HORNER HOMERS INTO HISTORY
This is an article from the July 14, 1986 issue
Two years ago there were doubts he would ever play again because of his bad wrist, but on Sunday, Bob Horner of the Braves became the 11th player in major league history to hit four home runs in a game. There were a couple of ironies about Horner's performance. Despite his homers, the Braves lost to Montreal, 11-8. And while almost every Brave game is telecast on Ted Turner's Superstation, this one had to be taped so that WTBS could broadcast the Goodwill Games live.
Horner, who raised his season total to 17 homers (tying him with L.A.'s Mike Marshall and Houston's Glenn Davis for the league lead), hit solo shots in the second and fourth and a three-run dinger in the fifth, all off Andy McGaffigan, and, after popping up in the seventh, another solo homer off Jeff Reardon in the ninth. "In my wildest dreams, I would never have expected to do anything like that," said the 28-year-old Horner, who had hit two homers in a game 18 times but never had a three-homer game. "I had a good week today."
The four-homer game is one of baseball's underappreciated feats; while only 11 men have now accomplished it—no one has ever hit 5—13 pitchers have thrown perfect games. Horner's quartet was the first since Mike Schmidt hit four in 10 innings against the Cubs in '76 and the first in regulation play since Willie Mays had four against the Braves in 1961. The other members of the fraternity are Bobby Lowe (1894), Ed Delahanty (1896), Lou Gehrig (1932), Chuck Klein (1936), Pat Seerey (1948), Gil Hodges (1950), Joe Adcock (1954) and Rocky Colavito (1959). Eight of the 11 were National Leaguers; five were outfielders and four were first basemen. The most homers any of them hit in the season of their feat were the 42 by Colavito; the least, 13 by Delahanty.
There were two outs in the ninth when Horner came up for his final at bat. When he hit Reardon's first pitch, a fastball, over the left centerfield fence, the Atlanta crowd gave him a five-minute ovation. The cheers were well deserved, not only for the home runs, but also for the class and perseverance that Horner has shown over the years.
COLEMAN'S UP FOR GRAND LARCENY
Vince Coleman stole four bases last week in a 7-0 loss to the Mets; his two-out theft of third base in the previous series particularly infuriated the Phillies. The Cardinals' leadoff star, who now has 55 steals, has been given carte blanche to make a run at Rickey Henderson's record of 130. "People want to see it," said Whitey Herzog. "As far as I'm concerned, nothing else is happening. Not that I'm a showman, but they do like to watch him run. With a team out of the race, he could get 20 more steals." ...Then there's the mystery of Willie McGee, who is hitting under .250 and playing as if he took up the sport last October. "He's not the same player in any phase," said Herzog. "And I don't mean last year's player. I mean the four-years-ago player." Herzog said that McGee's eyes have been checked a couple of times and that his vision is perfect....
While an MVP is struggling, so, too, is a Cy Young Award winner. Bret Saberhagen's slide continues. He had won 2 of his last 12 starts for the Royals through last weekend, allowing 19 earned runs in 8 innings in his last 3 starts. He had lost to such stalwarts as Ed Whitson, Curt Young, Neal Heaton, Joe Cowley, Mark Portugal, Eric Plunk and Allan Anderson. "He's lost velocity, and he's not pitching inside the way he did last year," says one opposing manager....
When the Mets had four eight-game winners by the first week of July, it reminded manager Davey Johnson of the time he played on the 1971 Orioles team that finished the season with four 20-game winners. The unsung hero of the Mets staff, however, has been reliever Roger McDowell, the first Met ever to go 7-0. His medicine-ball sinker has also produced an ERA of 2.12....
When the Mets swept the Cardinals in St. Louis, the New York manager paid tribute to Herzog. "Last year he tied us up because he kept putting us in a hole with his ability to expose our weaknesses," said Johnson. "He taught us some things about ourselves, and we adjusted accordingly." Three of the adjustments were 1) getting a righthanded infielder who can hit (Tim Teufel); 2) using someone who can play six positions (Kevin Mitchell) in lieu of someone who could play none (Rusty Staub); 3) acquiring one more lefthanded starter (Bobby Ojeda).
LEGAL EAGLES FOR THE A's
"If the Athletics continue to lose and everyone gets fired, they can open the law firm of [Roy] Eisenhardt, [Sandy] Alderson and [Tony] La Russa," says one general manager. The owner, general manager and manager of the team are all lawyers. La Russa, fired last month by the White Sox, wanted to wait until the off-season to take another job but was given a lot of say about the A's personnel. His first task will be to try to salvage a battered pitching staff that includes a bullpen with a 4-18 record and the likes of Doug Bair, Dave Von Ohlen and Dave Stewart. La Russa and new pitching coach Dave Duncan also will have to get Joaquin Andujar and Moose Haas healthy again, and Jose Rijo—whose fastball has fallen from 94 mph to a game-high of 87 last week—back on the track....
Two years ago La Russa was feuding with several Oakland players after a series of beanball wars; La Russa had referred to the players as "pimps." Carney Lansford was one of La Russa's enemies. "At the time, I was convinced that La Russa had his pitchers drilling me for no reason, and I resented it," says Lansford. "But that's in the past. Tony is a fiery, aggressive manager who will get out there and stand up for his players. We need somebody like that badly. I've never been in such a negative atmosphere, day to day, in my career. It's really been depressing around here." ...One American League scout thinks that La Russa's old White Sox can make a serious run at the AL West title. "[Jim] Fregosi came in and got the pitchers challenging hitters, and he's been successful," the scout says of Chicago's new manager. "Not only that, but Bob James is finally back, and he's the key to that team." ...Rick Rhoden has been asking the Pirates to trade him since last fall, but one can't blame them for holding on to their ace. He is among the leaders in earned run average and had 5 of Pittsburgh's 12 wins in June. He is also the Pirate's hottest hitter (8 for 11 in a recent streak and 14 for 42, .333, for the season), and he hasn't made an error since 1984....
When the Mariners released Gorman Thomas, he was offered a contract by the Tigers—whose righthanded DH's were 15 for 78 with no homers and two RBIs against lefthanded pitching—but he turned it down. "I don't want to take the money if my heart's not completely into it," Thomas told his agent, Ed Kleven....
Twins manager Ray Miller thinks that Dick Howser should start Texas knuckleballer Charlie Hough in the All-Star Game, then go to Roger Clemens. "It would look like Clemens is throwing 190 miles per hour," says Miller, whose team is 0-4 against knuckleballers. Hough appears certain to make the team. Despite missing the first five weeks with a broken pinkie on his pitching hand, he is 8-3, 2.59....
The trade that sent pitchers Doyle Alexander and Jim Acker to Atlanta for pitchers Duane Ward and Joe Johnson took nearly four months to complete and only happened when Atlanta G.M. Bobby Cox returned to Toronto for an old-timers' game. The Braves desperately need starting pitching to make their run at the NL West title, and Alexander is Cox's man. He is 48-27 pitching for him in Atlanta and Toronto. The Blue Jays' biggest need is pitching, but one club official called the trade "classic addition by subtraction." Alexander had been griping about his contract, and he was a negative influence on the young pitchers. Ward has the kind of arm that could make him another Rich Gossage....
Baseball people wondered how Cox would make the transition from the dugout to the front office. Says Cox, "I haven't changed—I still don't sleep after we lose." He has made five significant trades in his nine-month tenure. Key switches in the Braves lineup have been the move of Ken Oberkfell from third to second and Rafael Ramirez from short to third to make room for talented rookie shortstop Andres Thomas. If Thomas plays enough, he could be the Rookie of the Year. "Thomas could play shortstop as well as anyone who has ever lived," said Braves veteran Ted Simmons.
EARL'S GOT THE BALTIMORE WOES
Earl Weaver's friends say that he is so discouraged by the Orioles that he may not come back in 1987. He feels the organization is not the one he left in 1983. After one recent loss he said, "I'm going to go home and jump in the pool and hope I don't come up." ...The Blue Jays may yet make a move if Dave Stieb ever turns around, because they put the American League's best team in the field every day. They have been flying since June 8, when manager Jimy Williams put Tony Fernandez in the leadoff spot. Damaso Garcia, who was upset after his demotion to the Blue Jays' ninth spot at the start of the season, went to the manager and told him he didn't care where he batted as long as Fernandez was at the top....
Two weeks ago Tom Lasorda said the Astros were "just renting" first place. Houston players hadn't forgotten that comment when they swept the Dodgers at the Astrodome last week. "I don't really care what problems they have," said Houston third baseman Phil Garner, "as long as they have them. Lasorda must have forgotten to find out when our lease runs out—it isn't until the end of October." Said reliever Frank DiPino, "I think we showed them we weren't just renting first place. All you hear is Dodger this and Dodger that, and I'm sick of hearing it." That infuriated Lasorda, who replied, "How many pennants have they won? Let them pop off after they've won some." ...Eight Dodgers reported to team physician Dr. Frank Jobe when they returned from Houston. Things got so bad that in successive games Lasorda had to use Enos Cabell—no homers in 325 at bats for L.A.—and rookie Jeff Hamilton in the cleanup spot. "Are we hurting that badly?" asked Hamilton....
Lasorda may have established a baseball culinary record by devouring 100 oysters and three jars of horseradish before a game last week. Not even Frank Howard could have done that.
BETWEEN THE LINES
NICKNAME OF THE WEEK
"Sony," for the Walkman, given to Red Sox outfielder Mike Stenhouse after he walked six times in nine plate appearances as a pinch hitter.
THE JIM BOUTON JOURNALIST OF THE WEEK
Mark Knudson, the Astros' fifth starter, made his first appearance this season against the San Francisco Giants. What's so unusual about that? Knudson was a sportswriter for the Rocky Mountain News last winter. His assignment? The impending franchise move of the Giants from San Francisco to Denver. He called Giants publicist Duffy Jennings "countless" times while trying to keep up with the situation over the winter and, in anticipation of the shift, put together a Denver Giants team guide.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
•"We won it three times and lost it three times, but we won it more than we lost it."—Giants Manager Roger Craig after a wild 9-6 victory over Atlanta.
•"The only chance you've got around here is to be dead, retired or Reggie."—Dave Winfield, chafing under the constant criticism of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner.
•The Blue Jays spoiled Roger Clemens's perfect record of 14-0 last Wednesday, beating him 4-2. If history is any indication, Clemens may be in for a rough time from here on. The four pitchers who have won more consecutive games at the start of a season were Rube Marquard (19), Elroy Face (17), Johnny Allen (15) and Dave McNally (15). From the time their streaks were stopped to the end of their seasons, they were 7-11, 1-1, 0-1 and 5-7, respectively, a combined record of 13-20.
GENE MAUCH HE'S NOT
Before their July 3 game against the Twins, Oriole outfielder Lee Lacy asked teammate Fred Lynn, "What's this guy throw?" This guy was Twins starter Bert Blyleven. Blyleven has been pitching in the majors since 1970 and had been Lacy's Pittsburgh teammate in 1979-80. Lacy went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against the stranger.
•At the 1965 National Baseball Congress tourney in Wichita, a semipro team from Wichita beat the Alaska Goldpanners 5-2. The winning pitcher? Toronto G.M. Pat Gillick, whose minor league career had been cut short by a sore arm. The loser? Fellow USC alumnus Tom Seaver. Gillick's infield was made up entirely of former major leaguers: Bob (Ropes) Boyd at first, Charlie Neal at second, Rod Kanehl at third and Buddy Bloom field at short.
•Sid Fernandez made 22 starts before allowing more than six hits in a game.
•When Kelly Paris started at third on July 2, he was the 16th third baseman used by the Orioles since they traded Doug DeCinces to California for "Disco" Danny Ford in 1982 to make room for Cal Ripken—who ended up at short.
•In a span of 30 games the Phillies had 7 opportunities to reach .500—and lost every time.
•Baltimore catchers were hitting .185 with 69 strikeouts in 258 at bats through last weekend. Al Pardo's first 100 at bats produced 11 hits and one RBI.
•When Yankee rookie Alfonso Pulido signed with Arandas of the Mexican Center League in 1977, he received a bonus of 3,000 pesos, which today amounts to $4.65.
•By their 28th birthdays, Rickey Henderson had 620 stolen bases, Ty Cobb 485 and Lou Brock 220.
•The Tigers grounded into double plays in five consecutive innings against the Yankees on July 3.
•Richie Hebner is the third base coach for the Norwood (Mass.) American Legion team.
•Fred Lynn has missed more games (60) in his first year and a half with the Orioles than Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken have missed in their combined total of 15 seasons.
•The Yankees now have four of the 21 players disciplined by Peter Ueberroth for drug use—Dale Berra, Rod Scurry, Al Holland and Claudell Washington.
•Montreal's Dan Schatzeder has four pinch hits. The last pitcher with more was Don Newcombe, who had five for the '59 Dodgers.
•Those models of stability, the White Sox, will be wearing their third uniform design in seven years in 1987.
The Statue of Liberty isn't France's only gift to the U.S. Here is a list of the major leaguers born on French soil:
•Joe Woerlin, 10/9/1864, somewhere in France. The Washington shortstop was a .333 lifetime hitter—he went 1 for 3 in his only major league game, in 1895.
•Ed Gagnier, 4/16/1883, in Paris. An infielder in the Federal League in 1914-15, he had a career batting average of .195. In '15 he was traded, along with Ed Lafitte, from Brooklyn to Buffalo for Fred Smith.
•Duke Markell, 8/17/1923, in Paris. Also known as Harry Duquesne Makowsky, the righthander pitched in five games for the 1951 St. Louis Browns.
•Bruce Bochy, 4/16/1955, in Landes de Boussac. The Padres backup catcher is hitting .217. A former Astro and Met, Bochy's claim to fame is his size 7¾ head, which may be the largest in the majors. His parents lived in France because his father was in the armed forces.
•Charlie Lea, 12/25/1956, in Orleans. Son of a U.S. serviceman, the Expo righthander is spending his second year on the disabled list after winning 43 games from 1982 to '84.
•Steve Jeltz, 5/28/1959, in Paris. The Phillies shortstop, now batting .245, was born while his father was stationed in France with the U.S. Army.
(If you're wondering, Napoleon Lajoie was born in Woonsocket, R.I.)