Still, Herzog remains hopeful and says, "Our doctors gave me a positive report on John, so I hope he's all right. He's been a great pitcher. There's never been a game that I managed and John Tudor started that I didn't think we were going to win. Not many managers have said that about many pitchers."
Tudor's 109-69 lifetime record isn't Cooperstown material, but it's pretty good for a guy who showed so little talent in high school that he was once cut from the team. And it's no wonder that Herzog loves him. Check the Cardinals' media guide and at the top of the lists, ahead of Bob Gibson, Dizzy Dean and Grover Cleveland Alexander, you'll find that Tudor is St. Louis's alltime leader in winning percentage (.694 for St. Louis from 1985 to '88) and earned run average (2.54). His 20-1 finish in '85 and his gutsy Game 6 victory over the Giants in the '87 National League playoff's will be forever remembered by Cardinals fans.
When Tudor was with the Red Sox (1979-83), he threw close to 90 mph and was 23-13 in Fenway Park because he was willing to throw his fastball inside to right-handed hitters. Says Herzog, "He learned to pitch in Fenway, which is one reason he knows how to pitch so well. He uses both sides of the plate, and he's uncanny at knowing what a hitter wants to do." By the time he joined the Cardinals, Tudor's fastball was in the 85 mph range, but he had come up with what Herzog calls "one of the great changeups in the history of the game." Says Dodger scout Jerry Stephenson, "No modern pitcher has made good hitters look worse."
"What makes Tudor so tough is that first you see the ball in his hand, then you lose it in his uniform," the now-retired Mike Schmidt said two years ago when he was still with the Philadelphia Phillies. "And his delivery is exactly the same on every pitch. I don't know how he can have such a perfect fastball delivery and throw the ball 25 miles an hour slower. How many times a game do you see a batter swing at what he thinks is a fastball away, only to be halfway into the swing and realize that it's a changeup that's not due to arrive for a few more minutes?"
Boston catcher Tony Pena has caught Tudor and has hit against him. "Not only does he mess up your timing, but he has the greatest control of anyone I've ever seen," says Pena. "It's like he uses a paintbrush to tickle the outside corner, but the hitter can't lean out because he uses his fastball inside so well. Then, as the game goes along, hitters start to believe that every pitch away is a strike, so they swing. By the end of the game, they'll swing at pitches six or eight inches outside. Fastball away? He'll come in. In? He'll throw a changeup away. He just seems to know what a hitter's thinking. I'll tell you, he's the smartest pitcher I've ever seen."
But Tudor has never been the easiest personality to deal with. Says Pena, " John is a very demanding person, most of all on himself, but on others, too. Sometimes people can't understand that." Says Zimmer, "He's not the easiest person to know right away." ("That's an understatement," said Tudor's wife, Gail, when apprised of Zimmer's comment.) Tudor's close friend and former Red Sox teammate Glenn Hoffman, aware that Tudor played hockey at Peabody (Mass.) High, says, " John has a hockey mentality—come too close to him or challenge him, and instinctively the stick goes up."
During his time in Boston, Tudor would sometimes tilt his head in post-game interviews, look the interrogator in the eye and say, "That's a dumb question." Tudor's magnificent 1985 season in St. Louis ended in a series of ugly confrontations with the media. After pitching a shutout in Game 5 of that year's Series, Tudor called one writer "a schmo" and responded to another's query by saying, "That will go down as one of my alltime questions." When he was removed from Game 7 in the third inning, a number of press people stood and applauded.
But Tudor has shown another side in his media dealings. In 1983, when a female sportswriter was subjected to chauvinistic taunts in the Boston clubhouse, it was Tudor who stood up to some veteran stars and said, "Not only are you denying her the right to do her job, you're embarrassing us as a team." Then when Dodger second baseman Steve Sax yelled at a writer during the '88 Series, Tudor convinced Sax that his action had been unfair, and Sax immediately apologized to the writer.
Tudor's confrontations are less a reflection of any inherent antagonism than of his natural guardedness. "I don't enjoy talking about myself," he says. "I'm not a spotlight person, I'm not a me person." In that way, he takes after his father, Melton, who in 1985 declined local TV stations' requests for interviews and who has never been to Fenway Park, 16 miles from his house, even though his son pitched there. Says Tudor of his father, "It isn't that he's disinterested. He watches the games on television. But he isn't the type of parent who is living out his life through me. He is who he is, and he's happy being that person, as he should be."
When John was growing up it probably never occurred to Melton, an engineer, that his son would ever set foot on the mound at Fenway. After an unimpressive high school career, John made the college team at Georgia Southern, but barely—he was the Eagles' fifth starter. "I knew my time could be short," Tudor says. "Then I hurt my arm my last year there . Ever since, it's been 15 years of pain: sleeping, sitting in movies, driving long distances."