By Eric Neel
Page 2

Two weeks ago, I wrote a column on some of my favorite all-time batting stances. This week, it's favorite deliveries -- because like Frank said, you can't have one without the other.

I'm not going to be too strict about this. I'm not going to limit myself to either wind-up or follow-through. If it's got funk and flair and it's in my memory bank, it makes the list.

And the list, in no particular order, goes like this:

Sandy Koufax, his head pitched back like a pole vaulter, like a trebuchet poised for launch.

Juan Marichal sproinged almost straight up and down, and showing everything -- from his butt, to his knees, to his flying elbows, to his glove -- before he shows you the ball.

And of course The Bird, who I remember most vividly not as he's pitching, but as he's patting the dirt like Phil Hartman doing The Anal Retentive Gardener.

And Tiant, full of swing and strut, mocking the hitter who has the temerity to step in.

Pitching Photo Gallery
Who has the best delivery? Well, we can talk about it all we want, but seeing is believing. So take a look.

  • Photo gallery: Most unique windups
  • Speaking of stones, you had to pity the poor fool looking out at Fernando while Fernando looked up to the sky, then closed his eyes and winged it, on a screwgie prayer.

    Pitching is a timing thing; you try to slow your body down and speed it up all at once. The body is full of levers and pistons, but the head needs softer mechanics to get things going in synch and in the right direction. The head needs little rhythmic devices tailored to its man's anatomy.

    Look back at the slow, deliberate way Nolan brought the knee and the leg up, the way he hung there for half-a-beat.

    Or think of El Duque, whose knee leaps to his chin the way a garage door goes up -- quick, true, and full of tightly-wound torque.

    That's what I'm talking about.

    And look back, too, at Goose Gossage, who (my buddy Matt reminds me) did that cool "separated-hands-will-close-together-on-the-backstep-above-my-head" thingy, like he was Robert Mitchum in "Night of the Hunter," bringing "L-O-V-E" and "H-A-T-E" together in some wicked bit of alchemy.

    Gibson had that thing with the hands, too. I love that thing. Bakers and chefs have it, clapping flour, rubbing their palms together. It's full of relish and intent.

    But my favorite thing about Gibson was the flying off the mound, the right leg whipped out by his ear, all freaky-deaky. I always figured he was trying to knock the ball down with his foot, just to make a play, just to show you he felt no pain on impact, just to remind you that he owned your sorry ass.

    Luis Tiant
    Tiant brought his attitude and his game to the mound.

    And when we talk weird angles, we gotta talk Tekulve, Bradford, and Quiz, all coming from down under. I love the specs on Kent and the 'stache on Dan; but for sheer commitment to the pitch, I'm most fond of the way Cory's angle turned submarine into subterranean.

    There ought to be a place on any list like this for sheer drive, too. So put me down for the way Seaver got down and drove that knee into the mound like maybe he'd find oil down there.

    On the flipside, give me Satchel Paige, who, if pictures are any indication, seemed to swing like a screen door in a lazy southern summer breeze.

    Wakefield's got an easy-like-Sunday-morning thing, as well. If your Sunday mornings are spent playing catch with your grandpa, that is ...

    I like the young flurry of Dontrelle.

    And the full fury of Gagne, grunting his way off the hill and into your kitchen; a sound and motion especially sweet when he throws the change.

    Was Al Hrabosky wild with the delivery or was it just the hair? The hair was spectacular -- the 'do of a professional wrestler -- but I seem to remember some herky in his jerky, too.

    Not quite Ben-Webber-herky, mind you, but jumpy nonetheless.

    Eck wasn't jumpy. He came in like a wave, like a flag flying in the wind, full of ripples and pops, and with that mane that seemed, even more than the fist pump, to finish hitters off.

    So much of the game between pitchers and batters is intimidation. Doubt is a cataract, clouding a hitter's vision, making it impossible for him to see the break and judge the speed.

    Dave Stewart knew that. His arms and legs, especially that forward-pointing left toe, were balletic; but his hat, curled down over his eyes, was all bad-ass.

    As is The Rocket's black glove up under the nose ... as if his make-the-babies-cry fastball isn't already enough.

    For pure poetry, for economy and grace, I'd say Mark Prior from the right and Terry Mulholland from the left.

    Orlando Hernandez
    El Duque's delivery is part gymnastics, part pitching.

    Our baseball editor Seņor Ridge would say Jim Palmer: "Picture Gregory Hines on the hill."

    Rick Sutcliffe's wrist-break is a favorite of mine; and Wes, my oldest friend, remembers trying to master the way Don Sutton led with his glove hand.

    If we're talking one-of-a-kind, if we're talking we-may-never-pass-this-way-again weirdness, my friend Mr. Ross would say Bill "The Spaceman" Lee and the eephus, when he had almost no turn, but "seemed simply to lean waaaaaaay back."

    And me, I'd say Nomo's tornado.

    And then I'll say nothing more, so you all can have a go.

    Just like last time, send me short descriptions of your favorites. We'll read them, round up the best of them, and run them with next week's "On Baseball."

    Thanks. Can't wait to hear who you think delivers.

    * * * * *

    NOTES FROM ERIC'S SCORECARD
    CHEMISTRY
    So how does Dodger Boy feel about the way things went down at the deadline last weekend? Like Murphy said to Akroyd, "Feeling good, Louis!" Feeling better than good.

    They upgraded their starting rotation, traded Juan Encarnacion for Hee Seop Choi (who is, I'll remind you, just 25 years old and already good for more power than Encarnacion can muster with a Black n' Decker portable generator plugged into his backside), and got Steve Finley for the stretch run.

    Yeah, it hurt some to lose Mota, but it isn't a back-breaker. They can fill that hole -- maybe especially by letting Gagne, who's been used carefully these last couple of years, pitch more than one inning at a time. (See the extra-innings game with San Diego last Sunday for Exhibit A). And yeah, Lo Duca's a fan favorite and, by all accounts, a good guy. But he's also a guy who folds like an origami swan in the second half. (Check out the excellent column from my buddy Rob Neyer for further proof.) They're going to get similar production out of Mayne and Ross, maybe better, and they're going to get good ABs out of Choi and Finley to boot.

    All because DePodesta was willing to mess with the team's so-called sacred chemistry. All because he wasn't content to be a band of gritty, gutty overachievers; but was thinking maybe, just maybe, we could be really good right now and in the future (Penny is young, too).

    I say screw chemistry. Chemistry is a label you slap on after you've seen what happens. This team has "chemistry" because it's in first place; it isn't in first place because it has chemistry. The Dodgers didn't have such magic chemistry last year when they were struggling down the stretch; and they wouldn't have had it this year, if they ran out of runs in the last weeks of the season. The team needed an arm and some pop, and that's what the GM went and got.

    Feeling good, Louis!

    25 WORDS OR LESS
    ... on the Nomar trade:

    Remember PacMan? Ghosts coming at you, sweaty palms, and you slip, go left instead of right, and die a horrible death? You're Theo Epstein.

    YOU'VE MADE THE GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA VERY HAPPY
    Arnold thought maybe you'd forgotten his early film work (I just wish you had), but you gave him a big shout-out with the vote for Johan "The Barbarian" Santana last week.

    Jim Caple says maybe I should veto votes I don't like. I'm tempted.

    Nah, that'd make me no better than Ahnold.

    This week's vote (poll at the right), is for Eric Chavez, and it includes one nomination I can't explain and yet couldn't resist. Have at it.

    And next, at the recommendation of a reader known to me only as "Tim," we combine elements and turn the nickname poll into a Hall of Fame thing. Eckersley was simply "Eck," but what should we call Paul Molitor? Send suggestions here.

    Sidenote: Around the time Molitor was on his hitting streak in 1987, my friend John Tormey got on a comic roll one night. He couldn't be stopped. His one-liners about his one-liners were funny. He had my buddy Wes and I busting guts. Then, in the pause for breath between storms of laughter, one of us (Wes thinks it was me, I think it was Wes) said, "You, you my friend, are the Paul Molitor of comedy!" The phrase has been with us ever since. Feel free to use it if you like it.

    MEMO
    To: George Steinbrenner

    From: John Olerud

    You're not serious, are you?

    BRIAN GILES ALL-STAR
    A spot reserved for unheralded greatness

    Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox

    Remember when he was the next big thing? Remember how he wandered in the desert for years? Well, he's home now. Safe, sound, and pounding the ball all over the yard.


    Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2. His "On Baseball" column appears weekly.




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