One of my favorite ballplayers, former Giants starter Kirk Rueter (known to teammates as “Woody”), retired today. He’d been trying to catch hold with his hometown St. Louis Cardinals, but it didn’t happen.
I’m a sucker for a crafty lefthander, and I always loved how much success Rueter had with almost no “stuff.” You usually get that with a guy who throws a “heavy ball,” that is, a sinkerballer. Those guys get a lot of ground outs, double plays, and so forth. But Woody was a flyball pitcher, so it was doubly impressive. He always seemed on the brink of disaster, and until the last year or two, he always found his way out. To me, there’re few greater pleasures than watching a perfectly pitched game by a guy without any great pitches, and Woody afforded me that many times.
Once, I was at a game at Candlestick, and this kid with big ears and a big low ballcap was leaning over the railing, yelling at Rueter. “Hey! Monkey boy! Look! I’m a monkey boy, too!” Rueter stopped his outfield long-toss, and ran, laughing, over to the kid. He ended up giving him a hat. Warmed my heart. He’ll be missed.