"Take a deep
breath just before the pitch starts coming," said Waner. "Then hold
your breath till you start-to swing. That makes you relax and wait."
I had visions of
myself turning blue in the face waiting for a slow curve. I couldn't quite get
used to the idea that I should try to hit just part of the ball. It had always
been hard enough to see all of the damn thing and to hit any part of it. We
gathered the balls from all over the cage, and racked them up for another
session. My hands were forming tiny blood blisters as I swung my Wally Moon
model at Iron Mike's pitching. But all I could think about was the way the
balls sounded when I hit them. A pitcher learns to tell by the sound whether or
not a ball is well hit. On the mound you quickly put the three sensations of
sight, feel and hearing together, and you know for sure that the ball is gone,
man, gone. You watch your pitch go just where you didn't want to throw it, with
not quite as much stuff on it as you wish, and...! What a vicious sound a line
Just call me
MARCH 9: Hemus
called a meeting for the last workout before the start of the exhibition
season. "We're going to use the same signs in these games as we will all
year," he said, "so let's pay attention." He turned to Johnny
Keane jumped onto
a bat trunk, waving his ever-present fungo stick for quiet. "These are the
signs we're gonna give from third base," he said. "Solly will be on the
bench." He waved his bat, relegating Hemus forever to the dugout. "You
pitchers get together with the catchers later and work out your own signs.
These are just for hitters, and we don't want anybody missing signs cause it
just messes up everybody, including the guy who messes it up. Now, then, we're
gonna have an indicator, signs for bunting, taking and hit-and-run. We're gonna
have a take-off sign, and a sign for the squeeze play.
important is the indicator. When I rub my hand over the cardinal on my shirt,
that means a sign is on. You see me rub the bird, and you watch my right hand,
my right hand only. Forget I got a left hand. With my right hand I'm gonna
touch some part of my uniform or body. One touch—it might be my cap, or neck,
or pants, or sleeve—one touch and you're taking. Two touches and you're
bunting. Three touches, hit-and-run on that pitch cause the runner is going.
Those are the three signs you gotta look for when you go up to hit.
you're at the plate, look down at me at every pitch. Maybe I don't wanna give
you a sign, but I may be pulling at my pants leg, or rubbing my ear, or tugging
at my cap, anyway. They will be looking at me, too, trying to steal the signs,
so I'll be trying to confuse them by doing the same things when I'm not giving
a sign as I do when I am. Get me? Only when you see me hit that bird do you
know something's on. And when I give you the indicator, count the number of
touches that follow. Maybe I'll give you more than three signs! Maybe I'll give
you four or five! I'm just doing that as a decoy, in case they start to pick
something up, or we suspect they might. It only means something if I use one,
two or three touches after the indicator."
Keane had the
earnest manner of a second lieutenant outlining the intricacies of an espionage
detail. All major league clubs use indicators, decoys and signs for everything
except nose-blowing. Yet, 90% of the time the situation determines the
strategy, and an experienced player knows who will bunt or when the batter is
sign," Keane went on, "will be given to the runner only after the
batter gets the take. We don't want you hitting when that runner is trying to
steal. If we did, we'd give the hit-and-run. The steal sign is either hand
gripping the opposite elbow. It's a figure 4, and that's for stealing!"