Not long after Johannes Hendrikus Urbanus got back to The Netherlands last spring, a Dutch baseball official said sadly: "I wish Hannie had stayed home." The star pitcher of the Dutch Honkbal champions, Amsterdam's Op Volharding Volgt Overwinning (perseverance leads to victory) team, Hannie, 25, had just spent a month in the U.S. at the New York Giants' training camp (TIME, Feb. 25). He learned some tricky pitches, but Hannie and the things he had learned in America played hob with Honkbal.
When he got home, Hannie discovered that in gaining his fancy new repertory of curves and fireballs, he had lost all control. To offset his disadvantage, he soon taught rival pitchers how they, too, could throw American style. By the time the Honkbal season opened, the mound performances endangered not only batters, catchers and fans, but ballpark passers-by as well. There were so many walks that runs often outnumbered hits.
Then, just when other pitchers were tempted to abandon Hannie's heady stuff, Hannie got his control back. With a curve he learned from Giant Pitcher Sal Maglie, he began whiffing one batter after another. Hannie pitched one no-hitter, two shutouts. The other pitchers kept trying to toss American style, and some improved. But last week, at season's end, none was even close to Hannie's new-found effectiveness. With an average of twelve strikeouts a game, and two international victories (over England and Belgium) to his credit. Pitcher Urbanus hurled his undefeated O.V.V.O. team to its fourth straight Dutch championship, 5 to 2, over a strong Haarlem nine.
Hannie is already plotting next season's mound strategy: "I'll be ready with the knuckle ball." Then he dolefully adds: "Right now it is still zooming like a flying saucer."