Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nolan Ryan watches his Rangers win -- another righty from 1977 on the bump: Dennis Leonard

Dennis Leonard
in full stride in 1977. Love the mutton chops.

Pitchers work on a big stage in the middle of the theater. Nothing happens until they throw. They are part athlete, part actor, part magician. Good pitchers rule the bump -- the way K-Rod did last night despite having almost nothing to throw. The pitch in Dennis Leonard's hand at this moment looks like a two-seamer.

And if you think about fastball, you think about Nolan Ryan, the Express. What a moment last night when the television camera caught Nolan Ryan nervously watching his Rangers through the screen, in suit and tie, gripping and re-gripping fastball and curve on the baseball in his hand. It never goes away, does it?

Has anyone who ever stood at the top of the hill under all those eyes -- from the three decks of a major league ballpark to the single layer of wooden stands under tin roof, like Klamn Park or Heathwood Park in Kansas City -- ever forgotten the grip? Who among that little brotherhood of baseball pitchers isn't most comfortable with a baseball in his hand?

This was Game Five, Oct. 9, and Leonard took the loss. He had won Game Three 6-2, a masterful nine-inning two-hitter. Both Hal McRae and George Brett were 2 for 4, and Darrell Porter was 3 for 4 in Game Three. But in Game Five, despite McRae's 3 for 4 night, he lost in relief, replacing Steve Mingori in the ninth. The White Rat sent him out to the hill for the ninth on just 48 hours rest to protect a one run lead. He gave up a single and walk, left the game, and both runners scored after his departure. Damn Yankees. Heartbreaker.

More to come...


Photograph/ John Lofflin

No comments:

Post a Comment