Tuesday, September 2, 2014


by Robert Giles

Chuck practiced his new pitch for hours. He was always inventing something.

He called it the “Dying Swan”. My other brother called it the “Butterfly”. I remember it as the “Flutterball”.

It had a high arc like in slo-pitch softball. It was agonizingly slow. It did a little dance or jig as it descended chest high at the upper limit of the strike zone.

I may be entering deep water here, but there was something geekish about the way Chuck delivered a flutterball. He sort of tip-toed forward on the mound and held the ball in a loose slack-armed way and released it with just his fingertips. He turned his face skyward as the ball inched toward the plate.

I have to say that is the proper way to deliver a flutterball, maybe the only way. After all, Chuck invented the pitch.

I still remember the unveiling of Chuck’s new pitch in an actual game. By chance my brothers and I all were on the same team. We usually played six to a side. We only needed two neighborhood kids to round out our squad. I forget who had the honor.

The other side had the Stolar brothers, Dicky and Bobby, and Art & Bobby Floro. Rick Supak and maybe Tommy Pappas completed the opposing six.

That day it was pretty much the Giles Brothers versus the neighborhood – an alignment that may have occurred only on that one fateful day.

Six-sided baseball requires modification of the usual rules. The batting team provides the catcher – in this case someone unprotected who functions only to return the ball to the pitcher. The “no right field hitting” rule is invoked to eliminate the need for a second baseman and right fielder. (In the rare instance of a left-handed batter, the fielders shifted rightward and a “no left-field hitting” rule applied.)

Contravention of the “no right-field hitting rule” or its corollary resulted in an automatic out.

Back to the game. We were in the ninth inning and the Giles Brothers had a one or two run lead. So far Chuck had not employed the flutterball.

Just when we thought we had the game on ice, the neighborhood boys began to make a little noise. There were runners on first and second, and Dicky Stolar was coming to the plate.

Some of you may remember that Dicky lettered in three sports at Ambridge High School – baseball, basketball, and golf (I may be wrong about golf – maybe that was his younger brother, Bobby).

Anyway, to my memory Dicky Stolar (or “Rich” or “Fuzzy”) was the finest athlete to ascend from the ash of Byers Field. Art “The Hammer” Floro trails in second place (sorry, Art).

So there we were on the diamond in Byers Field, the batting team threatening, and Byersdale’s home run king at the plate. Even before high school, Dicky was an imposing figure (he was in seventh or eighth grade at the time of our game).

All of a sudden Chuck changed his delivery and threw a flutterball. Dicky swung way out in front of the pitch. Strike one.

Dicky recovered his composure by striking home plate several times with his bat.

He may have anticipated that Chuck would change up on him by showing some speed on that second pitch. If so, he miscalculated. Along came another flutterball. Another mighty swing. A second strike.

Dicky pulled his cap down on his forehead and rummaged in his pocket for a handkerchief. He stepped from the batter’s box to blow his nose.

This time he would wait as though set in concrete for that pathetic pitch to arrive in his power zone. “Patience, Strength, Discipline,” Dicky prayed silently.

In floated the pitch, fluttering softly although the air was still and breathless. A dust devil ascended as Dicky swung his bat.

The ball made a tiny “plop” somewhere behind home plate. Dicky had struck out.

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