Thursday, June 22, 2017
Pitcher Dick Hall's longevity: it is explained easily
It says a lot for Dick Hall's longevity that he was a nemesis for my Minnesota Twins in 1969 and 1970. I was emotionally invested in our Twins back then, when I was junior high-age. I hated those Baltimore Orioles. Of course that was a foolish way to think. The Twins seemed snakebit then, this in spite of the fact that they were unquestionably spectacular in regular season play. But when the post-season arrived, I sensed that the fans around me became defeatist. We shrugged and figured it was unlikely that we could get past those Baltimore Orioles with relief ace Dick Hall.
Such a nice, crisp name to pronounce: one syllable for both the first and last names.
Hall made his first post-season appearance in 1969 against our Twins. He was the wily graybeard: 39 years old. Any clues as to his longevity? There is one huge one: It wasn't until he was 16 years old that Hall began to play baseball. He was a member of a 16-year-old team that won the Cardinal Gibbons championship (Baltimore area), and that, he said, "was my first taste of baseball."
So my point is: Hall preserved his body and especially his arm so that he would have the physical resilience for a long career in baseball.
Hall strode out to the pitching mound at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium in early fall of 1969. This was the first year of the divisional format. The Twins won the West while Baltimore came out of the East. In the first American League Championship Series ever played, Hall was the Game 1 winning pitcher in a 4-3 Orioles victory. It was the epitome of the kind of heartbreak us Twins fans were dealt in the post-season of both 1969 and '70. You'll recall that 1969 was the year of the "Miracle Mets." Baltimore fell to the Mets in the '69 World Series. Hall was the losing pitcher in Game 4 but he got his World Series creds started.
In 1970 Hall was the oldest active player in the American League. He turned 40 on September 27. His savvy and sound physical health helped him achieve a 10-5 record with an ERA of 3.08 and three saves. He issued just six walks, only four of them unintentionally. Pinpoint control was an absolute hallmark of his career. Ted Williams commented that Hall might look like an easy pitcher to hit when he was warming up. That appearance was totally deceiving.
The 1970 A.L. divisional series was like a carbon copy of '69. Our Twins tore up the opposition in the regular season. Tony O. and Harmon were superlative. But the snakebit quality could not be escaped vs. those Orioles. Again, Hall was the winning pitcher in Game 1 of the divisional playoffs. He allowed just one baserunner in his 4 2/3 innings. Once the Orioles completed business in that series, a sweep again, they went on to face Cincinnati in the World Series. The Orioles were not to be denied this time. Game 2 of the Fall Classic saw Hall enter the game in the bottom of the seventh with runners on first and second and two outs. Hall set down Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, Lee May, Hal McRae, Tommy Helms and pinch-hitter Bernie Carbo and Jim Stewart to save the Orioles' 6-5 victory.
"He keeps getting people out"
Helms' comments about Hall reflected the norm: "His pitches don't seem to be moving, but I guess it's deceiving. He keeps getting people out." It was a long time since Hall showed that "crazy sidearm delivery" against Maris, Mantle and the Yankees. Baseball had gone from one epoch to the next. Hall with his well-preserved arm was able to endure and prosper. What if he had logged the usual number of innings in Little League, Babe Ruth or other levels for young boys? He could have easily over-taxed his arm.
Baseball was not enlightened about such things in the old days. It is tragic how many fine pitchers went into rapid decline, during my youth, due to overwork of the arm. Today we hear all about the "pitch count." What a blessing. A pitcher might be removed from a game even if he has a no-hitter going.
Johnny Bench hollered out at Hall from the dugout: "How can you be out there with that garbage?" The results speak for themselves. Hall had his final big league season in 1971 at at the age of 41. He won six games and saved one. His ERA bulged up a little but he had gas left in the tank for the World Series. On October 11, in Game 2 vs. the Pirates at Memorial Stadium, Hall earned a save for Jim Palmer in what turned out to be Hall's last big league appearance.
Ted Williams described Hall as a "pinpointer" with his control. "You never got a fat pitch to hit."
We must acknowledge that Hall was known as an intelligent and intellectual person. I see no evidence that these traits annoyed other ballplayers, not the way Jim Bouton's erudite traits could.
Breaking the language barrier!
There is a fascinating story with Hall's romance that led to his marriage. He met the love of his life while playing winter ball in Mexico. His first winter there saw him meet Maria Elena Nieto. They were married on December 31, 1955. The marriage would produce three daughters and a son. Maria did not speak English when they met. Hall had to learn to speak Spanish. Imagine being in love with someone who didn't speak your language! Quite the story.
Hall's whole story is most inspiring and it might not have happened had he not waited until age 16 to start pitching.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org