Baseball changes talent and it changes approaches, this story is about that sort of thing.
"It's a delivery-oriented pitch." I told Hickey the BOC was the toughest pitch to hit when thrown properly. He said, "Maybe, but the strike zone doesn't permit it anymore. You can't rely on it for a strike when you're behind in the count. Today, the smaller breaking balls are popular, because it's easier to throw them in a smaller strike zone."Before I left, I asked Hickey who had the best overhand curveball he'd ever seen. Without hesitation he said, "Nolan Ryan." I asked him if he'd ever seen Sandy Koufax pitch. He said, "Koufax couldn't pitch today the way he did [50 years ago], because of the strike zone." He added, "There's hardly a fastball-curveball pitcher in the game today. Guys got away from the curve, because it's too hard to maintain a slider and a curve."Kaline said that the BOC went out of favor as the strike zone got smaller. "Today, a pitch above the waist is a ball," he said. "In my day, a pitch at the armpits was a strike." This allowed pitchers to set up their BOC with a high-fastball strike and then throw the BOC at the same eye level. Now, if a pitcher wants to throw the high heater to set up his BOC, he probably will end up throwing the BOC behind in the count, which is tricky, because the umpires don't like to call the BOC as a strike anymore, either. "That curveball used to be a strike, but now it's caught as a ball," said Kaline.
Then Kaline smiled. Not at me, but at something he saw in his mind's eye, from years ago. "Hitters have it easier today," he said. "If I was a player today … it would be a good time to hit."