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O'Toole is a confident, breezy young man. When he was a boy, his father tried to change him into a right-hander. He refused. The nuns at school tried next. He still refused. That stubborn streak remains. "No one could tell him how to pitch," says a teammate. "He was going to learn it all himself and by golly if he didn't."
O'Toole signed with the Reds in 1958 for a $50,000 bonus and spent the season in Nashville. He won 20 games, was voted Minor League Player of the Year and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. "I didn't have any speaking lines," he says. "I just smiled. Whitey Ford was on the same show."
O'Toole was a diligent worker. He wrote THINK on the back of his glove, kept tape-recorded notes on how to pitch to batters and jotted down the preachings of Birdie Tebbetts, then the Cincinnati manager. The Reds brought him up in 1959, and he finished with a 5-8 record. Last year he was 12-12.
In one game last year he gave up three bunt singles to Bill White of the Cardinals. The third time it happened, Fred Hutchinson arrived at the mound as though by catapult. "I'm sorry, Babe," O'Toole said brashly. "I gave him my best shot."
"Well, Babe," growled Hutch, "your best shot isn't good enough."
"He's still an immature kid," says one of the Cincinnati sportswriters. "He's likely to call you anything. But it's that same spirit that's going to make him a great pitcher."
Bob Purkey, 32, won 16 games this year. He threw a knuckle ball often enough and well enough to cause the Cincinnati management to buy an exceptionally large catcher's glove like the one Baltimore uses when Hoyt Wilhelm is at work. Purkey does not throw hard. "Watch him warm up and you wouldn't give 5¢ for him," Birdie Tebbetts once said. "But he gets them out."
Several years ago Purkey was watching the Yankees and Braves in the World Series. Eddie Mathews got up with the bases loaded and the Yankees brought in a new pitcher. "How would you like to be coming in to pitch in a position like that?" his wife asked him.
"Just give me a chance," Purkey said to her. He has that chance now.
Jim Brosnan, 32, spent five years in the majors as a pitcher of little distinction, then wrote a book (SI, March 7, 1960)—a witty and acid diary of a baseball season—and suddenly found himself one of the most controversial players in the game. His pitching, as if responding to this stimulus, improved sharply. This year, winning 10 games and saving 16 more, Brosnan has become one of the best relief pitchers in baseball.