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Where Are They Now? Bob Veale

Thursday, June 05, 2003

By Rich Emert

Bob Veale was one of the most dominating left-handed pitchers in the National League in mid- to late-1960s. At 6 feet 6 and 215 pounds, Veale had a fastball that was tough to hit.

He still holds many Pirates' pitching records, including most strikeouts in a season (276 in 1965), fewest home runs allowed for a pitcher with more than 250 innings (five in '65) and games started by a left-hander (38 in '64).

He led the major leagues in strikeouts in '64 and is second on the all-time Pirates list in strikeouts with 1,652. Veale had his best year in '64, when he went 18-12 and had a 2.73 ERA and 250 strikeouts in 280 innings. His 7.96 strikeouts per nine innings average is fifth best of all time.

He also was wild at times and led the National League four times in walks. He finished his career with the Red Sox from 1972-74. After retiring, Veale coached pitchers for 10 years with various organizations. These days Veale, 67, lives in Birmingham, Ala.

Q: Pirates' announcer Bob Prince said you could "throw a strawberry through a locomotive." Did anyone ever clock your fastball?

A: Bob always used to come up with something. I don't know how fast I threw. They didn't do those things back then, and if they had those [radar] guns I don't know if they were very accurate.

Q: Ever think what you, a left-hander who threw hard, might be worth if you were playing today?

A: I should have been born in 1955 instead of 1935. But I don't dwell on anything like that. It's the foam at the bottom of the spillway. It's water over the dam.

Q: What's the most money you made in one season?

A: The most I made was $35,000, and I think I was getting that along with [Bill] Mazeroski, but you've got to remember things were a lot different then. I didn't need a lot of money because I spent most of my time at the ballpark. I was single and I used to walk from my apartment to Forbes Field. I'd stop and get something to eat or I'd cook myself something, then go over there and get in the whirlpool or just talk to guys in the locker room. I was always one of the first ones to arrive for a game and the last one to leave. You stay out of trouble that way.

Q: Is there one game or one thing that stands out from when you played?

A: Not just one thing. What I remember most is the cohesiveness we had as a team. We had a lot of guys who were pulling for each other to do well. [Willie] Stargell and myself came up to the Pirates at the same time. I do remember us driving from Columbus [Ohio] to Pittsburgh in my Studebaker that I think I paid $150 for. I wish I still had that car.

Q: Do you remember the game when you struck out 16?

A: That was against the Phillies and there were two rain delays. We started at 8:15 and I didn't end up leaving the ballpark until 2:30 in the morning.

Q: You came back after each rain delay. These days, a manager would never let a pitcher do that, right?

A: I liked to finish what I started, but that didn't always happen with [Pirates manager] Danny Murtaugh. We had Roy Face and then Al McBean in the bullpen, and he'd bring those guys in. So, when I got a chance to stay out there, I stayed out there.

Q: Is the 16-strikeout game the one you remember most?

A: There was one game I pitched where I had six stitches in my foot, and they broke open in the 10th inning and Murtaugh asked me about it. I stayed out there, and [third baseman] Bob Bailey came over and said that they'd win the game for me so I wouldn't have to come back out for another inning, and he went out and got a hit to do just that.

Q: What was it like pitching in Forbes Field with all the room there?

A: You just made sure people didn't hit the ball down the right-field line. The thing about when I pitched was that I had the best defense behind me. There was [Roberto] Clemente, the best right fielder in the game; Willie Stargell, the best left fielder; Bill Virdon, the best defensive center fielder; Donn Clendenon, the best first baseman; and Maz at second and [Gene] Alley at short. Pitching was easy with those guys behind you.

Q: Didn't you also have a reputation of being a little wild with your pitches?

A: They made a big deal about Lou Brock not waiting to bat against me that one game when my glasses broke. [Don] Drysdale, [Bob] Gibson, myself were considered hard throwers. People would dig in on Juan Marichal because he didn't throw that hard. They didn't dig in on us.

Q: Was winning the World Series in '71 you biggest thrill?

A: That was great and all, but I just enjoyed playing the game. The Pirates released me after that season, and I went to Boston and had a couple of more good years as a relief pitcher.

Q: Did you enjoy coaching?

A: I liked working with the young guys and teaching them to be pitchers. Most of them knew how to throw, but they didn't know how to pitch. I tried to teach them that they had to believe in themselves.


Have an idea for a Where are they Now? E-mail it to emert196@attbi.com.

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