Two young men, so fresh out of college that they still half-expected their dads to send them pocket money, made their professional baseball debuts last week as starting pitchers. Not in Peoria or Visalia, mind you, but in Chicago and Washington in the middle of the 1971 major league pennant race against people like Joe Torre and Carl Yastrzemski. As might be expected they did not break in with no-hitters.
The pitchers are the Cubs' Burt Hooton from the University of Texas (SI, May 31), who, in age-old phenom tradition, has a curve that breaks like it's "falling off a table," and the Senators' Pete Broberg from Dartmouth, whose fastball is described by a teammate as "severe uncontrolled heat."
Broberg, whose father was an All-America basketball player at Dartmouth in 1941, was signed for an estimated $150,000, the fattest bonus ever paid by a Washington baseball club. And the first indications were that he had sold himself cheaply. He joined the team on a Western swing, and Bullpen Coach George Susce, who might be coaxed under close questioning to admit that Babe Ruth wasn't a bad hitter, took a look at him and threw out caution.
"I warmed up Herb Score and Mike Garcia when they came up and I'll put this guy right in with them," said Susce. Not only is he fast, but "he doesn't throw just a curve; it's a whip."
"Haven't seen anybody in the league faster," said Manager Ted Williams. "Wild, though. Hope he doesn't kill somebody.... Throws harder than any kid I've ever seen walk into a major league ball park. And I mean ever seen. Gotta hit that strike zone, though."
Broberg, who still has a year to go at Dartmouth, does not consider himself a scatterarm. He said he had weak infields backing him in college, so he was a strikeout pitcher, and "that way you have more 3-2 counts, more walks."
Hooton did not get quite the same grand buildup, but Chicago did give him uniform number 44. No Cub—please don't break into tears—since Phil Cavaretta has worn that number. Hooton was put on the active roster Monday and pitched batting practice the same day. His "knuckle curve"" was so impressive that Cub teammate Ron Santo told him, "They're going to frisk you. They're going to think you're throwing a spitter."
"Hey, he's fast, too," said Manager Leo Durocher. "Sneaky fast."
Leo chortled when Ernie Banks took his turn in the batting cage and kept shaking off Hooton's signal for a curve. Then, mainly because Ferguson Jenkins and Milt Pappas were both out with viral infections, the rookie with a 35-3 college record was named to start against the visiting Cardinals on Thursday, quite a different matter from facing Baylor or Texas Christian. Hooton, however, remained calm all week.
"I'm just going to sit here and try to learn," Hooton said. "I've only got two pitches and I can't get by up here with those. Oh, maybe two or three innings I could."