Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gus and the Glove

Wow!!  Nice to hear from someone out there with the same memories about Hoyt Wilhelm and his fierce knuckleball.  (That's Hoyt on the wall at Dempsey's.) 

Not only did his specialty baffle opposing hitters (he even no-hit the Yankees on 99 pitches) but it equally vexed catcher Gus Triandos -- my first Oriole hero.

Gus was a powerful hitter, and one of the early O's stars.  But catching Hoyt Wilhelm was not his idea of a good time behind the plate.

Neither was leading the league in passed balls. There were some games when he would have to chase more than one an inning. 

Taming the knuckleball wasn't an option, because it was a formidable weapon.   I'm not sure what the aerodynamic principle is (something about lack of spin causing wind resistance that made it dip,) but no one -- including Gus -- knew exactly where it would go once it left the mound.

Evidently back then you could customize the Tools of Ignorance.  I'm not sure whose idea it was -- maybe manager Paul Richards? -- but someone came up with the bright idea to build Gus a bigger glove.  A much bigger glove.

So in those early 60's games, when Hoyt Wilhelm got the nod in the bullpen, Gus would trot over to the dugout and retrieve "The Thing."  (I think there were other names for it, but I only remember "The Thing.") 

It looked like an early version of a beanbag chair and seemed to cover most of home plate.  I'm surprised the umpires could see over it.

I don't know if "The Thing" was bequeathed to whoever had to catch Wilhelm when Gus left or not.  I can't imagine MLB would let anyone use such a contraption these days.  (It doesn't even have a logo on it, for heavens sake.)  But I hope it found a home somewhere. 

For you old timers like me who remember Gus and his efforts to corral the knuckleball, here's a picture of what it looked like in comparison to a regular catcher's mitt.

(I think this was taken at Griffith Stadium in DC.  Could be Briggs in Detroit, but look at the tree growing beyond left field.)

So thanks again to Dempsey's for the stirring the memories.  I could honestly spend days in there just staring at the walls and reliving those days of yore.

And please, somebody --  find out what happened to "The Thing."

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