write:None of it helps his cause of remaining inconspicuous. Once he’s on the mound nothing he does canwall him off from the crowd or the cameras. He makes his living on the baseball fi

or throw temper tantrums on the mound
like Al Hrabosky. He didn’t stomp and glareand leap dramatically over the foul lines. His mother
back home in Mississippi
often complainedabout her son’s on-field demeanor. Specifically
she complained that he never did anything to letpeople know how handsome and charming he actually was. For instance
he never allowed thetelevision cameras to see his winsome smile
even when he sat in the dugout after a successful outing.Chad never smiled because he was mortified by the idea of the TV cameras catching him smiling—or
for that matter
doing anything at all.None of it helps his cause of remaining inconspicuous. Once he’s on the mound
nothing he does canwall him off from the crowd or the cameras. He makes his living on the baseball field’s only raisedplatform
and in such a way as to call to mind a circus act. Sooner or later he needs to throw hiswarm-up pitches
when he does
fans who have never seen him pitch gawk and point. In theirtrailers outside the stadium TV producers scramble to assemble the tape the announcers will need toexplain this curiosity. Pitching out of the stretch
he does not rear up and back
like other reliefpitchers. He jackknifes at the waist
like a jitterbug dancer lurching for his partner. His throwing handswoops out toward the plate and down toward the earth. Less than an inch off the ground
way outwhere the dirt meets the infield grass
he rolls the ball off his fingertips. When subjected to slow-motion replay
as this motion often is
it looks less like pitching than feeding pigeons or shootingcraps. The announcers often call him a sidearm pitcher
but that hasn’t been true of him for nearly fouryears. He’s now
in baseball lingo
a submariner
which is baseball’s way of making a guy whothrows underhand sound manly.The truth is that there is no good word to describe Chad Bradford’s pitching motion; underhanddoesn’t capture the full flavor of it. This year
for the first time in his career
Chad Bradford’s knuckleshave scraped the dirt as he throws. Once during warmups his hand bounced so violently off theground that the baseball ricocheted over the startled head of Toronto Blue jays’ outfielder VernonWells
minding his own business in the on-deck circle. ESPN had replayed that one
over and over.Chad’s new fear is that he’ll do it again
in a game
and that the television cameras will catch him at it
and everyone will be paying him attention all over again.The odd thing about Chad Bradford is that he wants so badly to be normal. Normal is what he’s not.It’s not just that he throws funny. His idiosyncratic streak runs straight down to the bottom of hischaracter. Back in high school he had this shiny white rock he sneaked out with him to the mound.He’d noticed it one day when he was pitching. He was pitching especially well that day and the rockdidn’t look like any rock he’d ever seen on the mound. He attributed some part of his success to thepresence of the shiny white rock. When he was done pitching
he picked up the rock and carried ithome with him. For the next three years he never ventured to the pitcher’s mound without his rock.He’d sneak it out with him in his pocket and put it on the mound
just so
and in such a way that no oneever noticed.By the time he reached the big leagues
he’d weaned himself of his lucky rock but not of the frame ofmind that created it. He had the tenacious sanity of the slightly mad. A big league pitcher who wishesto avoid attention
Chad Bradford has learned to disguise his superstitions as routines. There are


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