Hemus broke in
with, "And you don't have to wait till the outfielder catches the ball
before you tag up. Cheat a little bit, especially at first and second when
you're going to tag up after a fly ball. They'll never call it on you, so just
before the ball hits the outfielder's glove, make your break and take off
thing. When you're on first and the next guy hits a ground ball, there's only
one thing you should have on your mind. Knock that shortstop or second baseman
down. Don't let him make a double play. He's only 90 feet away and he has to
catch the ball, tag second and worry about you hitting him, and he might not
even make that play. When you slide into second keep that front foot up in the
air. You don't have to cut him, mind you, but sometimes that's the way it goes.
Your job is to break up the double play."
MARCH 5: Why
can't pitchers hit? Because I've blushed in answering that question too many
times in the past 10 years, I find myself taking it seriously. I can answer, as
I often have, "We don't get the necessary practice" or, "Pitchers
bear down harder on other pitchers" or, "Who says I can't?" but
serious meditation has led me to the galling conclusion that the answer lies
not within me at all. Nor within the subjective conscience of any nonhitting
pitcher. If you don't hit, you can't hit, probably. Good God, it might really
Shaken by this
horrible possibility, I rushed out to right field, seeking the truth. At Al
Lang Field in St. Petersburg there is a plot of ground 75 feet long, 15 feet
wide, completely enclosed by a mesh of three-ply cord. At one end of this cage
stands a pitching machine roughly the height of Whitey Ford, with flat tires,
guts of iron and a motor in its rear. This is Iron Mike, and he throws
baseballs in the general direction of the plate 60 feet away, much as a
flesh-and-blood pitcher does.
The only human
element in this training procedure is Paul Waner, an ex-wizard at hitting major
league pitching, and the object of my search for an authoritative opinion on
the question: Can Pitchers Hit or Not?
not?" said Paul. "Let me see you swing a bat."
Waner looks like
a bearded gnome, the figment of a wild Irish imagination. At his best playing
weight, 140 pounds, he could have passed for an ex-jockey sidling up to tout a
favorite horse. Yet Fred Fitzsimmons, the pitching coach when I was with the
Cubs, said Waner hit the ball through the box harder than any other hitter that
Fitz faced in the major leagues.
Paul," I said, as Waner racked up a dozen balls in the pitching machine,
"if you can make a hitter out of me, you're worth more money—both you and
you hit a few first, then I'll see if I can help you." Waner waved me to
the other end of the cage and plugged in his pitcher. For the next few minutes
the only sounds to be heard were the hum of the electric motor, the swish of my
bat and occasionally a few plops and plinks as the ball and bat connected
lounging at the ball," said Paul.