SI Vault
 
HERE IT COMES, SPECIAL DELIVERY
Bob Ottum
May 05, 1980
Batters dread facing Reliever Kent Tekulve, whose sidearm pitches arrive by way of third base, but in Pittsburgh he's earned the stamp of approval
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
May 05, 1980

Here It Comes, Special Delivery

Batters dread facing Reliever Kent Tekulve, whose sidearm pitches arrive by way of third base, but in Pittsburgh he's earned the stamp of approval

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6

Tekulve is hunched forward on his clubhouse stool. He is wearing two articles of clothing: cotton underdrawers of the style your grandmother called snuggies, and over that, tattered long-john bottoms that extend to mid-calf. Both garments reveal moth holes. He is also wearing oversize aviator glasses with photo-gray lenses; they darken or brighten with every nuance of light, maybe even match his moods.

"Some of these fastball pitchers tend to think of their arm as something with a life all its own," he says. "They give it anthropomorphic qualities, as if it wasn't even attached. I mean, they hold real dialogues with their arms like, urn, like Mark Fidrych talks to a ball." The conversations, Tekulve muses, go something like this:

Pitcher: Hello, arm. How are you feeling today?

Arm: I won't lie to you. I got a twinge.

Pitcher: My God! A twinge? Oh, my God, where?

Arm: Right here, at the bicep. I'm surprised you don't feel it.

Pitcher: Oh, Lord. I do now.

"Now, in an odd sort of way," Tekulve says, "this kind of madness actually makes sense for a power pitcher who lives in constant fear of blowing himself out. Baseball is full of sore-arm tragedies. But that's not for me. Physiologically, your arm is built to hang at your side. It follows that if you can pitch as closely as possible to that position you're O.K. Throwing overhead, the muscles are all out of position; they lift up off the bone. But mine don't. I follow the contours of the way my arms are built."

Hearing this, Tanner nods in agreement, but the wonder of Tekulve's sidearming leaves him inarticulate. "I don't know how to explain it," he says. "It's a natural motion, not forced. It's like, you know, it's like when a person walks. People walk with their arms swinging naturally at their sides, right? They don't walk around holding one arm up over their shoulder, see what I mean? Well, then. That's it, you see?"

"Come to think of it," says Tekulve, "maybe I do look a little like Paul Newman at that."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6