Ye Olde Spitballe

So, Kenny Rogers did or didn't do something to the baseball. This ranks right up there with "to be or not to be" from Mr. Hamlet, then hurling for the Billy Shakespeare's in the Old England League.

The College of Cardinals in the Vatican City State of St. Louis have issued an encyclical averring with great authority that not only was Brother Rogers doing bad things with the baseball, he was doing many bad things, including foreign substances as well as not having cut his cuticles in the approved manner of the National Batters League, i.e., he was fingernailing the ball.

Now assuredly Mr. Rogers can be accused of going to work with fingernails bared.

Who does not know that we are in a political season with election of winners only weeks off? Surely Mr. Rogers can be forgiven for thinking he was in the same fingernail league as Nancy Pelosi of the California Democrats or Hillary Rodham Clinton of the New York Mets or Yankees (she only cuts, er, rides winners), much less that southern paragon of racism and invective, Cynthia McKinney of the Atlanta SLammers.

As for mud, with so much mud flowing in this political season, Mr. Rogers can hardly be faulted for claiming he didn't know where it came from 'cuz it was all around. Particularly in Michigan, the state of floundering auto companies, vanishing jobs, screwy judges and all.

An authority of no greater note than Mr. Gaylord Perry, Esq. was gracious enough to comment. "It isn't if you did or didn't,: Perry claimed, "the illusion is enough." If Mr. Rogers can get inside the heads of hitters, assuming hitters have heads (a verity denied by pitchers but averred by hitters -- you take your pick), the job is won.

What has Mr. Rogers done to merit such attention?

Well, for one thing, he has passed the inestimable Dodger Orel Hershiser on the list of baseball hurlers who have pitched the most consecutive scoreless innings in post season play. Oral Orel (he now makes his living with his mouth as an announcer) back in 1988 went 21 2/3 innings without giving up a run. (It was the LAST year the Dodgers were World Champions.)

Now Orel was, and presumably still is, a born again Christian, given to singing hymns on national television. How could such a paragon or rectitude be thought to have done something as underhanded, or overhanded, or sidehanded, as to slice, dice, lubricate, smudge or otherwise treat the old horsehide in anything other than a respectful manner? Unlike Mr. Rogers, he was not accused at the time.

Although suspicions were raised several years later when Hershiser, attempting to come back from rotator cuff surgery, resorted, according to the prideful whisperings of his pop, to experimenting with a "new" kind of slider, i.e., suggesting the "new" in "new" was the kind of thing legal until caught. Kind of a Clintonesque in advance defense.

Now we do not know if Mr. Rogers has developed a new pitch or pitches at age 41, but he has won three straight postseason games, unscored on in the process. Whatever he is or is not doing with the baseball, it is evident that Brother Rogers is wired higher than a kite. For him, a pep pill would be a downer.

Whatever he is doing, can we package some of it and send it to the Dodgers pitching staff, with a double portion for Mr. Tomko?

Now pitchers have been accused of doing bad things ever since the devil threw a curve to eve in the garden of Eden.

This is not a new story, only the latest. How can one deny the aforementioned Mr. Rogers from trying to keep the ball pristine, particularly as we all saw, a fine snow was falling, and he temperature in Detroit that wintry night was more fit for ice fishing or ice hockey than Mr. Doubleday's summer sport.

And it certainly is not a new story for the storied Dodgers franchise. The 79-year-old one, Thomas of Lasorda, The Falstaff of the Game, could, if he would, recount the life and times of one Eldon "Preacher" Roe, the crafty lefty, who while farming and sheriffing in Arkansas (note well the Clinton connection) found such things as slippery elm which had the effect of making his left pitching hand nicely moisturized - in case he would receive a sudden invitation to a ladies tea party.

Slippery elm kept the Preacher in the big leagues and Thomas of Lasorda in the minor leagues. Between Roe and Orel, there have been over 1,000 men to throw a baseball for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Very few did not at one time or another try a "new" pitch in the bullpen or in a minor league game. Did one or two try in a big league game?


Meanwhile, while the debate rages, sometimes with the sophistication our Congress USED to have, and sometimes with the delicacy the United Nations League of Bigots and Liars shows any penny-ante despot to come along, we are fortunate enough to make our own visual inspection one more time before the current World Series is ended.

Come on Kenny. (And if you're looking for a job, would you be interested in being the new Dodgers pitching coach?)

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