Those of you of a certain age may recall, with some fondness, Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone" on TV. The sci-fi series ran on CBS for five seasons, 1959-64, when a full season constituted 39 shows, not the 22 we have today. Anyway, from the moment I first watched Stephen Strasburg pitch in the major leagues in June, I thought of an episode of "The Twilight Zone" from June 17, 1960 called "The Mighty Casey."
The story revolved around a big league club called the Hoboken Zephyrs in 1951 (I say 1951 because the Zephyrs' uniform featured the National League anniversary patch, worn only that year). The Zephyrs were a chronic second division ballclub managed by "Mouth" McGarry, a Leo Durocher-esque figure played by Jack Warden. He's approached by a Dr. Stillman, who requests a tryout for his player, a pitcher named "Casey," a la "Casey at the bat."
Casey, it turns out, is a strikeout machine with a completely unhittable fastball - sound familiar? - who does his job so efficiently, and without visible emotion, that he seems almost robotic.
It turns out that, in fact, he is a robot. When he's hit by a errant ball and examined by an actual physician, the league rules that he can't play because he's not human - he has no heart. Dr. Stillman takes him back to the lab and installs a ticker - an artificial heart - and Casey returns to the Zephyrs. Alas, with a "heart," Casey no longer wants to strike everyone out. He has empathy for the hitters, and his career is over.
As the story ends, the narrator (Rod Serling) says that Dr. Stillman and McGarry teamed up later when the Zephyrs moved to the West Coast and won championships with a pitching staff composed of other robots - Think the Dodgers, with Koufax and Drydale.
Not to say that Stephen Strasburg is robotic, necessarily, but his demeanor on the mound is so focused, he never seems rattled by anything. He doesn't want to be known as a strikeout pitcher per se, but he seems to be able to crank it up a notch to get one when he needs it. His postgame comments are also delivered with little emotion, with an almost eye-rolling curiosity as to why anyone is remotely interested in what he has to say.
Though I can assure everyone that Strasburg, indeed, has a heart. And lungs, and a liver and a spleen. The full complement of human organs. He won't need to go back to the lab anytime soon.
One last thing: An actor named Robert Sorrells played "Casey" 50 years ago, and was quite good in the role. The last time I saw him on screen was in the movie "Fletch" with Chevy Chase in the 1980's. I did a web search for Sorrells the other day and was shocked to find out that, at 80, he's in prison for life on a murder charge. He just went berserk with a gun a few years back.
I wasn't expecting that.