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Big Sky, Big Dream
Pat Jordan
June 11, 1973
When he was young and a fastballer of promise, the author received a major-league bonus and was sent to McCook, Neb. to test his arm against his fantasies
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June 11, 1973

Big Sky, Big Dream

When he was young and a fastballer of promise, the author received a major-league bonus and was sent to McCook, Neb. to test his arm against his fantasies

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"I will, damn it!" I ran down to the dugout and got Joe Shields. When Hendricks saw me return with Shields he said, "Why you won' do thot, mon? Make Elrod look bod to monager. Shouldn't do thot. We talk 'bout it in McCook, eh?" He was shaking his head as he spoke, yet I could see his teeth, so he must have been smiling, too.

My performance in that game, my first professional one, would typify my career. It was brief and resolved nothing. I pitched 2? innings before Steinecke took me out of the game with the score tied 2-2. I proved I had great talent (i.e., potential) by striking out four of the seven batters I retired, and proved that that talent was undisciplined by walking five batters in less than three innings. I surrendered no hits and, in fact, refused to let the White Sox batters make contact with the ball. In the third inning I struck out one man and walked two in succession before Steinecke trotted to the mound.

"You're trying to throw the—ball by everyone," he said. "Relax, let them hit it. We'll help you." He looked over his shoulder at the next batter, a skinny, spectacled infielder named Al Weis. He would star for the New York Mets in the 1969 World Series, the same Series in which Elrod Hendricks would catch for the Baltimore Orioles.

"This so-and-so is gonna bunt the runners over," Steinecke said. "You let him. If he bunts toward first base you go to first with the ball, but if he bunts down to third, try to nail the lead runner. You understand?" I nodded, but as soon as he left the mound I decided to strike out Weis. I walked him on four pitches and then walked the next batter on four pitches to force in a run.

"That's it," Steinecke said, waddling to the mound.

"They're not hitting me," I said.

"No, they're not," he said with a maniacal smile of glee.

"But you're not gettin' the——out either." He spit tobacco juice on my shoes and wiped the excess from his chin. "No siree, podner, you are not getting them out, are you?"

I walked off the mound and sat in the dugout. I didn't know what I was supposed to feel at that moment. I had expected to strike out 18 batters and pitch a two-hit shutout or maybe get hit unmercifully. I would have understood that, too. But this? It confused me. It was so inconclusive. What did it mean? I was still sitting there stunned when my teammates came in from the field at the end of the inning. I heard Ron Hunt say, "Man, my roomie really throws bullets, don't he?" Then he lowered his voice and said, "He got a big bonus, you know. Really big!"

I relaxed considerably. It hadn't been a total loss after all. Now, thanks to my roomie, they all knew. That was enough to satisfy me for the time being and, in fact, probably gave me as much satisfaction as a victory would have. At the time I preferred those pure, transitory moments of success—points proved—that could be gotten quickly and stood out clearly (I threw that hard!). They did not require the drudgery that a more substantial success demanded.

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