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