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If I had paid more attention to Frisch I would have been a better player.
Frisch had been brought up under John McGraw, and he wasn't interested in having you come in and tell him where it hurt. The only injury I had in all the years I played ball came one day when I reached over casually for the last ball being hit during infield practice. The ball hit me right in the web of the hand between the thumb and the index finger and split it wide open. They took me to the hospital and put 14 stitches in. I came back to the ball park, slapped a piece of gauze around the split, taped it real tight and I was playing again in three days. Pepper Martin played with a broken finger, and nobody knew it until he threw the ball across the diamond and yards of bandage followed behind it. When the writers asked him about it after the game, Pepper said, "It's only a small bone."
Frisch? Pepper could have walked past him in the locker room with a sign reading BROKEN FINGER hung on it, and Frankie wouldn't have noticed.
Pepper was the only player I ever worried about on the field. He played without a cup or supporter, didn't wear any underwear and didn't put on the sanitary socks. Just the uniform stockings that loop under the arches, his pants, his shirt, his shoes and his cap.
This was the man they called The Wild Horse of the Osage, one of the greatest nicknames that ever has been put on a player. He ran like a wild man, he belly-flopped into the bases and he played third base, which wasn't his natural position, with his body. Chick Hafey, who kept all the third basemen in the league black and blue, once hit a ball off Pepper's leg that left it numb for a full week. Pepper kept his mouth shut and stayed in the lineup.
When Pepper was 44 years old, he visited us in spring training and demonstrated how he could leap over two equipment trunks from a standing start. Branch Rickey had taken over the Brooklyn Dodgers professional football team in the old AU-American Conference that year and he promptly hired Pepper to be his place-kicking specialist. It didn't matter that Pepper had never place-kicked in his life. As far as Mr. Rickey was concerned, Pepper could do anything he put his mind to. Mr. Rickey was always a great believer in technique. He hired all kinds of experts to instruct Pepper on the proper form and knee action, probably the aerodynamics of the ball, for all I know. Before long, Pepper was booting the ball through consistently from 30 and 40 yards out.
"You see how you've profited from the instruction, Johnny," Rickey beamed. "Which of the advice did you find to be most valuable?"
"Well," Pepper said, "I listened to them all and tried everything they said, and then I figured it out that what you were supposed to do was give the ball a good kick."
He'd probably have led the league in scoring, too, if he hadn't ripped a muscle in his kicking leg just before the season started.
If Martin was the spirit of the Gas House Gang, Dizzy Dean was what Babe Ruth had been to the Yankees, our big man and our good-luck charm. The guy who would tell you what he was going to do when all the marbles were on the line and then go out and do it.