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IN RELIEF: AGONY, ECSTASY AND COMEDY
George Plimpton
November 03, 1975
The author views the Series with the high-risk men in the bullpens, occupying a bubble-gummed and tobacco-spattered vantage point that yields an unusual story
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November 03, 1975

In Relief: Agony, Ecstasy And Comedy

The author views the Series with the high-risk men in the bullpens, occupying a bubble-gummed and tobacco-spattered vantage point that yields an unusual story

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One of the apparent disadvantages of the bullpen being absorbed by the dugout is that the relievers cannot exercise by roaming around a bullpen enclosure; they try to keep loose by hanging by their fingertips from the outer rim of the dugout roof. Sometimes several do it at the same time so that they resemble a row of gibbons. But most of the relievers enjoy the arrangement. At the very least, as Rawly Eastwick points out, they can see what's going on and feel more a part of a team effort.

Eastwick is the young rookie star of the Cincinnati bullpen (he had won the second game in Boston), a young man of disarming frankness. He says he has never been nervous or frightened about anything in his life; his pulse rate would be the same if he came in to relieve with the bases loaded and the game tied, or if he had a six-run lead. He is absolutely convinced he is nerveless. In a crucial moment at Boston, Joe Morgan had come running in from second base and said, "If you get uptight, step off and take a few breaths." Eastwick said later, "Well, I don't really know what he was talking about."

Someone asked him if he would be frightened by meeting a gorilla in a dark alley, just coming around a corner and seeing such a thing. Wouldn't that give him a turn? Eastwick thought it over. "Well, I don't know for sure," he said somewhat querulously, as if he knew what he was going to say would be treated skeptically. "Frankly, I don't think so. I've never been in such a situation, but I have confidence in myself. Besides," he concluded with appealing ingenuousness, "I used to wrestle in high school."

Eastwick picked up his second "W" of the Series tonight (players refer to a win as a "W"—the "Big W" is winning the Series itself) but he did not feel at all comfortable about it—especially about the Dwight Evans home run off him that had tied the score in the ninth inning. In postgame interviews a pitcher usually gives credit in such cases to the batter's prowess rather than blame his own shortcomings ("I had the pitch right where I wanted it, but then he..."). Eastwick is an exception. He could not help castigating himself. "It was a terrible pitch," he said. "It was the poorest fastball I've thrown all year. It was high and inside, just where Evans likes it. In fact, if Evans hadn't hit it out of the park, he should've been ashamed of himself."

Eastwick was standing with his family outside the clubhouse after the game, his father looking at him gravely. "I knew it was going to happen," the son was saying. "I had no concentration when I was warming up. The ball wasn't moving at all. I didn't have my fastball, velocity-wise. As a matter of fact, I had—if you really want to know—an overall feeling of lousiness."

"Why the hell couldn't you tell Sparky Anderson that and spare us all the drama?" someone asked.

"Pride," he said. "No one would ever do that. I've got too much pride to go up to Sparky Anderson and tell him a thing like that."

"You've raised your son all wrong," someone said to the elder Eastwick.

OCT. 15

Before the game Larry Shepard, the Cincinnati pitching coach, was talking about Sparky Anderson's practice of relieving his pitchers with such dispatch. "He doesn't believe in a pitcher struggling through," Shepard was saying. "He doesn't give him a chance to get into trouble. We've got such a great bullpen that it's silly not to maneuver the way we do. Of course, times come up when I second-guess him, and I want to reach for him as he's going up the steps to take the pitcher out. Would I actually ever do that? Good night, no."

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