to Huyke. He shakes his head and laughs. "Isn't he a cute one," the woman says.
"You know, you remind me of Buddy Hackett," Huyke says. He turns to the other fans. "Really, doesn't she look like Buddy Hackett?" Everyone, including the woman, laughs.