THE FIRST time Johnny Sain's first wife saw him pitch in the majors, in 1946, he beat the Reds 5--1. But after the game she had a complaint; she had waved at Sain during the game, and he hadn't noticed. "I think of nothing but pitching when I'm on the rubber," Sain said a few years later. "Pitching is my business." Few were better at that business than Sain, who died last week at age 89. As a pitcher he was a four-time 20-game winner and one half the inspiration for baseball's most famous couplet; as a pitching coach, he mentored some of the game's best staffs.
That Sain even made it to the majors was remarkable. He languished in Class D for four years before his unremarkable 1942 debut, but he was able to experiment with his pitches while playing service ball in the Navy during World War II. He returned to the majors a different pitcher, winning 65 games from '46 to '48 (64 were complete games). In '48 he and Warren Spahn inspired the slogan " Spahn and Sain and pray for rain." Though Spahn had top billling, Sain was the ace; he started Game 1 of the '48 Series and outdueled Bob Feller. After he retired in '55 with a 139--116 record, Sain became the Yankees' pitching coach and turned Whitey Ford into a 20-game winner. He also handled the '65 Twins, who won the AL, and the '68 Tigers, who had 30-game winner Denny McLain. Said one of Sain's students, Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone, "I've always considered him the greatest pitching coach in baseball."