WITH THE baseball season fast approaching, we are reminded of the description of a former major leaguer who plays a prominent role, in the fan's eyes, at Oriole games.
Here is that description, from the long-defunct Sport Life magazine (August, 1949). The author was one of the best baseball writers ever, Dick Young:
"The lanky 18-year-old kid stood on the mound at Durham, N.C., and tried not to shake too much. In a moment, he would be throwing his first pitch in professional baseball. He was scared. He wound up and fired with all the nervous energy in his bony frame. The blurred ball flew over the head of the petrified batter. . . over the head of the frantically leaping catcher. . . over the head of the amazed umpire. . . tore through the chicken-wire screen of the press-box. . . and landed in the eye of a terrified reporter, who wore dark glasses for many days to come.
"The lanky 18-year-old kid stood on the mound at Syracuse, N.Y., a couple of months later, and tried not to shake too much. In a moment, he would be throwing his first pitch in the International League. He was thrilled, and he was scared. He wound up and fired. The blurred ball flew feet behind the pulled-in head of the batter. . . past the lunging catcher and ducking umpire. . . and boomed with frightening force against the canvas backdrop.
"Less than a month later the lanky 18-year-old kid stood on the mound in Brooklyn, and shook inwardly and violently. In a moment, he would be throwing the first big league pitch of his life. He quivered like a dish of Jello in a hurricane. He wound up and fired. The blurred ball flew wide of the plate and buried itself in the stomach of the gasping batter."
The pitcher was Rex Barney, who would go on to no-hit the hated New York Giants and for a season, at least, became the mainstay of the Brooklyn Dodgers' pitching staff. Now he is the public address announcer for the Orioles. Let's hope his first "pitch" in the new stadium is more on target than his first pitches were in 1943.