The main thing to know about San Diego pitcher Andy Hawkins—apart from his perfect record, of course—is that he's Texas to his teeth, a blue-jeans-and-boots Lone Star State boy "through and through," says his wife, Jackie, a Texas belle who looks and sounds like Phyllis George. Hawkins was born in Waco, married Jackie there and lives part-time in Bruceville now. "Five thousand population," Hawkins says, "counting the pigs and the cows."
Hawkins's record, since you asked, is 10-0, counting last Thursday's 5-4 victory over Montreal. The main thing to know about that is that he's the first National League starter to go 10-0 since Juan Marichal of the 1966 San Francisco Giants.
Like nearly everything else in his home state, Andy comes in the large, economy size—6'3" and 205 pounds—and like any good Texan, Hawkins likes his burritos hot, his bellywashers cold and his Ford Bronco kept warm for the hunting season. He once shot a bobcat while perched in a tree and never broke a sweat. He's morally opposed to ties, but on Mother's Day he did put on his creased jeans and a button-down shirt for Jackie. ("He spoils me," she says.) Yes, Andy Hawkins is as Texan as Southfork, and that's why Padres manager Dick Williams oughtn't have said what he went and said.
Williams called Hawkins "timid" last season. Right in the papers, called him a "timid Texan." To Texans, those two words are mutually exclusive, sort of like "too rich." To a Texan, timid is cousin to "scared," and "scared" comes out awful close to "gutless." Next to calling Andy by his real first name, which is Melton, there is practically nothing in this world that gets his Texas dander up more than being called gutless. "He pissed me off," Hawkins says, "and that's why he said it."
June 9, 1985
Ever since then, Hawkins has been as hot as a jalape√±o. He was magnificent coming out of the bullpen for the Padres in the playoffs and the World Series, giving up only one run in 15‚Öî innings—the best pitcher you never knew—and he hasn't stopped to reload yet. This season, with the Padres comfortably ensconced in first in the National League West, Hawkins is trying to succeed Dave McNally (15-0 with Baltimore in 1969) as the fastest man out of the chute in modern times.
But Hawkins is not just 10-0. He's 10 for 10, which is another thing entirely. He has had 10 starts and 10 wins, and nobody can remember the last time that happened. Ron Guidry went 13-0 in '78, but his first 10 wins came in 13 starts. It took Marichal 11 games to go 10-0. Nobody ranks with Hanks.
"Hanks" is Hawkins's handle. He got it one day last year in Atlanta, when a herd of young females, hanging around the bullpen, commenced to screaming for Dave Dravecky's autograph. Dravecky was busy throwing and couldn't get away, so Hawkins volunteered to go over and sign some. What the heck, the phone was never for him anyway. The only trouble was, like most people in the country, the girls had never heard of Andy Hawkins. Two of them looked at their autographs and scrunched up their noses.
"What's it say?" said the first girl to the second girl.
"I don't know," said the second. "I think it says 'Andy Hanks.' "
Hawkins has been Hanks ever since, which might make sense, when you get to thinking about it. After all, besides the name, there seems to be little resemblance between Hawkins past and Hawkins present perfect. Going into this season, he was an exceedingly ignorable 15-21 lifetime (3.94 ERA), with a previous high-water mark of 8-9 ('84) and an express check-in reservation in Dick Williams's doghouse the last two seasons. He also spent a lot of time with the Padres' Triple A clubs in Hawaii and Las Vegas, making three trips in three years.
But now, suddenly, Hawkins is the most successful pitcher in baseball. "Overnight," says teammate LaMarr Hoyt, "he went from a pretty decent pitcher to a great pitcher." Says teammate Tim Flannery, "Personally, I think he's doing it with mirrors."
Truth is, Hawkins is doing it with a lot of pluck, a little luck, an old delivery, a new pitch and a Hankering to prove himself anything but—don't get him started—timid.
The Padres' No. 1 draft choice in 1978, Hawkins turned down a football scholarship to quarterback for Baylor. He and Jackie pinballed around minor league baseball for five years—Walla Walla to Reno to Amarillo to Honolulu—until he was called up to San Diego in 1982, at age 22. He promptly went 2-5 and was sent back down. Trying again in 1983, he started off like a Rolls-Royce, with a 2.18 ERA after seven starts, including a 5-0 victory over Steve Carlton and the Phillies. But June arrived in a 1963 Valiant, and by July he was back in Vegas, devastated. "For a month and a half, I wasn't worth a damn," he says. "My best friend was right here," he says, lifting his bottle of Coors. This was no downstream relationship. Hawkins actually persuaded the man who stocked the soda machine in Las Vegas to fill one row with his favorite malted beverage. "Fifty cents a bottle," Hawkins remembers.
He won a spot in the Padres rotation last year, but lost it again by June 27, and was put on the first golf cart headed for the bullpen. "I've seen enough," Williams told him. "I'm sick of watching." Or, as even Hawkins admits, "You can beat your head up against a stump only so many times." Williams saddled up and rode Hawkins regularly, then whipped him in the newspapers. "Afraid to challenge the hitters" was the prime beef against him. The skipper admits he was trying to light a fire under Hawkins. "I wanted him to get mad," says Williams, who is the kind of manager nobody much likes until the World Series checks arrive.
"Here was a big, strapping guy with a beautiful, smooth delivery. It seemed to me he should have the hitters by the butt. But he wouldn't challenge them. He was the first Texan I'd ever known who wasn't always going around saying 'I can do this' and 'I can do that.' "
Pitching coach Norm Sherry, now working in the Padres' minor league system, failed to offer much help. At one point in the season, Sherry and Hawkins went two entire months without speaking to each other. Hawkins had heard enough anyway. Sherry bromides always came in two packages: "Throw strikes" and "Don't walk so many people."
Hmmmmm. Throw strikes. Now why in the world hadn't Hawkins thought of that?
"I don't know how I was supposed to challenge hitters when I couldn't even get the ball across the plate," he says. "There were times I'd be up there and I knew I couldn't throw a strike." The collective glare from the dugout was blinding. "Man, I felt like I was pitching with a hammer over my head." Hawkins was wrong, of course. It was a noose. Says Williams today, "We would have optioned his butt back to Las Vegas if we could have."
That's when Hawkins was saved by the Eyechart—otherwise known as Doug Gwosdz (pronounced goosh)—a catcher who had come up through the system with him. One glum September day, Eyechart, now with the Phoenix Giants, noticed Hawkins wasn't making the same sweep with his arm on his backswing, causing his arm to come across his body too late. "My arm couldn't catch up with my body," Hawkins says with glee, as though this tidbit could cure the common cold. With a few changes, he was suddenly able to control the ball, get some pop on his fastball and, voil√†, challenge hitters. "Dick Williams used to call him timid," Eyechart says. "I wonder what he's calling him now."
As often as he can. By virtue of his Phoenix-like rise from the ashes of the Padres' World Series burnout, Hawkins became a starter for 1985 and has become an uncanny blend of gloriously good timing and finely tuned pitching. Hawkins has pitched exactly well enough to be 10-0, not one slider more, not one changeup less. His numbers are not shocking, just the results. Through the first 10 games he had given up a hit an inning (68 in 69‚Öî), had an ERA of 2.71 and served up eight gopher balls. Typically, six of the home runs were solo jobs. The fact that the Padres averaged 5.9 runs in games he has pitched hasn't hurt, either. "Call it serendipity or fate or the great universal cosmic sheen," says fellow starter Eric Show, "he's got it going."
"Bull," says catcher Terry Kennedy. "Everybody wants an explanation for why Andy is going so good. He's good because he's good. It's not a Cinderella story or luck or fluky or anything like that. He's good. We're good."
Indeed, Hawkins has galloped to his own rescue as often as fortune has. Against Atlanta in his third start, he opened the game by giving up a double to Claudell Washington, a single to Rafael Ramirez and a three-run dinger to Dale Murphy. In the next inning, he started with a triple to Terry Harper. Inside of four outs, he had pitched for the cycle. That done, he retired the next 18 hitters and earned the victory. Go figure.
Hawkins seems to pitch best while suspended over a vat of bubbling oil. He gave up 10 hits to Montreal in win No. 10, but only three runs. He faced Andre Dawson three times with five runners in scoring position yet escaped with two harmless sacrifice flies.
"I don't panic anymore," says Hawkins, who gives much credit to the Padres' new pitching coach, Galen Cisco, and the cut fastball Cisco taught him. "I know there's a way out now."
Make that Hawkins's motto. In the jam of his life, he found a way out: out of Las Vegas, out of the doghouse and out of the shadows. "I know that I've proved I belong now," he says.
Now that sounds Texan.