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At Pulaski he was asked to alter his pitching motion slightly so as to get more drive off the mound. The change did not appreciably increase his drive, but it did aggravate a congenital back ailment which he can neither pronounce, spell nor very accurately define. According to Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary', "spondylolisthesis" is "a forward displacement of one vertebra over another, usually of the fifth lumbar over the body of the sacrum, or of the fourth lumbar over the fifth." According to Christenson, spondylolisthesis means mostly that "I don't have those two pronged things back there."
He is certain that "my back was really killing me last summer. I couldn't lift my left leg or my right arm. I was all messed up. A specialist in Philly told me to go home and rest, but I didn't want to so I ended up in relief back in Pulaski."
Subtly, Christenson changed his motion at least partway back to what it was. He has not been bothered since by his aching back.
Not much else has bothered him either. The older Phillies were astonished at the equanimity with which he faced up to his first major league start.
"I didn't really think much about it," says Christenson. "I just stood out on the mound and said, 'Here goes.' "
In one sense, Ruthven's approach to life in the big time is even more cavalier. When told by Ozark that he had made the team, he replied that he didn't want the job if he was not going to be allowed to pitch regularly. "I told him I'd rather go down to Eugene [the Triple A farm club] where I could get some work. I didn't want to just sit and watch." Ruthven, who looks like a young Lee Marvin, did not even start pitching seriously until he entered Fresno State. He had been drafted by the Orioles as an outfielder after his graduation from Irvington High School in Fremont, Calif., but he had opted for college. There, as he put it, "I started as an outfielder who could pitch and, because they didn't have any pitchers, ended up as a pitcher." He was an All-America last year, winning 10 games, losing three and striking out 153 hitters in 111 innings. But he, too, came to the Phillies with a physical disability—tendinitis in his right shoulder. Steve Carlton came to his aid.
"Steve saw me putting ice on my shoulder after practice one day and he asked me what was wrong. I told him and he said he'd had tendinitis, too, and that lifting weights had cleared it up. I didn't think anything more about it, but the next day there was a set of weights in front of my locker. Steve had bought them for me and he showed me how to use them. I think it's amazing that a man of his stature would help someone like me."
Ozark is convinced Ruthven can help the Phillies despite his miserable beginning. "The wind was bothering him out there that day. He threw some good pitches. I'm not in the least worried." Neither, apparently, is Ruthven, although mention of that minor disaster causes him to throw his hands theatrically in front of his face. Later he was advised that his next pitching opponent could be the mighty Bob Gibson.