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End of Innocence
Pat Jordan
April 10, 1972
Bruce Kison seemed a wide-eyed rookie, agog at playing in a World Series, until he uncorked his fastball and brought the Orioles to their knees
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April 10, 1972

End Of Innocence

Bruce Kison seemed a wide-eyed rookie, agog at playing in a World Series, until he uncorked his fastball and brought the Orioles to their knees

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Murtaugh did not pinch-hit for Kison in the second; nor in the fourth (by which time the score stood 3 all); nor in the sixth. During those innings, before the largest audience ever to watch a baseball game (62.3 million TV viewers and 51,378 in the stadium), Kison pitched flawless baseball. In his flawless performance one must include, not exclude, the three batters he hit with pitches, setting a World Series record. Those Orioles were simply being served notice that despite Kison's virginal appearance he was not one to treat idly. Kison had hit a high porportion of batsmen in his three-year professional career. He hit seven batters in one minor league game, which he won. His difficulty stems from a fastball that breaks sharply in on a right-handed batter at the last second. This break is often misjudged and can result in bruised ribs. Also, because his curveball is such a brief affair and anxious batters tend to lean far over the plate hoping to paste it to the right-field wall, Kison must protect himself by firing an occasional pitch inside. This combination of a batter leaning one way and a fastball breaking the other accounts for the knockdowns. There is a feeling among Kison's friends that he is not particularly upset when he hits a batter, that he feels it helps compensate for his limited repertoire (two basic pitches) and his boyish appearance. Yet, in the fourth game of the Series, he claimed his youthful wildness was responsible for the three hit batters—Dave Johnson, Andy Etchebarren and Frank Robinson. Strangely enough, he did not walk a single batter during that span.

Kison won the game that night by allowing the Orioles only Blair's bloop double and no runs in 6 1/3 innings. Giusti finished the game and preserved Kisort's 4-3 victory. Four days later, after the Bucs won the world championship in the seventh game, Earl Weaver would say that the fourth was the turning point of the Series, and that Kison had been the pivotal figure. Weaver explained that with a three-run lead in the first inning and a rookie pitcher at their disposal, the Orioles never should have lost. A victory would have given them a 3-1 edge.

The moment Kison entered the locker room after the fourth game, the press surrounded and immobilized him. Flash-bulbs exploded in his face. People shouted orders and questions at him. A TV cameraman, his equipment slung over his shoulder like a bazooka, yelled at Kison to look his way, and when Bruce did his face was flooded with a light. A television commentator stuck a microphone under Kison's nose and began asking questions. Sportswriters grumbled and fidgeted as they waited their turn and, when the cameraman extinguished his lights, they let loose with a dozen questions simultaneously. For an instant a look flickered in Kison's eyes suggesting he was about to flee, and just as quickly it was gone, replaced by a gaze devoid of all expression. Kison folded his arms across his narrow chest and, towering above the writers, began to answer their queues.

"Were you as nervous today as you were in the second game?"

"I don't know," said Kison. "I had trouble getting the ball over the plate in the second game so they said I was nervous. If I'd have gotten it over they would have said I was calm. So I guess you can say I was nervous in the second game, but I was calm today."

"What's your telephone number?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know your own telephone number?"

"I never have had to call myself."

"Do you mean to tell us you weren't nervous in that second game?"

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