THE RELIEF PITCHER: Baseball's New Hero by John Thorn

THE RELIEF PITCHER: Baseball's New Hero

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Before the days of free substitution, baseball had change-pitchers--fielders who'd switch positions with a starter mid-game--but no relievers; since the 1920s, when the relief role became institutionalized in the person of one Firpo Marberry, it's grown so specialized that author Thorn predicts a four-man lineup for every bullpen--two left-handers and two righties, one sinkerballer and one power-man (like Goose Gossage). This is a cheerful, workmanly record of the tactical causes and strategic effects of the rise of the ""fireman"" to the top of the baseball roster: Thorn fits The Ten Best into a highlight-style history, concluding that Rollie Fingers is most likely to succeed Hoyt Wilhelm as the statistical standout, and contending that Dick Radatz ""was a better relief pitcher than anyone"" when he was at his brief peak. Relievers flourish under a special kind of pressure that allows no margin for error; they go into the game at the point when every pitch counts--and it was in the '59 Series, where both teams leaned on their bullpens, that the rescue man finally came into his own with the dramatic bang that, Thorn notes, set off a trend. Information plus honest, persuasive enthusiasm.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1979
Publisher: Dutton