SI Vault
Ron Fimrite
September 30, 1974
The National League race, that is. Although St. Louis dropped a series to the solemn Pirates, the Cardinals stayed loose and lippy
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September 30, 1974

Up In The Air In The Hectic East

The National League race, that is. Although St. Louis dropped a series to the solemn Pirates, the Cardinals stayed loose and lippy

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Giusti was in trouble again in the ninth. Lou Brock, who by stealing four bases in the series became the second most prolific base thief in history (only Ty Cobb is ahead of him), singled to open the inning. Then Ted Sizemore, who has sacrificed many points of his own batting average to give Brock time to run, bunted for another hit. Giusti was now confronted with Reggie Smith, Simmons and Torre, the Cardinals' leading run producers. He struck out Smith on three pitches. And Simmons on four. Then, after throwing three balls to Torre, he whipped three straight strikes by him. Victory was preserved.

In the clubhouse Giusti, a swarthy, blocky man with a soft voice, confided that he "put the back injury out of my mind." He seemed more heartened by his team's recovery from the first Cardinal defeat than by his own recuperation.

"This team is amazing that way," he said. "We don't give up. It dates back to the '71 World Series when we were two down to Baltimore and came back to win it all. When we're playing baseball—doing all the fundamental things—we can beat anybody. When we're not, it seems anybody can beat us."

The principal victim of this Pirate win was Hrabosky, who surrendered three runs in only a third of an inning. This was the same Mad Hungarian who two nights earlier had shut out the Pirates for four innings, striking out six of them and enlivening the proceedings with his eccentric behavior on the diamond. It is Hrabosky's custom to commune with himself between pitches at a site just off the mound. After receiving the ball from his catcher, he will turn his back on the hitter, amble off to his spot and, with head bowed, soliloquize on his own worthiness. Then, having convinced himself of his preparedness for combat, he will wheel about and stride to the rubber with a rolling, listing gait reminiscent of Groucho bearing down on the perennially nubile Margaret Dumont. His pitching motion is frantic and contorted. He looks for all the world like a man who has just stubbed his toe, but his fastball, when it is working, is as speedy as any in the National League.

In repose, Hrabosky is hardly the madman he appears to be on the mound. Those little conversations with himself are important, he insists, because it is absolutely necessary for him to psych himself up during a game. Otherwise his mind tends to wander, as it did earlier in the season, when his ERA was above five. It was 2.49 entering the third game with the Pirates and until then he had allowed only one earned run in his previous 41? innings.

"What I do out there is sort of like self-hypnosis," he says. "In order to accomplish anything physically, you have to visualize it mentally. I'm out there talking to myself about the importance of every pitch. What I'm doing is putting pressure on myself. When I turn around after one of those talks, I'm saying to myself, 'This hitter better be ready because I'm comin' after him.' "

And yet, for all of this applied pressure, Hrabosky, like most of his carefree teammates, neither rants nor broods in defeat. It is a team "without negative vibes," says Simmons, its resident philosopher. "We just say, in essence, 'We got 'em, baby.' "

Although humiliation followed triumph in last week's arduous series, Hrabosky was apparently untouched by either. Reclining in the clubhouse he was as merry as a Disneyland attendant, which, in his junior college days, he was.

"Why should this clubhouse be solemn?" he inquired cheerfully. "We're going home in first place and we started this road trip 3� back. Why let this affect us? We battled when we were behind. We didn't lie down and die."

He was reminded of the importance of the occasion.

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