At a susceptible age, I came across the Duane Decker baseball novels for boys. An incident in one of them impressed me deeply. Decker’s protagonist, representing the decisive run in a big game, had advanced to scoring position. But the last 90 feet (or 180 feet, or whatever) are the hardest, and Decker’s base runner decided gamesmanship was in order.
“Hey, pitcher!” he yelled (or words to that effect). “Let me see that ball. I think there’s some kind of goop on it.”
The pitcher glanced at the ball, shrugged, and lobbed it to the base runner—who stepped aside and, as the ball rolled into the outfield, tore home.
What book was that? Maybe Switch Hitter, about rookie phenom Russ Woodward, whose “greatest enemy was himself.” Says this plot summary I just found online, “He finally learned what ‘team’ meant, but it was a long time before he could work it out for himself.” He’d have pulled a fast one like that. Or maybe Good Field, No Hit, about scrappy Johnny Madigan, who’s determined to stick in the “bigs” despite a lack of physical tools.