There’s a pitch I can’t lay off of,
No matter how hard I try.
It first comes in so low, but rises,
from my waist to my eyes.
A sweet thing, so easy and with hope,
but an empty swing and the word comes out – nope!
So many times I said to myself, smarten up there guy,
but that pitch is so disarming, so tricky and so sly.
It comes in true, so pretty, and so straight,
like a slice of apple pie, served up on a plate.
Now it only takes a second to decide whether or not,
to swing on this little beauty and give it a healthy knock.
Here it comes again and my eyes open wide,
now my face gets all flush, my excitement I cannot hide.
In an instant, I wring the bat with my hands,
my heart does pound like a drummer, playing for a band.
Come-on my little beauty, I mummer to myself,
I shift my shoulders, move my arms and stiffen at the belt.
I swing so hard in a blur I hear the laces fly by,
up and then across my chest as squint with my eyes.
High heat again has taken me down,
as I grit my teeth and force a frown.
So strike one it is,
as the ump raising his arm and points with his fist.
I dig in again into the box,
for this pitch will be for not.
I will not be fooled again,
as the pitcher smirks and grins.
Ok Rudy, I mummer to myself,
give me your best cheese, right across the belt.
He then winds up and kicks,
and delivers from his bag of tricks.
Oh man what a beauty, so white and easy to see.
What a slow rolling beauty, this hast to be for me!
Again the pitch does rise and greets me near the chin,
and again I swing with might, but only catch the wind.
I stand there in the box in total disbelief,
I fell for it again, it robbed me like a thief.
I quickly glance down at the catcher, while spitting out his chew,
with a little smile and giggle, he whispered … “ yep, that’s strike two!”
“Ok,ok,” I stammered, “enough is enough with this thing.”
I take the bat off my shoulder, raise it up, then grit my teeth again,
I’ll have to dig down and gather my strength, deep, deep within.
Come on Rudy, stop wasting time, give me that pitch again.
As the pitcher grinds his spikes and prepares to settle in.
Here’s the pitch, but I will not be fooled again,
neither chest high or even higher, whizzing by my chin.
So I watch the ball coming in, hot just like fire,
well I’ll be darn, it crosses the plate belt high, much to my ire,
as the game is over and both sides retire.
I stand there in the box shaking my head in disbelief,
as the umpire walks slowly to me and whispers…
“son, that was strike three.”
There’s a pitch I can’t lay off of,
You just reminded me of a story about Vic Raschi when he first came up to the Yankees in 1946. He started two games and won them both, and here’s what happened in the first game he pitched. In the fourth inning he ran into trouble with two men on and a dangerous hitter at bat, only one out, and he was standing on the mound trying to figure out what to do next when he suddenly heard a voice that seemed to be coming from somewhere near him.
"He can’t hit a high fast ball."
Raschi, puzzled, called time, stepped off the rubber and looked around him. All he saw was the first-base umpire who had moved to a position between the mound and second base, as he was required to do when there were only three umps working a game and there were runners on. That ump was bent over, retying his shoelaces—and then the voice came again: "Yeah, you heard me right. He can’t hit a high fast ball."
No mistake. The umpire, Bill Summers, was talking to Raschi. And then he continued: “We Massachusetts boys have to stick together.” (Raschi was born in Springfield and Summers was from somewhere near Boston.) So Vic returned to the mound, came in there with the high heat, struck out that batter and the next and retired the side without being scored on.
Vic Raschi was from my home town.
Vic grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, played for my high school (now defunct) Springfield Technical High School (in the 1930’s) and went on to be one of the many during that period to enter the Majors.
Vic had the nickname of the “Springfield Rifle.” This was because of two things. First, his fastball was a blaze and came in like a bullet. Second, the Springfield Armory was just right up the street (less than 1/4 mile) from our high school, and the supplier of firearms for the American Military - in particular the Springfield M1903, for years. Also, the Grand M1 rifle of WW2 fame and I might add, that I shouldered - all 11 plus pounds of it, during more guard duty than I care to remember, was designed and manufactured at the Springfield Armory, in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Vic has a dedicated plaque on a baseball stadium here in Springfield, Massachusetts.