Stealing  [Bottom of the 1st Inning]

In the bottom of the first inning a different set of signs come into play, as well as some ethical

questions.  Looie leads off with a walk – four pitches not over the plate and not swung at.

Everybody in the park figures he’ll steal second base.  Stealing is legal in baseball and Looie

is the leading base stealer in the American League.  But he’s not off with the pitch.  The Sox

Manager, Al Lopez, shrewdly anticipates a pitch-out – a high pitch, off the plate to the other

side of the batter, so the catcher can rise up before the pitch reaches the plate, and with that

split second advantage make the throw to second to nab Looie.


Lopez figures the better way to get Looie to second base, in scoring position, is by bunting,

and that’s the signal that gets relayed from the dugout to the third base coach and, in turn, to

Nellie Fox, the White Sox second batter up.  Nellie is the best bunter in baseball – even his bat is

made for bunting:  it’s thick from top to bottom and called a “bottleneck bat.”  Instead of

swinging, Nellie slides his top hand down the barrel and places the bat across the plate,

horizontally, letting the ball strike the bat, laying down a perfect “sacrifice bunt.”  (A sacrifice

bunt is where you expect the fielder will run in, grab the ball, and throw you out at first, but

the runner on first will have advanced to second.)   But suddenly the ball rolls to a stop only half

way to Detroit’s third baseman and the extra split second it takes to run to the ball allows Nellie

to beat the throw to first.  Now there are runners at first and second with nobody out and there

has yet to be a swing of the bat!  Hitless wonders indeed, scoring more on wit than batting


Nellie almost never hits home runs.  He chokes up on the bat – his hands a good two inches

up the handle. Nellie Fox BB card When he swings, it’s more like a chop at the ball.  This allows him to wait longer

to see if it’s a curve or not before deciding to swing.  Nellie won the MVP (Most Valuable

Player) trophy in 1959 because he so rarely struck out and so often put the ball in play advancing

runners either by bunting or executing the Hit & Run.  (The “Hit & Run” play is a combination

of stealing and fake bunting:  the runner breaks for second, the second baseman runs to cover

second for the throw from the catcher, and the batter – after showing bunt – pulls the bat back

and chops the ball right to the spot the second baseman vacated.)

Later my Dad tells me that it was not due to some unknown phenomenon that Nellie’s bunt died

so suddenly on its way to the third baseman.  The Groundskeeper is like the tenth man on the

field.  Eddie Broussard, the Sox’ groundskeeper, when watering down the field before the start

of the game, had made an extra soggy spot for Nellie to bunt towards.

Tomorrow:  Cheating?







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