Don’t Let Your Kids Grow Up To Be Baseball Pitchers

Baseball pitchers in fiction seem to have a black cloud hovering over them.

Once an ace relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Sam “Mayday” Malone is a recovering alcoholic on Cheers.  Sam owns the eponymous Cheers, a bar where he is revered for his exploits on the baseball diamond and his womanizing success that would make Casanova green with envy.

From time to time, Sam falls off the wagon.  Occasionally, he reveals that his one-night stands, hookups, and flings are pale attempts to fill his inner loneliness.  Booze, most likely serves the same purpose.

Kenny Powers is Sam Malone without a conscience.  He makes John Rocker look like a poster boy for unity on Eastbound & Down.  Powers uses steroids to improve his performance and cocaine to relax.  After getting kicked out of baseball, Powers determines to make his way back to the big leagues by starting in the minors.  But his laser-focused approach on himself without regard to family and friends redefines selfishness.

Ebby “Nuke” LaLoosh has a right arm like a cannon in Bull Durham, but his immaturity, cockiness, and lack of baseball knowledge may prevent him from handling the pressure of being a major league pitcher.  Enter Crash Davis, a veteran minor league catcher with a roster of credits including numerous minor league teams, unparalleled baseball wisdom, and 21 days in the majors.  Crash sands off Nuke’s rough edges, a responsibility handed to him the parent ball club.  But the job is neither easy nor fun.  His dreams of a major league career have evaporated, more painful because Nuke doesn’t appreciate his opportunity.

Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn of the Cleveland Indians has a right arm that could put him in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  He’s also an ex-felon prone to lack of control over his fastball—hence, the “Wild Thing” nickname.  Prescription glasses solve Vaughn’s wildness problem.

Bruce Springsteen’s unnamed pitcher in Glory Days cannot do anything but live in the past.  Once upon a time, he could throw a blazing fastball.  But now, all he does is talk about the glory days of his high school baseball career.

No commentary about pitchers with problems would be complete without Charlie Brown of Peanuts.  He idolizes Joe Shlabotnik, a player with a .004 batting average.  He pitches on a baseball team with a knack for losing.  And, perhaps from the stress, he has a rash on the back of his head that looks like the stitching on a baseball.

A version of this article appeared on on May 15, 2013.

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