The Secrets of Pitching's Outlaws

The Brooklyn Dodgers met an old friend on a trip to St. Louis early in the 1955 season. Preacher Roe, a sly and slender lefty who had just retired to West Plains, Mo., entertained his former teammates at the Chase Hotel. He needed their advice.

“We sat around a big table, all talking to Preacher,” recalls Carl Erskine, a top Dodgers starter then. “He said, ‘Fellas, I want to ask you a question: Sports Illustrated has offered me $2,000 to tell them how I threw the spitter. You think I should do that or not? With that $2,000 I can blacktop my driveway and I can fix up my house. I could really use that $2,000. What do you think?'

“The guys all said, ‘Yeah, go ahead, Preach, sure, why not?' I did not. I admired Preacher. He was a great study to watch pitch. He was very clever and won a lot of games; he was really a pitcher's pitcher. So I didn't say yes to that. As we were leaving the dining room, Preacher said, ‘I didn't hear you speak up.' I said, ‘No, I didn't, Preacher. You were such an outstanding pitcher without the spitter, I'd hate to see you taint your whole career by talking about throwing it.'

“So anyway, Preacher did the article, he got the $2,000, and sometime later when I talked to Preach he said, ‘Carl, you know what? I just ruined my chances for the Hall of Fame by admitting I threw the spitter, and you're the only one that advised me not to do it.' And I said, ‘Well, Preacher, I saw you pitch, you were a pitcher's pitcher. You could have won without the spitter.'”

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