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Morning Briefing

John's Joke Is on Sain--and the Hitters

July 22, 1987

When Johnny Sain was the pitching coach of the Chicago White Sox, he once said of Tommy John: "He'll never be more than a 13- or 14-game winner. He's a momma's boy."

Sain's prediction might have held up if John hadn't thrown his elbow out in 1974 and undergone radical surgery.

"When they operated, I told them to put in a Koufax fastball," John has said. "They did, but it was a Mrs. Koufax fastball."

He meant that as a joke, but the joke was on the hitters. His off-speed stuff produced one ground ball after another, and it wasn't long before he was a 20-game winner.

Said Minnesota's Gary Gaetti after John had pitched the New York Yankees to a 7-1 victory over the Twins Monday night: "Tommy wasn't fooling anybody. He was just throwing his pitches, and we were just hitting them into the ground, hitting them into the ground, into the ground. It's kind of irritating that you never really get one good thing to hit. It's amazing."

Five years ago, before he turned 40, John was asked what kind of pitches he employed.

"Four basic ones," he said. "Fastball, curve, slider and changeup--plus eight illegal ones."

Trivia Time: Kansas City's Hal McRae, who retired as a player this week, did what in the 1977 Championship Series that resulted in what was called the "Hal McRae Rule"? (Answer below.)

When a reader wondered if Jack Clark had set some kind of record with his 86 RBIs before the All-Star break, Ray Corio of the New York Times checked it out and found he wasn't close.

In 1935, Detroit first baseman Hank Greenberg had 100 RBIs before the All-Star break. More amazing than that, he didn't even make the All-Star team. New York's Lou Gehrig and Philadelphia's Jimmy Foxx were named ahead of him. Greenberg wound up with 170 RBIs that year.

The subject was brushback pitches, and Jeff Torborg, the Yankee bullpen coach who caught Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale with the Dodgers, told Moss Klein of the Sporting News: "They were as contrasting in style as they could possibly be. Drysdale would knock a whole lineup down, and he was always ready to retaliate if any of our guys got hit.

"With Sandy, there was always the feeling he was afraid of hurting somebody. Hitters want their pitchers to retaliate, but nobody ever said anything to Sandy. We knew how he felt, and as successful as he was, how could you complain?"

Walt Hriniak, Boston Red Sox hitting coach, on Wade Boggs: "He's the best hitter in the last 50 years. What he's done his first five years in baseball you gotta go back to Cobb and Hornsby. People don't realize just how great he is."

The top 10 since 1900: Ty Cobb .367, Rogers Hornsby .358, Joe Jackson .356, Wade Boggs .354, Lefty O'Doul .349, Tris Speaker .345, Ted Williams .344, Babe Ruth .342, Harry Heilmann .342, Bill Terry .341.

Nancy Lopez admitted it was tough to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame, but when asked if they had made it too tough, she laughed and said: "It's fair now that I'm in."

Trivia Answer: Against the Yankees, he went out of the basepath to bowl over Willie Randolph on a force play at second, setting the stage for a brawl later. The next year, the out-of-the-basepath rule was more strictly enforced.

Quotebook

Rick Leach of the Toronto Blue Jays, after that 15-14 loss to the Yankees: "Maybe this means we'll get an Arena Football team."

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