At some time just about every pitcher will have an "off"day when nothing seems to be working for him. I remember when the Yankees’ pitchers had a name for that; they called it “taking one’s turn in the barrel”, where the starting pitcher would be left in there to take his lumps, either because the pitching staff needed to catch up with itself as a result of injury or everybody being overworked—I saw plenty of that, believe me. The thing to remember is that it does happen, and unless the pitcher, because of illness or injury, had no business being out there he should just shrug it off, put it aside (as buwhite astutely observed) and go on to the next start.
As for the umpire “squeezing” the pitcher’s strike zone, forcing him to throw it down the middle where the batters could get good wood on it—we have to remember that the men in blue are, after all, human, and anything could have happened to set this ump off like that—a fight with his wife, the dog did something that earned it a good swift kick, a phone call informing him that he had an appointment with the IRS for an audit, you name it. In Hawaii they have a word for things like that; they call it “pilikia”, and it means any and all kinds of trouble, from the most inconsequential annoyance to the direst catastrophe. Okay. So the plate umpire was having “pilikia” of one kind or another—but one thing the pitcher cannot do is take it personally, allow his emotions to get the better of him, or he won’t last very long at any level of the game. That’s one thing the kid needs to do, is learn that.
And you, the parent, really should have gone with your gut on this issue. If the kid was really feeling crummy, even though he insisted he was fine, you should have kept him home for a couple of days. So he would have missed a start—a little rest won’t do any harm, and he would have been feeling a lot better for that next start. It has been said that the pitchers are being babied too much these days—but you don’t fool with a physical ailment that can screw up one’s concentration.
I have to tell you this story—it’s a funny one, and it happens to be very true. You know about the balk rule. Well, in the early fifties, even a little before that, the Yankee pitchers were getting away with murder, coming to just a slight hesitation before delivering the pitch from the stretch instead of coming to a full one-second stop. The umpires had been ignoring it, but come 1952 they decided they were going to enforce that rule. One day Vic Raschi was pitching, and with a runner on base he came to that slight hesitation, and the umpire called him for a balk. This happened three more times in that game—I think the record still stands—and Raschi was ready to go through the roof. But Allie Reynolds managed to calm him down and said that he would put a stop to it.
The next day Reynolds was pitching, and at one point there was a runner on base. Reynolds got the ball from the catcher—and he held on to it and held on to it and held on to it. Then he called time, stepped off the rubber, went to the rosin bag and futzed around with it for a minute or so. then got back on the mound—and held on to the ball and held on to the ball and held on to the ball. The plate umpire was getting very nervous, perhaps even exasperated, and he walked out to the mound and asked Reynolds, “Why don’t you throw the ball?” The pitcher’s reply: “I’m afraid to.” Allie Pierce Reynolds—who was not afraid of anything. The umpire persisted: “Why are you afraid to throw the ball?” Reynolds said, "Because if I let go of the ball you’ll call me for a balk."
The umpire spluttered and then burst out laughing—and finally he decreed that for the rest of the season the Yankee pitchers, and only the Yankee pitchers, would be allowed to come to that slight hesitation when pitching from the stretch.
The following year everybody paid attention to that balk rule. 8)