Niagara Gazette

Columns

July 7, 2013

SINGER: Flinging them like Sal 'The Barber'

Niagara Gazette — The LA Dodgers-Arizona Diamondbacks dust-up earlier this season occurred over pitchers putatively throwing at hitters (and of course a significant difference between NL and AL is that in the former league, an opposing pitcher who buzzed your guys has to bat himself, rather than be replaced at the plate by a designated hitter). Which is what led to this brawl and the commissioner’s penalties.

Back in the day, hitters whining about tight pitches would have been considered crazy, and fair game for more mistreatment, because when I was growing up, this was part of the game. One noted fear-inducer on the mound hailed from and was well known in these parts, and is memorialized by the local stadium named after him. I’m obviously talking of Sal “the Barber” Maglie, called that of course because he shaved hitters with his pitches, not because he gave good haircuts.

After his fine year for Brooklyn in 1956, I was lucky to watch Maglie hook up in the World Series against the Yanks’ Don Larsen and pitch admirably, losing of course to Larsen’s famed perfect game. After which, Yogi leapt iconically into Larsen’s arms. This must have been a weekend game on TV, otherwise school would have intervened and prevented this kid from seeing that pitchers’ duel and ultimately, a perfect game few expected from a rather goofy, unsung Larsen. (I should explain for the young who may not know that all Series games were held in the day back then.)

The great “headhunter” who followed for the Dodgers was Don Drysdale, a huge, blond guy on the mound, and scary as heck to hitters due to his speed, sidearm motion, and propensity for sticking high-speed baseballs in batters’ ribs. Making them bail out next time, and his job easier? No question. Even the top hitters of his era, like Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, had to fight their fear, which Aaron courageously did, eventually getting quite a few homers off “Dandy Don.” But Aaron has also recalled that he’d rather go to the dentist than bat against Drysdale, and many other lesser hitters were defeated by Big D’s fear-inducing comportment on the mound.

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