Humdingers and Head Scratchers
Why not start the new year with a jolt? From a man who mixes pot and pancakes, throws his own pitch (the Leephus), and has something to say about everything comes “Baseball Eccentrics.”
1. Lee presents his cast of characters as just that, men who not only threw the baseball well, but by golly, they tossed the usual school of thought right out the window.
Satchel Paige was plenty accomplished and pitched plenty long to get there. He also took it all in along the way. “I never rush myself. See, they can’t start the game without me,” the pitcher said (28, Baseball).
The Dizzy Dean Dictionary and What’s What in Baseball has its own pearls, Lee says. Here’s why, according to its namesake: The trouble is, I figured, that there ain’t no good expert source where you kin look up some of the words – I mean the real technical words that’s used by the players and has growed right out of baseball.” (38)
2. Baseball’s dog days need players like Jay Johnstone.
One day in San Francisco, the Dodgers were the lucky or unlucky recipients of some brownies. They were melting, but that didn’t mean they had to go to waste. Johnstone put a chocolate-covered baseball in Steve Garvey’s mitt. He then wiped more chocolate on the backside of another teammate’s pants. Garvey dropped the ball as soon as he could when he spotted the teammate with soiled pants.
3. You know that someone who still suits up professionally at age 63 is going to offer readers something a little different than would your average baseball historian.
Few others, Lee says, would have the wherewithal to draw the gall of one’s own manager and the opposition at the same time, but that’s what Lee did. Lee used one of those games that everybody prays would just be called to his advantage. With rain pouring down, Lee tossed 14 consecutive slow curveballs. The pitches not only required patience to hit but also acute concentration with water in one’s eyes. Lee knew what he was doing, and as usual his strategy worked.
That’s Bill Lee for you. A member of the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals, whose mission states in part that they are “dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history and to exploring the national pastime’s unparalleled creative possibilities.” (xvi)
Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. During the 2009 season, Miller served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.