He could throw that speedball by you….

Seems like every class in every school has one. Bobby Myrick, who died Thursday in Hattiesburg, was ours. He was that guy who could do anything in sports. Just give him the ball and get out of the way.

A three-sport star, Bobby was voted most athletic of our very athletic Class of 1970 at Hattiesburg High School. He went on to pitch for Mississippi State, the original Jackson Mets and then in the Major Leagues for the New York Mets and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

What those Major Leaguers never knew is that they never saw the real Bobby Myrick. He hurt his arm at State and never really did throw as hard — or with as much pop, as they say — after that. But he was so gifted he was still in that tiny fraction of one percent that make the big leagues.

In Hattiesburg, we saw the real Bobby. I caught him as a kid. He was my claim to fame as an athlete. Really. Kids would come by the dugout to look at my left hand, red and swollen from his wicked fastballs. I caught Bobby by default. Most everyone else was scared to.

I think of Bobby every time I hear Bruce Springsteen sing these words (which is often): “He could throw that speedball by you, make you look like a fool, boy.”

We were 12 and playing in the state little league tournament. We already had one loss in a double-elimination tournament and our coach decided he was going to save Bobby for a possible championship game.

Then, of course, we never got to the championship game and the coach brought Bobby in to pitch the last inning of what turned out to be our last little league game.

Bobby was seething. I remember thinking to my 12-year-old self: “Oh —-.”

I weighed about 80 pounds at the time. Bobby’s first fastball, a strike, knocked me over.

The kindly home-plate umpire braced me with his knee for the next eight pitches, all strikes, all untouched by the batters. Never have I been so glad for a game to end. And I promise you this: Whoever was on deck was even happier.

You should know that Bobby Myrick was a good man, a good friend. I wasn’t surprised when I heard he was helping in a neighbor’s yard when he died.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *