THE HUNTER AND THE HUNTED
Things get a little topsy-turvy now and then in spring training baseball games. Pitchers named Grpstlk strike out batters named Mantle, and batters named Schmbbdl hit home runs off pitchers named Maglie. It really doesn't matter, since Mantle and Maglie are merely working themselves into playing condition and since Grpstlk and Schmbbdl will have to produce a good deal more than one strikeout or one home run to prove to their bosses that they deserve a place on the major league roster.
Occasionally, though, the mock battle between unknown rookie and established star becomes brilliantly real, if only for an electric moment or two, and then, as they say, class will tell. Rookie Pitcher Mark Freeman of the New York Yankees, a big, rangy righthander with high hopes for the future, was pitching against Stan Musial, the marvelous St. Louis Cardinal hitter, who includes among his most valuable assets burning competitive fire and considerable pride. Young Freeman threw a good fast ball, and Musial swung hard and missed cleanly. The crowd stirred. You don't see Musial actually swing and miss very often.
Freeman threw again, a similar pitch, and again Musial swung hard and missed. The reaction was stronger now: two swinging strikes on Musial! In the Cardinals' dugout the players sitting along the bench were more amused than distressed, since it is axiomatic in the National League that it doesn't do to get two strikes on Musial, because that's when he's most dangerous: when his pride and competitive fire are stirred to action.
"You got two strikes on him," old Walker Cooper yelled out to Freeman. "What in the world are you going to do now?"
Freeman pawed the mound, set himself and threw a waste pitch for ball one. The Cardinals on the bench watched him, an almost evil amusement in their eyes. Suddenly it seemed apparent that the hunter, Freeman, was now the hunted, and with no place to hide. Too smart to try another fast ball, the young pitcher tried a change-up curve, a half-speed pitch designed to throw Musial's timing off. Against a weaker batter it could have been a most effective maneuver. But Musial, uncoiling his remarkably lithe body, whipped his bat around and sent the ball far over the right-field fence for a home run. The crowd roared its appreciation, and the Cardinal bench glowed with pride.
On the mound young Mark Freeman turned away and punched his glove in anger and disappointment. Old Cooper was still watching him.
"Don't you fret," he called out comfortingly. "An $8,000 pitcher isn't supposed to strike out an $80,000 hitter."
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
The Laysan Albatross—better known as the gooney bird—began using Midway Island as a nesting site long before the U.S. Navy planes began using it for the same purpose. The gooney has remained completely unperturbed by the metal interlopers; goonies, in fact, will perform their mating dance—a coy sort of rock 'n' roll in which the dancers alternately clack their long, ugly beaks and hide their heads beneath their wings—in the very path of an oncoming airplane. The Navy, however, grows more exasperated with the goonies—which average six or seven pounds, have five-foot wingspreads and could cause horrendous consequences if sucked into the intake of a jet airplane—with every passing month.