Roarke rarely goes to the mound to speak with Sutter. Instead, he makes signs from the dugout—an arm twitch here, a leg twitch there, a shrug to say, "You were in the right position, the ball just didn't break." Says Merry Sue, his wife of 25 years, "He's honest and quiet and personable. He has a dry wit; I guess you'd call it a true Irish wit. He can make a person feel worthwhile or put a person in his place with one or two words."
Roarke, who celebrated his silver wedding anniversary last November by going to Mass with his wife, has little if any ego. "If a pitcher does well, I look smart," he says. " Branch Rickey had a great line. He heard a pitching coach bragging about how he'd 'made' a player. Branch's idea was to fire the coach because the club had released probably 40 or 50 pitchers the guy had worked with. He hadn't 'made' them, Branch would say.
"I don't have much use for stats," continues Roarke. "Suppose a guy does the job four times and gets blasted the fifth. He may have a high ERA, but he's pitched well enough to win four out of five times. I don't care how fast a guy's throwing but how well. A guy can get hit throwing at 90 miles per hour but dazzle you at 88. But the JUGS gun does have merit if it shows that a guy's throwing unusually slowly at the beginning of a game or is tailing off in the later innings.
"Pitching is basically a three-pronged process. There's proper arm position, which you learn on the sidelines. Then there's pitching to hitters, which is all you should think about on the mound. Finally, there's the confidence to throw certain pitches in certain situations, which only comes with success. One fellow throws a pitch a certain way. Another tries to throw the same pitch with the same grip and position and has problems. That's why pitching is such an individual process."
A football end, baseball catcher and the captain of both sports at Boston College, Roarke decided to sign with the Braves because he could get more money in baseball than football. After six years in the minors he was traded to the Tigers in a four-player deal that featured the late Charlie Lau. Roarke hit .230 as a part-time Tiger catcher from 1961 to '64. Then, after coaching three years apiece for California and Detroit, managing at Toledo, Evansville, Ill. and Wichita, Kans. for a total of five years and instructing in the Cub system for two seasons, he returned to the majors as Chicago's pitching coach in 1978. He's back this year because four of his five kids have graduated from high school and his wife told him, "Go for it!"
One reason the Cardinals may have hired Roarke is that Sutter will become a free agent at season's end. Will he break with St. Louis and his longtime coach? "Doesn't matter where I pitch," he says. "I'll have a day off, Mike will have a day off, and we'll sneak off somewhere."