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Smash mouth

Jim Kaat fielding

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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"(Manager) Sam Mele just let the guys play their game. He tried to do what a manager is supposed to do, a little running, swing away. He led the guys. We had a nice group. When I got hurt, we still had good pitching. When Killebrew got hurt, we still had guys who could hit."

- Camilo Pascual, starting pitcher.

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