Last Thursday night in Baltimore, the umpires stopped a Royals-Orioles game one strike before it would have been official. K.C. manager Dick Howser had no gripe with the umps, but he did have one with his pitcher and catcher.
The situation: Royals up 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth with two out, a man on third and an 0-2 count on Al Bumbry. In the background, thunder and lightning. Then rain. Lots of rain. Bumbry backs out of the batter's box. He stretches this way and that way. Home plate ump Al Clark requests his return. But before pitcher Mark Gubicza, a 21-year-old rookie, can get that last strike, Clark stops the game. Two hours and 36 minutes later the game is called off.
"If we'd gone ahead and done what we had to do, the umpires wouldn't have gotten involved in the decision," said Howser, who felt third-year catcher Don Slaught had allowed Gubicza to do too much dillydallying in the inning. "We've got a pitcher walking around the mound with thunder and lightning in the background. We have a guy [Gubicza] throwing to first one time that inning. Without ripping anybody, the catcher had to take charge. That's inexperience."
When Angel rookie outfielder Mike Brown broke his last bat recently, he grabbed a Butch Hobson model that had been lying around for a couple of years. But last Monday in Toronto, Brown decided he needed something lighter against pitcher Jim Clancy.
"I'd always wanted one of Reggie's bats to put up on my wall," Brown said. "I asked him for one before the game. Once I got to feeling it and swinging it, I asked if he had any objections if I used it in the game."
Boom! Double boom! Brown hit two home runs. And after the game, as Brown answered reporters' questions, Jackson walked over with a box of his 288 RJs and gave it to the rook.
"It's a beautiful bat," Brown said. "There's magic in it. Maybe I can't hit 490 [Reggie's HR total at the time] with it but maybe I can hit a couple more."
San Diego lefty Dave Dravecky was an All-Star last July but a sore-shouldered pitcher last September. At first the Padres thought it was overwork. Nope. The problem, they finally determined, was flexibility: Dravecky had too much flexibility in his left shoulder.
"I could put my hands together behind my back," Dravecky says, making like a man wearing handcuffs, "and then bring them back over my head." He was so flexible he could manipulate his humerus, the bone in the upper arm, out of the shoulder socket.
"He was grinding bone on bone," says Padre trainer Dick Dent. His solution: exercises to build up the shoulder muscles and reduce the flexibility. Now Dravecky can't make like Houdini. So what? He's 6-4 with seven saves and a 2.21 ERA, and he has allowed only two earned runs in his first three starts back in the rotation. "And I always thought it was an advantage being so flexible," Dravecky says.
The Tigers built an 8½-game lead over Toronto by going 35-5 in their first 40 games. In their second 40 games they went 20-20, the fourth-best record in the division, but lost only a game and a half of their advantage.... Earlier this season, the A's Rickey Henderson whined about manager Steve Boros's wish that he be more conscious of the long ball. Last Friday night, Henderson, whose indifferent play had contributed to Boros's dismissal, hit his 10th homer to match his career high.... Carlton Fisk returned from the DL last Thursday, and what a strange night it was. He homered twice and was hit by pitches twice.... Mariner part-timer Ken Phelps has 12 homers in only 116 at bats. But nine have come with no one on, earning him the nickname Han Solo.. .. Has Steve Balboni finally put it together? Given his first full shot by the Royals after being marooned in the Yankee farm system for years, Bye-Bye has 10 homers in his last 17 games after hitting only five in the first 65.... You probably didn't know that Angel righty Mike Witt leads the AL with 101 Ks. You certainly didn't know he's the first Angel with more than 100 Ks since 1980. Teammate Brian Downing may be hitting .221, but he leads the club with 48 RBIs. Waste not, want not.
A lot of transplanted Detroiters living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area come out to cheer their Tigers when they play the Rangers. So when the Tigers rallied for six runs and a 7-4 win in Arlington last Thursday night, part of the joint went wild. "Why don't they just go back where they came from?" sniffed reliever Joey McLaughlin. "Nothing against those people, but it's hard to come and play a home game in your home park and everybody is rooting for the other team."
Dave Parker and Phillies catcher Ozzie Virgil had a noisy collision recently at the plate. "Most guys," Parker said, "would rather wear a hamburger suit in a lion's den than mess with me."...In 1982, John Stuper was one of the Cardinals' World Series heroes. Last week he was sent down to AAA. "I'm not going to lie to you," Herzog told Stuper, who was 3-5, "I don't have confidence in you."...After his Phillies, who lead the majors in errors, made five against the Reds last week, manager Paul Owens, a metaphor mixer from way back, said, "There's not going to be any Gold Gloves flying over the stadium this season."...Cindy Sandberg was feeding her 2-month-old son last Thursday at 4 a.m. when she heard on the radio that hubby Ryne had been voted to the All-Star team (the first Cub to do so in 11 years). So she called him in San Francisco (2 a.m., P.D.T) to let him know.... Padres All-Star Steve Garvey has 46 RBIs. Greg Brock, who was supposed to replace him as the Dodgers' first baseman, was sent back to Class AAA last week.... Philadelphia's Virgil showed flashes of power as Bo Diaz's backup, but he's acting as if he wants to make Diaz the Wally Pipp of catchers. Virgil, who got his chance when Diaz went on the DL, has 14 homers and 40 RBIs in only 233 at bats.... Jerry Mumphrey's having the last laugh on George Steinbrenner, who destroyed his confidence last year by dropping in the papers unflattering statements about his ability. Mumphrey, traded to Houston in August for Omar Moreno, took 51 RBIs to the All-Star game.... Since June 1, Pirates reliever Rod Scurry has walked home the winning run twice and wild-pitched the winning run in twice.
The Red Sox can become the first American League team to have four players with 30 or more homers. So far Tony Armas has 21 and Jim Rice, Dwight Evans and Mike Easier have 16 apiece. If they pull it off they'll match the '77 Dodgers, the major league record holders, who got 30 or more from Steve Garvey, Reggie Smith, Ron Cey and Dusty Baker.
DH Easier, acquired over the winter from Pittsburgh, where he mainly platooned, is the surprise. He's one of those lefty hitters who can go the other way and loves working at Fenway because of the Green Monster.
"It was a blessing being traded here," he says. "At a press conference after being traded, I looked at the wall and it looked very comfortable." Obviously. Easier is hitting .385 at home and .212 on the road.
There was the expert, trying to figure out whom to vote for on his All-Star ballot. The National League was easy: The only difficult choice was the third outfielder—Jack Clark, Claudell Washington or Tim Raines? The American League was the problem. Second base: Lou Whitaker, Damaso Garcia or Jim Gantner? Shortstop: Alan Trammell, Cat Ripken or Robin Yount? The No. 3 outfielder: Tony Armas, Chet Lemon or Lloyd Moseby? What was an expert to do? And then there was first base. Eddie Murray was the man, but how could he ignore Willie Upshaw, Kent Hrbek, Don Mattingly, Alvin Davis and Pete O'Brien. Some position, huh?
Then the expert realized why he was having so many problems. The AL, which used to be inferior, is now the superior league. The joint is lousy with young stars. The expert smiled. He always was an American League fan.
GOOD SEEING YOU, SANDY
Dodger Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, 48, made a rare public appearance, at the Cracker Jack Old-Timers Game in Washington July 2. In one inning of work, Koufax struck out two but allowed home runs to Harmon Killebrew and Andy Etchebarren as the National League beat the American 9-4 in the rain.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
DWIGHT EVANS: The Boston right-fielder batted .448 (13 for 29) to increase his season's average to .296. He had three home runs among his five extra-base hits, drove in 10 runs and scored eight.
BALL PARK FIGURES
The All-Star break came none too soon for the major-leaguers who ended the first half of the season dead last in these key statistical categories:
(AL) Julio Cruz, Chi
(NL) Ron Oester, Cin
Butch Wynegar, NY
Wayne Tolleson, Tex
Dale Berra, Pit
Bryan Little, Mont
Jim Clancy, Tor
Mike Krukow, SF
Lary Sorensen, Oak
Mark Davis, SF