“He has a slider that is just plain nasty and a fastball that keeps infielders employed and a changeup that sends batters to the chiropractor.”
–Bill Lyon, Baseball Digest (September 1975), “Tom Underwood: A New Super Pitcher in the Making?”
And in a single horrendous run-on sentence, the Philly Inquirer‘s Bill Lyon etches Tom Underwood a spot on the wall of Phillies lore. Its not everyday a man with a spine-shattering change up takes the mound for your team.
Which, for the sake of all that human vertebrate, is probably a good thing.
Tom only spent three of the mid-70s with the Phillies; two as a starter, and one in relief. He wasn’t always a terminator. He lost a bunch. He won a bunch. He wild-pitched in the go-ahead run during an ill-fated double header against the Mets on June 5, 1976.
“Tommy Underwood, when is on, is very bad for the concession business.”
No, Tom never celebrated a stellar half inning of work by rampaging through the Veterans Stadium concourse, shrieking in backwards verbiage and hurling most of the equipment at the most adorable children he could find.
He once pitched a four-hitter against the Braves in and hour and 46 minutes, basically murdering them. The angle Lyons took in this article is “Tom Underwood prevents hard-working vendors from supporting their players.” Seriously. He keeps the theme going for a little while.
Sticking around passed his brother Pat’s MLB career that started and ended in between Tom’s 10-year bookends that had him bouncing around, like, six different teams. Maybe less. Five. I can’t remember. Exact numbers can be tough. He ended things with an 86-87 record, an ERA under 4.00, and a tragic loss in his fist fight with pancreatic cancer.
“I just wish I could have played the game longer,” he said.
The only thing scarier than Roy Hallday-esque intimidation is Jamie Moyer-esque longevity. Tom Underwood wouldn’t stop.
They’re not kidding about that slider. Just reading about it is making my back hurt.