Here are a few items either from my most recent book, 1960: When the Pittsburgh Pirates Had Them All the Way (available only on Amazon), or from interviews I conducted while writing that book:
Dick Stuart was so poor on defense–in each of his full seasons except one he led the league in errors at first base–he was the target of much ridicule even though some was in good fun. He preferred to have nothing to do with a batted ball. Every time a pop fly came anywhere near them, Stuart would shout, “Plenty of room, Maz.” He earned nicknames such as Dr. Strangeglove and The Man With the Iron Glove. One blustery day when a hot dog wrapper blew near him, he snagged it and the crowd broke into enthusiastic (and sarcastic) applause.
Dick Schofield recalled, “He had a fielding disability, I guess you might call it. One time there was a man on first base and Elroy Face came in to pitch. Stuart went to the mound and said, ‘Now don’t go throwing the ball over here real hard cause I might miss it.’ He warned Face because he threw hard and he was quick over to first base. Stuart wanted no part of it.”
That incident brought to mind a story Jim Bouton disclosed about Joe Pepitone in his book Ball Four. It began when he botched a throw in the 1963 World Series. He blamed the misplay by saying he had lost sight of the ball against a background of spectators’ white shirts. From then on, wrote Bouton, “He didn’t want to handle the ball anymore than he had to.”
In the 1964 Series Pepitone was holding Lou Brock at first base. Bouton, in an effort to keep the speedy Brock close to the bag, signaled to Pepitone that a pickoff throw would ensue.
Amazingly, Bouton peered over to Pepitone who, wrote Bouton in his book Ball Four, was “standing there shaking his head, tiny shakes because he didn’t want anybody to see. It was the first time I ever saw anybody shake off a pick-off sign.”
Vern Law spoke highly of a few of his contemporaries. He stated of Musial, “Everybody really respected Stan. He wasn’t a griper, he didn’t give umpires a bad time, he was even tempered. If you did hit hit, he’d just drop the bat and go down to first base. He was kind of a man’s man, and just an outstanding personality.”
Law, nicknamed the Deacon for his devout religious (Morman) ways, said Jackie Robinson “was a better man than I was because I could not have taken the stuff that he took without question, without retaliating. He took it and Branch Rickey made sure that that was the case. He said [to Robinson], ‘You can’t respond to criticism, or swearing, somebody calls you names or anything like that. You can’t respond to that because if you do, you’re going to ruin the whole thing for Black people.’”
There was cheating in baseball long before the Astros, of course. One player told me that years after retiring, Willie Mays told Carl Erskine that his Giants knew what pitches Erskine and other Dodger pitchers were about to pitch because they stole opponents’ signals by using a powerful telescope located in their clubhouse window in center field. The person stationed with the telescope signaled a teammate by using a buzzer system they had rigged up to their bullpen. Another player in the bullpen then waved a white towel to signal fast ball or curve to the batter. Those Giants of 1951 won the pennant after being 13 games out of first place on August 11th.
Law said that he’s often asked, “Who was the toughest hitter that I ever pitched against, and I’d have to go back and say that when I first got up [to the majors] it was Stan Musial because he hit to all fields. Those are the toughest guys to pitch to. Pitch it outside and they go with you, you pitch it inside and they pull it. Stan had the ability to do that, and he was one of the best at it. I just take my hat off to him. Every time I got him out was a line drive at somebody or something like that, but he was tough to pitch to.
“All of those guys who spray [the ball to all fields] were tough to pitch to. Even Richie Ashburn. Joe Morgan, when he was down in Houston, was tough to get out because he could do that. He read me like a book.