THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Friday, April 14, 1995 TAG: 9504140552 SECTION: SPORTS PAGE: C1 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Column SOURCE: Bob Molinaro DATELINE: NORFOLK LENGTH: Medium: 79 lines
Bill Pulsipher showed up for work Thursday looking like the pitcher from Pearl Jam.
Walking to his locker in black, low-cut sneakers, he wore a pair of long, baggy denim shorts very low on the hips, topped by a stretched-out blue T-shirt.
Completing the Generation-X look were the studs that decorated each of his earlobes, and a haircut of unusual distinction - shaved to the scalp on the sides, spiky on top. The youngest member of the Norfolk Tides is a lefthander for the 21st century.
``Wild Bill Pulsipher? He doesn't remind me of anyone I've seen in baseball,'' said his manager, Toby Harrah. ``And I think that's good.''
Even before he pitched a two-hit shutout in the first game of the season at Harbor Park, Pulsipher was the team's most colorful, intriguing player, not to mention the most likely to make it big in New York.
``You gotta be alive to handle Pulse,'' said Tides catcher Charlie Greene. ``I don't think he's ever thrown a ball straight in his life. Everything cuts and sinks.''
It's his pitching, of course, that sets apart this grunge stylist from other refugees from the mall.
``Baseball's a game of left-handers,'' Harrah said. ``His future is unlimited.''
So it appeared Thursday, when only five Rochester Red Wings reached base on Pulsipher without benefit of an error.
``My fastball was diving a lot,'' he said. ``They were hitting the top of the ball and grounding out.''
By unofficial count, Rochester didn't hit a half-dozen balls hard in nine innings of pulsating Pulsipher pitching.
Getting outs, though, was only part of Pulsipher's appeal. On an opening night attended by 10,069, the 21-year-old from Northern Virginia was a show within the show.
There was, for example, the way he left the field after each inning, meticulously retracing his steps in the dirt whenever he crossed the first-base line.
``I walk off the field all game long in the same two footprints,'' he explained.
It's a superstition. All lefthanded pitchers should have superstitions.
``Another one,'' said Pulsipher, ``is that I keep the resin bag in the same place all game. And also, I always take off my hat in the dugout.''
Not a superstition, but a habit, is the way Pulsipher loosens up before most innings. Standing atop the mound, he rapidly, almost cartoonishly, windmills his left arm over his head three or four times. Sometimes, even his right arm gets into the act.
At moments like this, our 21st century pitcher looks like something out of a '40s newsreel.
For sure, Pulsipher's quirky movements and superstitions wouldn't be worth discussing if he wasn't tying batters into knots.
``You try to teach righthanders to get the ball to move,'' Harrah was saying. ``With a lefthander, it just moves.''
``His pitches move extraordinarily,'' Harrah said, ``especially when he keeps it down. When Willie keeps his pitches low, you just see the top half of the ball. He's amazing.''
On and off the field, then, Pulsipher has a style all his own.
``I'm just a guy who feels most comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt,'' he said. ``But I wore a jacket on our flight in from Scranton today. It's a team thing. I don't mind dressing up and looking good. But that's just not me.''
Pulsipher smiled the smile of a winner and said, ``I'm not your regular person, I guess.''
Or your regular pitcher. ILLUSTRATION: [Color Photo]
Pitcher Bill Pulsipher, the youngest member of the Norfolk Tides, is
a lefthander for the 21st century.
KEYWORDS: INTERVIEW by CNB