Hematoma is a word that didn't get into many baseball stories last year and won't get into many this year either. Through the last two months of the 1962 season Maury Wills of the Los Angeles Dodgers was suffering from hematoma—the purple swelling that all full-throttle ballplayers get. Wills had it from his knee to his hip on his left leg. The Dodger trainers had to work 30 minutes a day on Wills before he could take to the field, and most of the time in those last two months he was forced to slide on his stomach. But please don't tell the oldtime baseball fanatics about hematoma or Maury Wills or the slambang ballplayers of today because their memories are only of Ty Cobb (Cobb with his teeth clenched in the dugout; Cobb sliding into second with his spikes high). But baseball as a blood sport didn't die with Ty Cobb. And since the players of today are bigger and stronger than those of past years, the game is even cruder. The next time that you hear the announcer tell you that Frank Robinson is on first base with one out and that "the infield is moving up a step looking for the double play," laugh politely. When Frank Robinson—or Ken Boyer or Eddie Mathews or Don Hoak—is on base in a double-play situation, that infield moves in the extra step for much more than the double play. The second baseman and shortstop take the extra step so that they can make the play quicker and get out of the way, because these four—and many more—will tear an infielder wide open. One night Mathews knocked Charlie Neal out for 10 minutes; Robinson once ripped Don Hoak's pants from ankle to belt buckle.
The slambang of baseball exists not only in the knocking together of Elston Howard and Cletis Boyer (right) in pursuit of a foul pop. It exists, too, in little things like Norm Larker (now with the Milwaukee Braves) slapping a pick-off throw on the runner's legs harder than anyone else. Larker is extremely effective when a runner gets on base; he gave Wills a couple of taps right in the hematoma near the end of last season. On the following pages are some examples of baseball's slambang. The things to watch closely are the elbows and the knees.
A quick elbow thrust into the pivot man's knee forces him off balance and sets up the possibility of a bad relay
A low slide home with both feet aiming at the same target may make the catcher lose both ball and equanimity
April 8, 1963
Third-base scene: a furious tangle of arms, legs, and spikes, and a little gratuitous dirty work in the dust
The slide into second is baseball's version of the downfield block. Object: to take the second baseman out of play