Meat. You're only pitching because we got nobody else."
John was a
wonderful inspiration to young pitchers. I'm glad he wasn't catching that day.
He might've told the hitters what was coming. Don't laugh, I've seen that
happen in spring training when a game's gone on too long.
When a rookie
does well, it fouls up the manager's plans. So he lets you pitch until you have
a bad inning, which happens sooner or later. Then he can ship you out as
planned. Trouble was, I never had a bad inning. I had about 35 good ones. When
spring training was over, the Yankees had no choice. They had to keep me.
Last spring with
the Braves, I felt just like I did in '62. I wasn't in their plans. One bad
inning, and I'd be history. So what I did was pitch 13 scoreless innings. It
didn't keep them from releasing me anyway. The way they did it was typical
baseball. It's almost comforting to know that in some ways the game will never
It was the
morning before our last workout, and we were standing around the clubhouse,
waiting to go on the field. I remember looking down at my gray practice
uniform, wondering whether I would exchange it for a Richmond (AAA) or Savannah
(AA) uniform. Then something funny happened during roll call. They didn't
mention my name. This was surprising since I was standing right up front, like
I always did. "Hey, you missed me," I said brightly. Coach Ken Rowe
stared intently at some microscopic dot on his clipboard. Everybody else's eyes
were on me. "Didn't Hank tell you?" said Rowe. Tell me what, I
wondered. Hank hadn't told me anything all spring, not even hello. "You
better see Hank," said Rowe, still examining his clipboard. Then I knew.
Everyone knew. The only thing Hank wanted to tell me was goodby. It was like
that old military joke where they break the news from home that someone's
mother has died: "Now listen up. All those men with mothers take one step
forward. Not so fast, Johnson."
It was the same
years ago with the Yankees, who had subtle ways of letting you know your
services were no longer needed. You'd come in after a day's workout, and
everyone's equipment bag would be packed for the next day's road trip.
Everyone's bag, that is, except those marked for extinction. "Hey, how come
my bag isn't packed?" It's been nice knowing you.
I should have
suspected something when Hank didn't watch me pitch even one inning. The other
players told me not to feel bad about that because Hank hardly saw anyone play.
He didn't like to watch ball games, probably because he'd played in so many
himself. The players said Hank would come to a few of their games during the
season and then leave early. Very early, like in the first or second inning.
"As soon as he finished his beer." Once, they said, he'd left during
the national anthem.
The players said
I should be glad that at least Hank knew my name. As a running joke, they did
instant replays of meetings with Hank that they swore actually took place.
you've been released, Bob."
"My name is