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Morning Briefing

This Pitch Drove 'Em Crazy, or Into Oblivion

June 20, 1986

Rip Sewell still delights in telling stories about the blooper ball he used to throw for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ted Williams hit one for a home run in the 1946 All-Star game, but nobody else ever did.

"Whitey Kurowski of the Cardinals, he wouldn't swing at it. He'd just spit tobacco juice on it," Sewell told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Press.

"Eppie Miller of the Reds let one hit him right in the rump. He started toward first base, but George Magerkurth, the umpire, called him back. He said, 'Eppie, the rule book says you have to try to get out of the way of the ball, and you had five minutes to get out of the way of that one.'

"The Reds had a player named Ginsberg. He was mouthing off the whole game about hitting the blooper ball, but when he got his chance he struck out. He went right to the clubhouse, and to this day, no one knows what happened to him. He was never seen again in baseball."

Add Sewell: He's 79, and he has two artificial legs, the result of surgery for a circulatory problem, but he plays golf three times a week in retirement in Florida.

He jokes about his wooden legs.

"I used to be 6-1 1/2, but now I'm 6-0. That's because of the termites," he said.

"I have no corns, bunions or ingrown toenails, and my feet never smell. I just change my socks every six months and spray for termites once a year."

Willie Mays, who lost almost two full years to military service early in his career, told Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News, "That might have taken away from my home run totals, but I grew up in the Army. I got stronger."

He told this one: "I broke my leg in the Army. The next day there was a phone call from Leo Durocher. He said to go home. I told him I was in the Army and that he didn't run the Army, so how could I go home?"

Said General Manager Bob Ferry of the Washington Bullets the day after the club had acquired Moses Malone: "Our phones are ringing off the hook. We've sold more season tickets in one day than we would have in two months last summer. We got here this morning, and the cleaning crews were answering the phones."

Add Malone: Philadelphia 76ers owner Harold Katz said, "Moses is 31 but he plays like he's 35."

Remember Bill DeWitt? He was the Cincinnati Reds' general manager who said after Frank Robinson was traded to Baltimore, "Robinson is 30 but he's an old 30."

The next year, Robinson won the American League triple crown as he led the Orioles to a World Series championship. He played 10 more years.

Add 76ers: Said Roy Hinson, after he was traded to Philadelphia from Cleveland: "The first thing I'm going to do is start studying films of Kevin McHale."

Will Fernando Valenzuela finally become a 20-game winner? At his current pace he will finish 25-10. He barely missed in 1982, when he went 19-13.

Dave Parker of the Cincinnati Reds, on outfielder Eric Davis, a Fremont High School graduate: "He has phenomenal ability and world-class speed. He's going to stand this league on its head."


Eddie Murray of the Baltimore Orioles, after trying on glasses for the first time: "I found out there are a lot of ugly people out there."

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