11 April 2010

Fresh Air's Baseball Show

On Friday, Fresh Air aired two great baseball interviews. The first is with Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson, and the second is with journalist Bruce Weber, who trained and worked as an umpire (and, of course, wrote a book about it, titled As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires).

Gibson and Jackson were the focus of the book Sixty Feet, Six Inches, which looks at the battle between a pitcher (Gibson) and a hitter (Jackson). 60'6" is the distance between the pitcher's mound and home plate.

I came to baseball later in life, and one of the biggest steps I took from this-is-boring-as-shit to I-effing-love-this-game was learning about the subtle battle between a pitcher and a hitter.

Here's an excerpt from the Gibson/Jackson interviewer, where Dave Davies asks about pitching on the inside part of the plate. Gibson was known for aggressively pitching close to hitters to get them off the plate. It's, well, more complicated than that. But seriously, even if you're not a baseball fan, the interviews are great.

Davies: I want to talk about throwing inside and guys getting hit by pitches because you guys are both on opposite ends of this. And Bob Gibson, with your permission, I'm going to read a section from you, from the book that you've collaborated with Reggie here, where you're talking about -you're saying basically that you liked to pitch on the outside part of the plate, that is the part - pitch away from the batter, and you say that nobody's really going to square on a pitch and hit you when you pitch it outside. And then you write: unless he cheats.

What I mean is unless he leans in and dives at that outside corner. Obviously, I can't let him do that because that's where I'm trying to pitch. So if he tries it, I have to stand him up a little bit. Think of the hitter as dog with an electronic collar. You just administer a slight correction, as they call it, if he tries to get out of his yard. Throw the ball inside, and he can't wander into the wrong area. That's what you were doing when you pitched inside, right?

Gibson: Pretty much. Yeah. I was getting him to think about the ball inside. Now Reggie - Reggie likes to hit the ball out away from him. That's where I want to get him out. So what do I do to keep him from hitting that ball out away from him? I pitch him inside. And I don't just pitch him inside once, I come in there often. And so now, he's going to think about me pitching him inside.

If he's thinking about that ball inside, then I can get him out away. If he's thinking outside, and I throw outside, he's more capable of hitting the ball. But if I get inside and do it often enough, he's not going to go leaning out there because sometimes when I'm pitching inside, and he's thinking outside, you know, the ball comes inside, and I'll hit him.

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