FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 1984
Copyright 1984/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY
This Pitcher Knows About Finishing Jobs
I never interviewed Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Grover Alexander or Christy Mathewson, but I guess one of the things that would have impressed me about all of them was their ratio of complete games to games started. Cy Young finished 751 games out of 818, Johnson 531 out of 666, and Grover Alexander 436 out of 598.
Pretty good. But how about a pitcher who finished all but two games?
I have interviewed the guys with the most no-hit games, Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax — they have five and four, respectively), but the other day I interviewed a pitcher who has 50. You heard me. Five-oh. Half a hundred.
The pitcher I talked to makes Cy Young look like an in-and-outer, Grover Cleveland look careless and Ryan look like, if not a junk pitcher, at least a guy who had to scatter hits.
Lots of pitchers strike out Reggie Jackson and lots of pitchers manage to keep him in the ballpark on his hits, but Reggie never even got a fair ball off this pitcher. He never hit the ball forward, if you please.
The pitcher I refer to is right-handed, tall (6-2), is a submariner like Kansas City’s Dan Quisenberry, has a fastball that has been clocked at 96 m.p.h., a pitch we used to call the upshoot back on the sandlots of New England and a changeup that appears to come to home plate by parachute.
The greatest earned-run average in major-league baseball history is Walter Johnson’s 2.37. This pitcher has an 0.19 ERA. Match that around the Hall of Fame.
Bob Feller has the most one-hit games in baseball, 12. This right-hander has 22. Shutouts? Well, Walter Johnson had 110. This pitcher has 111.
So, why haven’t the Dodgers signed this phenom? Shouldn’t someone with those statistics be starting the All-Star Game in San Francisco next month?
Well, there is this one tiny little complication. How would it look for the greatest ballplayers in history to get the bats stuck up their ears by a curveballer named Kathy? What kind of a part is that for Robert Redford?
The greatest pitcher I ever interviewed, by cold stats, is probably the only pitcher I thought it might be fun to go dancing with after the game. Pitchers with earrings are not that big a novelty anymore, but they look better on this one than they do on, say, Pascual Perez. Anyway, this is the only no-hit pitcher in the game who might be somebody’s mother.
Meet Kathy Arendsen, sports fans, who might do things with a thrown ball no Cy or Sandy or Rapid Robert or Big Train or Big Six ever did.
Joe McGinnity pitched five doubleheaders in his career? Kathy pitched 10 games in three days once in Salt Lake City. She pitched 26 innings once in Houston in 100-degree weather. They called McGinnity the Iron Man. Compared to Kathy, he seemed like a spot pitcher.
Of course, Kathy’s field of endeavor is the softball pitch, as the British call the field of play, where she is only 40 feet from the batter, the runners can’t steal till she lets go of the ball and the batters all swing like girls because they are girls.
On the other hand, the balls are 12 inches in diameter, the bases are only 60 feet apart, the fences are only 200 feet away and the bats are aluminum.
Cy Young won 511 games. But he lost 313. He leads in both categories. Kathy has won 162 games. But she has lost only 15. Steve Carlton has struck out more than 3,800 batters, but in 4,600 innings. Kathy has fanned 2,063 in only 1,191 innings.
Of course, Kathy pitches for a dynastic organization that makes the New York Yankees look patchwork. The Yankees won 33 pennants and 22 world championships in 64 years. Kathy’s team is the Raybestos Brakettes who have won 19 world or national championships in 36 years. The Yankees won 7,119 games in their span. They lost 5,341. The Brakettes won 1,894 and lost only 241 in their run.
“They hardly ever let a hit ball touch the ground,” Kathy says admiringly of her support. Cliques don’t form, no lightning bolts come down from the front office.
Kathy struck out Reggie Jackson three times in an exhibition in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse during the baseball strike in 1981. In 21 pitches, Reggie managed to foul two back to the screen. “Give him lots of credit,” Kathy says. “Not many ballplayers would risk it. Ted Williams is supposed to have thrown his bat in disgust.”
The greatest pitcher I have interviewed is in the L.A. area for the Women’s International Cup competition at Whittier Narrows Park today through July 4. It brings together the eight best fast-pitch women’s softball teams in the world. The Brakettes represent the U.S. against teams from Japan, China (titillatingly enough, teams from mainland China and Taipei will face each other), Holland, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Canada.
Don’t laugh. The Detroit Tigers would be underdogs in this tournament. And just remember, when I asked Kathy about her team’s bullpen, she said, “A what?” I said, “A place for relief pitchers.” And she said, “What’s a relief pitcher?”
And, why would you need one? I mean, we’re not talking Cy Young here.
Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times
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