There. Feel better? Those of you who've felt a little guilty these past weeks of spring for all the hours you've spent watching baseball, basketball, USFL football and Stanley Cup hockey can settle back now in that easy chair and enjoy the rest of the NBA playoffs.
JUMPING ON POP'S CURVEBALL
It was something of a family affair when they put on a varsity vs. alumni baseball game at Perquiman High in Hertford, N.C. a couple of Saturdays ago. The baseball coach at Perquiman is Peter Hunter, whose 14-year-old nephew, Todd, plays shortstop. Pitching for the alumni was Todd's 38-year-old father, Jim, who 21 years ago pitched the school to the North Carolina state championship. Jim is somewhat better known to baseball fans as Catfish Hunter, pitching ace of the pennant-winning Oakland A's and New York Yankees in the 1970s.
This was Hunter's third appearance with the alumni but the first time he had faced his son, a freshman who hit .444 in 17 games this season. Four hundred fans turned out to watch the father-son confrontation—or possibly just to enjoy the barbecued-chicken dinner that was part of the festivities. Catfish, who regularly throws batting practice for the high school team, was pumped up when the game started and struck out the first two batters.
"Then," Hunter says, "someone in the stands yelled, 'This ain't fun!' so I eased off a bit." His son was the first batter in the second inning. Catfish, who was known for his shrewd pitching head during his 15 seasons in the majors, had been setting Todd up all week. "I told him I was going to throw him nothing but fastballs," he says, but on the first pitch he threw the boy a curve. "I tried to trick him," Cat says, "but I got the ball inside."
Todd, who has a good batting head, according to his uncle, jumped on the pitch and drilled it down the leftfield line for a double. His father, perhaps a bit shaken, gave up a two-run homer to the next batter, but otherwise he yielded only one hit and a walk in his three-inning stint, to go with those two early strikeouts.
It was a pretty good game, with the varsity breaking a 5-5 tie in the sixth inning to win 6-5, although the high point for the Hunters was undoubtedly Todd's double. Did the son gloat a little because of his extra-base hit off his Cy Young Award-winning father? "Nah," says Catfish, "he didn't say a word. But after the game he was happy...real happy."