Major league batters responded to an SI poll about the best parks to hit in by naming Boston's Fenway as their overwhelming choice in the American League and Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium as their favorite in the National. That's odd, considering the difference between the two parks, and other factors.
Fenway's natural grass doesn't help speedy runners who like to chop balls into the infield so they can beat out high bouncers for hits. Although the greenery at the Vet is artificial, it's no livelier than in many other stadiums. Long-ball hitters like Boston's Green Monster in leftfield, but about the only appeal in right and center (where the wall is 17 feet high and 420 feet away) is that there is lots of room to spray singles and 'tweeners. The 330-foot foul lines in Philadelphia are about average for those in the National, but the 12-foot-high walls are tied with those in Cincinnati and Montreal for being the league's tallest.
Hitters like having little foul ground at Fenway in which balls can be caught, but there's no such advantage at the Vet. Balls carry well at both parks, but even better in Minnesota's Metrodome, Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium or at Chicago's Wrigley Field when the wind is blowing out. Furthermore, the lights in Boston and Philadelphia are no better than at most parks. Still, Fenway and Veterans Stadium are hits with the hitters.
Giants' Manager Frank Robinson's attempts to revive the art of bench jockeying raise questions about whether his methods are artful or tactless. Bill Buckner of the Cubs felt that Robinson overdid it in a series in San Francisco by getting on him with excessive heckling and derisive gestures. Said Robinson, "I never liked the guy. He said I bothered him? Great." Buckner retaliated by going 6 for 18 with a homer and four RBIs.
The Dodgers also got hot about Robby recently when he repeatedly rubbed his nose while L.A. Reliever Steve Howe was pitching against the Giants—an obvious allusion to Howe's cocaine history. One Dodger, Pedro Guerrero, tried to get at Robinson, but was contained by teammates. "I always rub my nose," Robinson said. "It's a habit of mine. But if Howe has a guilt feeling, it's his problem and not mine."
Going "the other way" has helped Blue Jay outfielders Jesse Barfield and Lloyd Moseby go the right way this season. Much to his own surprise, the righthand-hitting Barfield has found he can go to the opposite field with power. Barfield's two home runs to right in the past two weeks were the 33rd and 34th of his career—and the first ones he didn't pull. "I can drive the ball the other way and be successful, and I'm going to take advantage of it," Barfield says. Moseby has worked all season on going with the pitch rather than pulling everything. During a recent stretch, the lefty swinger had two hits in four consecutive games against lefthanded pitchers. "I've lowered my hands and I'm going the opposite way," says Moseby, who last year hit .236 but is batting .311 this season. "It's definitely put 40 points on my average."
The Mets have not been able to stop enemy base stealers this season, except when Ed Lynch has pitched. The team's most consistent starter, Lynch shortens his leg kick dramatically when pitching from the stretch. As a result, only 10 runners have tried to steal on him, and only five have been successful. As a team, though, the Mets have allowed the most steals in the major leagues: 137 in 190 attempts.
If it's necessary to complete the Pine Tar Game between the Royals and Yankees (K.C. leads 5-4 with two out in the top of the ninth), the Kansas City dugout will have some vacancies. Though he overruled the umpire's call they protested, American League President Lee MacPhail has ejected George Brett, who hit the controversial homer off Goose Gossage, Manager Dick Howser and Coach Rocky Colavito and also Pitcher Gaylord Perry, who tried to make off with Brett's bat. It appears to be a sop to the umpires, whose poor work precipitated the controversy in the first place.... Another Royal who won't be there—or at any other Kansas City game this year for that matter—is Vida Blue. The 34-year-old lefthander had 191 career wins but was 0-5 with a 6.01 ERA this season when the Royals released him last Friday. K.C. must honor Blue's $600,000-per-year contract through 1984.... In his first start, Blue's replacement, Eric Rasmussen, beat Boston 7-0. It was the Royals' first complete-game shutout since last September when Blue blanked Seattle 8-0, his last victory as a Royal.
When Catcher Butch Wynegar was traded by the Twins to the Yankees in May 1982, he was a lifetime .254 hitter. For New York he has hit .307 this year and .300 since the trade. "It's being with a winner, playing for the team I wanted to play for ever since I was a kid," Wynegar says. "In Minnesota, when it became apparent that the owner [Calvin Griffith] didn't care if we won, well, the subconscious takes over and you start to think, 'Why should we care?' A new lease on life? You wouldn't believe how much."
With Glenn Wilson on first, Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson flashed the hit-and-run sign for John Wockenfuss, who dutifully stroked a single to right. Instead of going to third, though, Wilson stopped at second, having been decoyed by Julio Cruz, the Chicago second baseman. Cruz pretended the ball had been popped up to the outfield and yelled for it to be thrown to first to double up the runner. Anderson was so mad at Wilson that he sent in Pitcher Jack Morris to run for him. Sparky then called for a bunt but Tom Brookens missed the pitch, and Morris, who had headed toward third, slipped and was picked off second by Catcher Carlton Fisk. The Tigers lost the game 7-5.
Bob Howsam, who replaced Dick Wagner as Cincinnati's president and chief executive officer last month, is keeping his promise about making changes. "It's no longer Stalag 100," said one employee of the looser atmosphere in the offices, where doors are now kept open, not shut.
Batting Coach Ted Kluszewski now goes on road trips, Cincy farm clubs have been authorized to use designated hitters, as all other minor league teams do, and Dave Concepcion was named field captain. Since then, Concepcion has raised his average from .219 to .239. The players especially appreciate the way Howsam settled their 3-year-old hassle with management about what spikes they can wear. By a 14-11 vote, the Reds accepted Howsam's offer to permit black spikes with red stripes instead of Model T black-only shoes. "Great move," said Pitcher Frank Pastore, Cincinnati's player representative, of the decision, which will enable the Reds to earn endorsement money from shoe manufacturers. "His [Howsam's] impact has been clearly positive."...Johnny Bench, who said he'd make one final appearance at home as a catcher before retiring at the end of the year, responded to Manager Russ Nixon's plea to go behind the plate more often. "Some of our young pitchers can use your experience," Nixon said. Bench has caught some against Houston, L.A. and San Diego. Against the Dodgers, Bench threw out would-be base stealer Derrel Thomas. "It does make you have goose bumps, doesn't it?" said Nixon, a former catcher. "Nobody sits behind the plate like he does. He's the greatest there ever was. He just radiates."
Britt Burns of the White Sox, who had a 5-6 record and 4.16 ERA (7.88 for his last four starts), has gone to the bullpen for a brief stay. "There've been some things in my personal life that Tony [Manager Tony La Russa] knows about that I believe are the problem." Burns said. "When I'm out there, I'm not like I used to be. There's a reason for it, and we're dealing with it. I didn't have to tell Tony. He guessed it. Physically, I feel fine, but the fire I had in '80 and '81—the motivation—is not there." La Russa added: "He's been through a lot the last two years [the death of his father in 1981 and a strained shoulder muscle in 1982]. He must reflect on those things."
Clark Griffith, 42, executive vice-president and treasurer of the Twins and the son of owner Calvin Griffith, will take a leave from those posts to enter the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. The reasons: Clark's duties with the team have become minimal, and his dad pays little heed to his advice.... Toronto's Dave Stieb was 11-4 and had a 2.18 ERA on June 17, but has been 1-6 with a 5.10 ERA since then. Part of Stieb's trouble is a tender middle finger that keeps him from throwing his slider properly.... A sore muscle under his shoulder put Giant lefty Atlee Hammaker on the disabled list with a 10-5 record and a National League-leading 1.98 ERA...While First Baseman Greg Brock has fizzled (five homers, 17 RBIs and a .176 average since May 19), the Dodgers' other prize rookie, Outfielder Mike Marshall, has sizzled. Marshall was batting .212 on June 2, but has hit .329 with eight homers and 23 RBIs in his last 53 games, raising his average to .285.... Fearing a rain-out on the last day of the season, the Red Sox scheduled Carl Yastrzemski Day for Oct. 1 and not Oct. 2.
FOR STRIKEOUTS, IT'S REGGIE BAR NONE
California's Reggie Jackson has struck out more times than any player in history, and it's a record he seems intent on keeping forever. Since 1981 Jackson annually has had more strikeouts than hits, starting with an 82-79 ratio that year, when he batted .237. Last season Jackson hit .275 with 156 whiffs and 146 hits. So far this year the King of Ks is hitting .211 and the spread has become a whopping 109-66.
Angels were on first and third in Minnesota's Metrodome when Twins Centerfielder Rusty Kuntz tried to make a sliding catch of Steve Lubratich's blooper. Instead, the ball glanced off his glove and chest—and disappeared. While frantically looking around the outfield and even down his shirt and in his pants for the missing ball, Kuntz spotted his cap nearby. So he shouted to Leftfielder Gary Ward, who had come charging over, "Look under the hat." Ward lifted it, and, low and behold, there was the ball. Before Ward could peg the ball to the infield, two runs had crossed the plate and Lubratich had a "hat trick" double.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
JESSE OROSCO: The Mets' lefthander won two games and saved two as New York won five of six. In his last six relief appearances he has four wins, two saves and a string of 13‚Öì shutout innings.
BALL PARK FIGURES
Big league players responded to an SI poll by naming the following as the best first-base umpires (with their years in the majors in parentheses).
1. Steve Palermo
2. Dave Phillips
3. Rich Garcia
4. Ken Kaiser
5. Mike Reilly
1. Dutch Rennert
2. Doug Harvey
3. Joe West
4. Paul Runge
5. Harry Wendelstedt