Bob Klapisch has covered baseball in New York since the heyday of the Mets in the 1980s. He is a columnist for The Bergan Record and a contributor to ESPN. Now in his forties, he continues to play semi-pro baseball. Yesterday, he contributed a terrific post about playing ball to The Baseball Analysts. Klapisch’s article has some keen insights into the pysche of ballplayers, and it is nice to see him write something longer, and more personal. But Klap isn’t just a guy who loves to play the game, at heart he’s a pitcher, and they are a breed apart:
From Little League all the way to Cooperstown, there’s a fraternity convened by the adrenaline rush of throwing a baseball. Bret Saberhagen once told me, “Nothing matches making a hitter swing and miss. It’s the greatest feeling in the world. Guys who retire, they spend the rest of their lives looking for it, but once you stop pitching you never get it back.”
…So why do I keep pitching? Probably for the purest reason of all – it’s what I do, at least when I’m not writing or helping feed the kids. To stop now would mean tearing away layers of psychological flesh. I guess I’m afraid of what’s underneath. Middle age, maybe.
I sent the article to Pat Jordan, the veteran journalist and former pitching prospect for the Braves. He replied:
The allure of pitching is about being in control and playing God. Nothing happens without you. You control the game, good or bad. also the feeling of ball off fingertips and your ability to make it spin and do things is exhilarating. I love to throw a baseball. The feeling of artistry and power in making a ball approach the plate with the speed or curve that I dictate is unrivaled in anything else I’ve ever done, including writing. I was born to be a pitcher, but taught myself to be a writer. I was an artist on the mound, but, alas, am merely a craftsman, like a brick layer, in front of a typewriter.
Which brings me to another thought. Why do the best jock-turned-writers all seem to be pitchers? Jordan, Jim Brosnan, Jim Bouton. Glenn Stout pitched in an over-30 league for years. What gives? Michael Lewis was a pitcher when he was in high school, Rich Lederer was a pitcher back in his playing days, and Will Carroll was too. Bouton thinks that it “may be that pitchers spend a lot of time sitting around.” What do you think?