Reading this series of posts concerning learning a new pitch set me off on a trip down memory lane---back to September 17, 1951 to be exact. I had just turned sixteen, and all through the spring and summer I had been thinking I needed another pitch, and I thought that pitch might well be the slider. To make a long story short, I played hooky from school on that day and went to the ball game at Yankee Stadium, where I watched Ed Lopat outpitch Bob Lemon 2-1---and suddenly, don't ask me how I knew, but I knew that Lopat was the one I would need to ask about that pitch. After the game I asked him, albeit with some trepidation because I had had no idea what to expect, and his response was to motion to me silently to follow him away from the crowd outside the clubhouse and out in front of the ballpark. And he showed me how to throw a good slider.
While I was familiarizing myself with the pitch he watched me and made some mental notes---about the fact that I was a true sidearmer who used a slide-step and had a consistent release point, all sorts of things like that. He was forming in his head a jumping-off point from which he could work with me. And that started a wonderful pitching relationship that lasted almost four years; he knew where I was at, and he took me in hand, worked with me and helped me become a better pitcher than I had been. I was thrilled to pieces, and at the same time I felt comfortable and relaxed with him, and I will never forget that experience. What a high point it was when I used that slider for the first time in a relief appearance in which I got my side out of a jam!
Believe me, there's nothing quite like learning a new pitch and making it part of one's arsenal, using it in games and winning with it. That slider became my strikeout pitch.