"This one day, I fingered the tip of my cap, and leaned forward to take the sign. Jim backed out of the batter's box and gave me a real hard look. He stepped back in again—and I touched my cap again. He stepped out. We did this three times. Finally, ol' Jim stood there, blind mad, and said: 'Throw the sonuvabuck and I'll hit it anyway.'
"I floated up a big, slow curve. Russell was so wound up looking for the wet one he couldn't unravel himself to swing. He just spit at the ball in disgust as it went by.
"Jim and the other guys who thought I was getting the spit when I went to my cap were close. I tried that in the early days, but I gave it up because it was too dangerous. I had to figure out a way to load up without getting caught. All one winter I wore my baseball cap. I'd be sitting in my living room with it on, and even wore it out in the woods when I was hunting."
Roe's hand strayed to his forehead. It dropped and he leaned forward.
"For hours at a time," he went on, "all I thought about was some foolproof way to get the spit to the ball without getting caught. I said to myself: 'They'll be watching me close after I come away from the resin bag. That is when they'll expect me to do the wetting. I got to set up the spitter before I go for the resin bag. I got to have a secret "source of supply" so I can squeeze the resin bag in my fingers, rub up the ball, and still keep the spit.'
"I fooled around with that idea for a long time. You know, I ain't very quick. Then one day it came to me. Look, you try it. Put your left hand up on your forehead."
Roe got up to demonstrate.
"The meaty part is just in front of your mouth when your ringers touch your brow," he said from behind his hand. "Your two first fingers can just reach the meaty part. 'Spit on the meat,' I told myself, 'and when you move your hand up it looks good and natural like, like you're goin' to wipe the sweat off your forehead.'
"After that, it was just a matter of practice. I finally got so I could hit the spot on the move. Once in a while, I'd miss; not completely, but just enough so the spit would land down near my wrist. I even thought of a gimmick to fix that. Did you ever notice me snap my arm up over my head, and then bring it down sharp—like I was trying to get my arm loose? There was nothing wrong with the arm. I was snapping the spit down to where I could reach it with the flick of my fingertips. My wife used to worry when she saw me do that. She thought I was having arm trouble, until I told her what I really was doing.
"When I first started I thought I needed a trick to cover me up when I reached back with my fingers to get the spit. That's when I started tugging at my belt. Try that one, too. Stick your thumb down inside the beltline of your pants, and press the knuckle of your index finger on the outside of your belt. Clench your fist when you do it. That's the natural way to hitch your trousers. And it brings your fingers right where you want 'em.