It didn't happen quite that way. Tekulve wasn't drafted. He was more or less offhandedly invited to a tryout at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field in July of 1969. And when he got there nobody asked him to pitch—"I just sort of lolled around in the stands and watched." As it turned out, the snub was deliberate; Tekulve's performance in that morning's 60-yard dash had been just about the funniest thing the coaches had seen all year. The flailing of long arms and legs had left them chuckling and nudging each other in the ribs. "Now that's ridiculous," Tekulve told them. "If I could run, I'd be stealing bases. Listen, you guys, I'm a pitcher." As a sop they let him hang around and throw a few after everybody else had gone home—and, yep, Tekulve was signed on the spot. Two nights later he was pitching relief for the Class A Geneva (N.Y.) Pirates. In 1974, six and a half years and four minor league teams later, he was called up to Pittsburgh. Ready, at last, for Sidearming to Glory?
Not quite. Tekulve is a contemplative sort who has moved at his own pace. Between his first two minor league seasons he finished college (taking his degree in education). He has always carried a mental picture of himself as an instructor standing in front of an Ohio high school class in a three-piece suit, even if his growing celebrity now makes that dream improbable.
He enjoyed the seasons spent getting to Pittsburgh. "I was young and single and I was getting paid," he says. "Not much, but I didn't need much. I still hold the world record for sustained survival on Mrs. Smith's frozen chicken pot pies. They were cheap and really gluey and good. I ate two of them every day for my dinner for years. If I had had a good day—a save or something—I would pay myself a bonus: a turkey pot pie."
After joining the Pirates, Tekulve discovered that, on Monday nights at the Quality Courts motel in North Versailles, the drinks were free to Pittsburgh players. It was there in the summer of 1975 that he met Linda Taylor, a perky blonde with a disarming smile.
Tekulve was instantly smitten—but with those photo-grays, who could've known? Inside the bar, the lenses had darkened down to where he figured he looked coolly aloof, possibly even handsome and mysterious.
"We were both being terribly suave," he says. "This is the moment where strangers try to impress each other. And our very first conversation went something like this:
"I said to her, 'Hi, there. I'm a baseball player.'
"And she said, 'Oh, really? Well, I'm a baseball fan.'
"And I said, 'Oh, really? What's your favorite team?'
"And she said, 'Oh, I don't know. The, uh, the Chicago Dodgers.' "