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Now I'm out of baseball I guess it's all right to talk about my pitching," Elwin Charles (Preacher) Roe said. He was dressed in street clothes and rested one foot on the top step of the Brooklyn dugout in Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Dodgers were in for a three-game series with the Cards and The Preach had come up from West Plains, Mo., 155 miles away, to see his old teammates.
"Lot of people have asked me what I used to throw," Roe said, his eyes still on the Dodgers, who were taking batting practice. He turned with a self-conscious movement, as though he were taking off his shirt in public. "I like to tell 'em it was my sinker. Well, you know, the ball did drop real pretty, but it was more than a little ol' sinker. I guess it won't hurt anybody to tell the truth now. I threw spitballs the whole time I was with the Dodgers. Seven years in all."
The fact that he finally had said it seemed to give Roe a kick. He laughed.
"This isn't a confession and my conscience doesn't bother me a bit. Maybe the book says I was cheating, but I never felt that way. I wasn't the only one that did it. There still are some guys wetting 'em up right now. I know one or two of them, but it's not up to me to tell their names. When they get ready to, 'maybe they will. I'm just going to talk about me; why I did it, and why I don't think there's anything wrong with it.
"A pitcher will take any little advantage he can today, and I don't blame him. I'd pitch in front of the rubber when I had a chance. I never used a cut ball much, but I wasn't too proud to—and neither are a lot of the guys around the league.
"One time last year when I was being relieved I stood on the mound and cut a ball with my fingernail real deep. I handed it to the new boy and said: " 'I've got a hole in that one if you want to use it. You can get another ball if you want.'
" 'Give it to me,' he said—and he struck out the next batter on three pitches. He's still around, so I'm not gonna say who it was.
"I don't say all the little tricks pitchers use now and then should be legalized, but, hell, the spitball should be. It's not dangerous—no more than the knuckler, and nobody's outlawed that. If they want to know the real truth, you can control a spitter lots easier than a knuckler. And there ain't many things meaner than a fast ball thrown up close to the head."
Roe turned back to the field and watched Carl Erskine lazily throwing in his first warm-up pitches to Dixie Howell.
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