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LONGSHOTS: Pitch count police trigger another dreamlike episode
by Dave Long

You may recall a few weeks back I shared I dreamed of visiting Vienna to see the renowned Sigmund Freud to help me with my building obsession with Terry Francona’s obsession with sticking to the almighty pitch count no matter what.

It was a lifelike dream, where the advice really made sense. Most notably: if I can’t do anything about I need to just let it go. And I think happy thoughts whenever I feel another attack coming on, like, say, last Friday when Clay Buchholz was pulled after six in a 3-1 game, or Jon Lester with a 6-3 lead Saturday and then Dice-K after six on Sunday. I hung in and so did the bullpen — which only hiccupped in the Lester game as each starter got the win as the Sox swept the Orioles. So I breathed deep, and thought as after months of uncertainty the team’s starting pitching is starting to click, maybe Tito’s got a method to his madness. 

But what really got me through it was thinking of the great historical pitching performances I’ve seen or read about over the years. Of course the Doc told me that it won’t go away overnight and he’s right again as happy thoughts triggered another dream. It starred Michael J. Fox reprising his role of Marty McFly in a fourth version of his ’80s time travel fantasy in a film called “Back to the Future — The Baseball Years.” It’s set in 2005 and has lifelong baseball fans Marty and Doc going back to 1903 and Doc absentmindedly giving tips to then Red Sox manager Jimmy Collins from the LaRussification-of-baseball manual. This of course is a major no-no since disrupting the space-time continuum can have disastrous consequences. As you may recall, when that happened in the original film, family members started disappearing from a photo he had with him. And in my latest Almighty Pitch Count dream, Collins starts giving his buds LaRussification tips and as he does, one by one great pitching performances from the pre-pitch count days started disappearing right before my eyes, including these:

Cy Young’s 511 wins: The big fella started a record 815 games and AVERAGED 8.11 innings per game — which is dragged down by 91 relief appearances. Throw in the fact that he started every fourth day, not every fifth as today, and he probably loses 20 percent of his starts and wins (not to mention those won in the eighth, ninth and beyond when he’d be long gone today) — and his record win total is down to about 408. Pretty good, but would they still name the award after him for that?

Don Larsen’s Perfect Game: Even though he was perfect — with the score just 2-0 and the pitch count at 97 and climbing — you never know. Even though no one had touched him all day, my money is on a yank if pinch hitter Dale Mitchell had walked or gotten a hit. Fortunately for Larsen it was a called strike three and the perfecto was saved.

Spahn and Marichal on July 2, 1963: The Giants won 1-0 when Willie Mays homered in the 16th off Warren Spahn. Both the 26-year-old winner Juan Marichal and 42-year-old Spahn (yes, 42) went the distance in one of the greatest pitching duels ever. Couldn’t find the pitch counts, but each faced 55 batters. Marichal K’d 10 and walked four. Spahn had two K’s and incredibly one walk. The only thing I’m more certain of than that they pitched great is that the only way it happens today with Tito in either dugout is if he gets hit with a tranquillizer dart no later than the sixth inning.

Luis Tiant in Game Five In ’75: Not his greatest game, but his signature one for sure. He needed 100 pitches to shut out the Big Red Machine in a 6-0 Game One win — that was harder than it seemed since all six came in the eighth. Any doubt Pap would’ve been in for the ninth after that? But in Game Five when he didn’t have his good stuff, he whirled and twirled his way through 175 pitches (yup, I said 175) to keep the Reds off balance enough to survive 13 base runners in a 5-4 complete game win. The landmark Sox win would never have happened today. And the only question left is: since Game Seven was six days later, why did Bill Lee and not Luis get the start???

Nolan Ryan: He struck out and walked more batters in history by nearly 1,000 in each category, so you know he threw a lot of pitches. He ended in the closer era, but pitched mostly in the non-closer time, when he had over 20 complete games five times and lasted an astonishing 27 years — so what do pitch counts have to do with longevity? But in today’s game how many fewer strikeouts he would have had? And while I’d like to make a case on the no-no’s I will say Jon Lester’s 130 pitches in his no-hitter were eight more than Ryan threw in his final one and the same as in his sixth a year earlier.

John Smoltz and Jack Morris: The best clutch pitching duel I’ve ever seen. Bobby Cox took out the best clutch pitcher of his era with one out in the eighth and former Red Sox Mike Stanton immediately gave up two hits but escaped. The same fate almost befell Morris in the ninth when manager Tom Kelly came out to see Morris — who told him to get the blank off the mound if he was going to yank him. Kelly didn’t, and the Twins made Cox pay for his mistake with a run in the 10th to give Morris and the Twins a 1-0 win and the 1991 series win. 

Ralph Terry – Game Seven – 1962: The Giants enter the bottom of the ninth with just two hits off the Yankees righty (remember I said righty) 23-game-winner Ralph Terry. Lefty Matty Alou singles, then Terry whiffs the next two. Willie Mays doubles to put the winning run on second with cleanup hitter and fearsome LEFTY Willie McCovey now coming up. In a move that would NEVER happen today — especially since two years earlier in the same situation Bill Mazerowski hit the only walk-off series homer in history off the verty same Ralph Terry — the righty stays in and McCovey lashes a bullet at second baseman Bobby Richardson. A foot either way and the Giants win. Instead Richardson catches it to make Terry and Ralph Houk series heroes in a move that never would have happened today under ANY circumstances.

Fortunately I woke up after Richardson made the catch in a cold sweat, but none the worse for the wear and moving a step closer in my therapy to quietly sit there and watch Tito and the Almighty Pitch Count march merrily along.

Dave Long can be reached at He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.

9/17/2009 The mailbags open for business

9/10/2009 Pats now see more clearly what needs to be done for '09
9/3/2009 On the shrink's couch in a near francoma
8/27/2009 Random thoughts and big refrigerator magnets
8/20/2009 Sixty-one years later and Ruth's still in the conversation8/13/2009 Empire strikes back during annual visit
8/6/2009 Ortiz and Manny's steroid story tests fans as well
7/30/2009 Trading places not as simple as "I'll take the old guy" 7/23/2009 Mailbag delivers some interesting questions and answers
7/16/2009 Random thoughts for a lazy summer day
7/9/2009 Season's second half is when it'll get interesting for the Sox
7/2/2009 Declaring independence of how others play the game
6/25/2009 Finding the right plan is as easy as A, B, C with Celtics
6/18/2009 A great experience came in the Knick of time
6/11/2009 Ripping key to Rodney's broadcast success?
6/4/2009 The Mt. Rushmores of the red Sox-Yankees rivalry
5/28/2009 First-place Sox are making the grade
5/21/2009 NBA rivalries have no rival in other team sports
5/14/2009 Lying from baseball's Pinocchio prompts questions
5/7/2009 Celtics bull their way into round two — finally!
4/30/2009 Tanked from the headlines, the Fenway series yanks it back
4/23/2009 Draft winds blow NFL teams to make interesting decisions
4/16/2009 Spring cleaning of a cluttered sports mind
4/9/2009 Red Sox Nation springs back to life
4/2/2009 Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
3/26/2009 Mount Rushmore offerings and other spring thoughts
3/19/2009 B-Ball, Coach B and Baseball in the mailbag today
3/12/2009 Great talent a rush but not all it's cracked up to be
3/5/2009 In Bill we still trust?
2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill
2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Ms for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks