It wasn’t long after Pacella was in New York that folks started to notice he lost his cap a lot. The pitcher didn’t actually misplace his cap, it flew off his head almost every time he threw a pitch.

“I don’t know when it started,” Pacella said. “I know it became a big deal, it was [what I] was known for more than anything else.”

Pacella had a thick head of hair and he usually wore his cap high on his head. But even when he pulled it tight around his noggin – it would fall off when he unleashed his fastball. It was so annoying that he took to tossing his warm-up pitches in the bullpen without a cap. The Mets had to hang a sheet in their bullpen to hide it, because league rules required players to wear a cap while in uniform on the field. It got so bad, that when Pacella entered games, fans at Shea Stadium would keep a “Cap Count”, tallying each time his blue Mets cap would fall to the dirt.

The Mets sent Pacella up and down and all around the map for a few years, dispatching him to farm clubs where they trusted a new pitching coach to teach the tall pitcher how to find home plate. He gradually lowered his walk rate, and in 1980 he made the team out of spring training. The Sporting News did a story on Pacella that focused on his newfound mental approach. Pacella claimed that he meditated before starts and that it might have helped him be more effective and throw more strikes. That type of talk was too “new age” for that era, and TSN wrote that Pacella “hypnotized” himself before pitching. But it was more like extra mental focus than any mental magic.

Source: Dan Holmes, Vintage Detroit

5 comments on “Wild-throwing John Pacella earned notoriety for losing his cap

  • Brian Joura

    I always thought if he coated his hair with Lester Hayes’ Stick ’em that his cap would stay on and he’d be a successful MLB pitcher.

  • Hobie

    I think of Bouton loosing his hat. Did I make that up?

    And there was Sid Finch with his meditation & french horn…

  • Kevin McPartland

    Paz went to high school with my sister. A real good guy with a great fastball. I was playing a pick-up two hand touch football game that some friends did every Sunday and several of them were good friends with John. So one Sunday he comes to play and we’re all told that we can’t hit Paz on the right side (Obviously, it’s his pitching arm). So, I’m running down the ball carrier and I get absolutely obliterated by a block to the back by, of all people, John. And as I’m falling to the ground the running back (a wonderful guy named Steve Schnebly) just drops the ball and ends the play saying “Paz, that’s the most blatant clip I’ve ever seen”

    • Brian Joura

      Great story! Thanks for sharing.

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