Scouts from nine baseball organizations descended upon tiny
Meridian, Idaho, in the spring of 1948 to make their pitch for
18-year-old Vernon Law. While many of the suitors entered the
Law home brazenly puffing cigars--a glaring breach of etiquette
in a Mormon household--the respectful representatives of the
Pittsburgh Pirates showed up with a dozen roses, a box of
chocolates and a special recruiter in reserve. "I remember the
phone rang halfway through the meeting," recalls Law, 70. "You
can only imagine the impact getting a call from Bing Crosby had
on my mother."
Bada-Bing! Thanks to sweet crooning from Crosby, a part-owner of
the Pirates, the Bucs landed their man. Only years later did Law
learn that the Pirates' representatives weren't as wholesome as
they had pretended to be: "What you didn't know," Crosby told
Law, "was that [Pirates scout] Babe Herman bought a box of
cigars and passed out stogies to the other scouts before they
entered your house."
That smoky subterfuge would lead to victory cigars in 1960, the
year Law, a righthander with a sneaky fastball and the accuracy
of an Olympic archer, had a 20-9 record, earned the Cy Young
Award and won twice in the World Series as Pittsburgh beat the
New York Yankees in seven games.
Nicknamed the Deacon for his status as a church elder, Law
carried a red spiral notebook throughout his career and filled
it with hundreds of inspirational aphorisms. When he felt pain
in his pitching arm in 1961, for example, he wrote, "Difficulty
can be the means of opening up a new opportunity." Law entitled
his notebook Words to Live By. His faith was tested when the arm
pain lingered for three seasons. He retired in August 1963 but
returned to Pittsburgh the next year and won 12 games. In '65
Law finished 17-9 with a 2.15 ERA and was named the Comeback
Player of the Year. Two years later he retired a second time,
with 162 victories amassed over 16 seasons. Law spent two
decades as a coach for a number of organizations before
switching to corporate sales, and he still puts in 10 hours a
week as a salesman for a golf company near his home in Provo,
Vernon and his wife of 50 years, VaNita, raised a daughter and
five sons, including Vance, an 11-year major leaguer who
currently is the head baseball coach at BYU. Vernon's and
VaNita's youngest son, Varlin, is especially close to their
hearts today. Two years ago, when Varlin was found to have
leukemia, he received a bone marrow transplant from his sister,
VaLynda. "Varlin's been to hell and back, but he's a fighter,"
says Vernon. "He keeps improving, so we're hopeful."
Words, no doubt, to live by.
COLOR PHOTO: HY PESKIN
COLOR PHOTO: GREG CAVA
Law, known as the Deacon, carried a spiral notebook in which he
wrote inspirational aphorisms.