Niagara Gazette

Columns

July 7, 2013

SINGER: Flinging them like Sal 'The Barber'

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Despite a blazing fastball, imposing physique, and resolute nature, Drysdale did not come to the Majors fully assured as a brushback pitcher. Rather, this callow Brooklyn rookie in ‘56 learned from one grizzled vet on the club named Maglie. “The Barber” helped Drysdale put the fear of God into hitters and also showed him how to use the right pitch (fastball, curve, etc.) at the right time.

Drysdale came to full fruition as a star in the ‘60s, and of course for the team which broke Brooklyn’s heart by moving out to sunny California--the LA Dodgers. He glittered alongside the great Koufax and with the incomparable Maury Wills at shortstop, who preferred Koufax to Drysdale; and the Dodgers again became a great club during the first half or so of the ‘60s, watched faithfully by Hollywood stars, including Sinatra (who had a seat near third base), Dean, and the rest.

Playing in a beautiful new ballpark, they were known for pitching, defense, speed (Wills the greatest base-stealer since Ty Cobb and one who made intentional spiking on base paths look accidental), rather than for hitting the long ball.

Now of course the current Dodgers have been struggling in the N.L. West division, and much has obviously changed–baseball no longer the central American sport it was in the ‘50s or ‘60s. There’s much competition not only from football, hockey, and the rest, but also computers or cellphones that claim much youthful time now.

And today, as noted, inside tosses at the Major League level now produce brawls, umpires’ warnings, and often commissioner’s penalties. The era of Sal “the Barber” has passed, but the most famous pitcher from Niagara Falls is still remembered as much as South Buffalo’s Hall of Fame hurler against whom he often pitched, Warren Spahn. More on Spahnie perhaps another time...

B. B. Singer has taught at several colleges in the area, including Niagara University.

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