• U.S.

Sport: Face Saver

2 minute read

Three Pittsburgh pitchers had been mauled for 15 hits in the first eight innings; yet the Pirates were still in the game, tied 9-9 with the San Francisco Giants. Out of the bullpen strode little (5 ft. 8 in., 155 Ibs.) Elroy Leon Face, and suddenly the crowd at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field knew everything would be all right. It was. Face shackled Giant batters for three innings, and the Pirates won in the eleventh, 12-9.

Righthander Face is the chief reason the Pirates are still in the National League pennant race. He has won ten without a defeat, saved four more games for other Pittsburgh pitchers. In fact, he has not lost a game since May 30, 1958. So far this season, Face is the major leagues’ winningest pitcher. At week’s end his earned-run average was a stylish 1.12. In 40⅓ innings, he had walked only seven batters, struck out 36.

At 31, Face is content to be a relief pitcher, feels no strain when called in to pitch with the bases loaded. “I concentrate on the hitter,” he explains. “There’s nothing you can do about the runners. The guy with the stick in his hand is the only one that can hurt you. I just try to get the guys to hit the ball on the ground.” Despite his slight build, Face has an apparently indestructible arm. In 1956 he relieved in nine straight games. His specialty is a “fork ball” that breaks crazily.

Brown-haired and blue-eyed, Roy Face is a carpenter in the off season—a trade that runs in the family. His father, grandfather, two brothers and five uncles are all carpenters. When he was 20, he struck out 36 batters in two semi-pro games on successive Sundays, was promptly signed by the Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates later drafted him from Fort Worth.

Face is equally impressive against all National League teams—even the heavy-hitting Milwaukee Braves. Hank Aaron has had only two hits in two years off Face. Says Aaron: “He’s one of the most underrated pitchers in the big leagues. You wouldn’t think much of him because of his size, but he’s a dandy.”

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