A pitcher stands about 55 feet from the batter as he completes his throwing
motion and tries to regain his balance. Some pitchers follow through and then
raise their head to look at the catcher's mitt, but Jim Kaat was one of
those who followed the ball all the way into the target and made sure he
finished in a position that left him squarely facing the batter.
Pascual pronounced his name "cat," and he had that quickness.
At point-blank range to a batter, though, anything can happen.
In 1962 during a game in late July, 5-foot-11, 175-pound Detroit outfielder
Bubba Morton scorched one of Kaat's pitches. The ball hit the wet grass
at Metropolitan Stadium and skidded, shot over the web of Kaat's glove and
crushed his lips into his teeth.
The pitching mound was 15 inches high at the time, and Kaat now stood
6-foot-4. Second baseman Bernie Allen walked over to Kaat, who was
standing on the mound with his hand over his mouth. The six-foot Allen was
literally looking up at Kaat's hand, and when Kaat pulled it away all Allen
could see was blood and the roots of Kaat's teeth; he had lost two of them on
the play, chipped another, and eventually required surgery.
Both Allen and Killebrew recall looking at the baseball and seeing bits of
Kaat's teeth in the horsehide.
Allen had scheduled a party at his home that night, and he remembered the
festivities being in full swing when the doorbell rang. Allen opened the door
and there stood Kaat. Allen had not expected Kaat would be in any condition to
attend the party.
"What are you doing here?" Allen asked.
Kaat looked down and said, "I was invited, wasn't I?"
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