COMING ATTRACTION IN FENWAY?
One newsman asked Darryl Strawberry, "What kind of psychological advantage will this give you if you win tonight?" Mets public relations director Jay Horwitz had received a call the previous day asking if Dwight Gooden was starting. The game was a sellout and almost outdrew the combined total of the night's three regularly scheduled major league games. Scalpers were getting $30 a ticket, and there were nearly 100 media people on the field before the game. If George Steinbrenner—who had effectively ended the Mayor's Trophy game in New York—wanted to, he could have watched the phenomenon on cable down in Tampa.
With the four races so stretched out, the East Coast's eyes turned to Fenway Park last Thursday for a charity exhibition game between the Mets and the Red Sox. When it was scheduled by the Mets as a substitute for the Mayor's Trophy game, there was no way of knowing that both teams would be in first place, but when it rolled around, the game was such an event that the Boston Herald ran a full page of matchups with the introduction, "Hopefully a preview of the World Series."
When one of the two team buses broke down outside the Sumner Tunnel leading from Logan Airport to downtown Boston, some Mets flagged cabs, some hitchhiked. "You guys don't seem too upset about having to be here," a writer observed to Mookie Wilson. "When you're 20 games up," Wilson answered, "nothing bothers you." Red Sox pitcher Joe Sambito had been sent a supply Of HOUSTON POLICE 4, NEW YORK METS 0 T-shirts by an old friend on the Houston force, so he walked over to his former teammates, tore open his uniform and revealed the message.
September 14, 1986
The game was anticlimactic, with the Kevin Elsters, Danny Heeps and Eddie Romeros soon taking over. However, for the large portion of the 33,057 who came in Mets caps and T-shirts, the six-run, eighth-inning rally off Sambito that gave the Mets a 7-3 win was cause for loud celebration. In Houston and Anaheim, the point of the game may have gotten lost.
MORE FROM THE DAMNABLE YANKEES
As all of baseball laughs louder and louder at the Yankees, the owner looks everywhere but the mirror for a scapegoat. Now Steinbrenner has begun threatening Lou Piniella, feeding Howard Cosell the notion that Piniella had lost 10 to 14 games through his managing. The owner is also telling friends his beleaguered skipper won't be back. The problem, of course, is the organization. Things were so bad that after Piniella had told the front office he needed a starting pitcher in Oakland Sept. 1, his three top choices—Bob Tewksbury, Brad Arnsberg and Scott Nielsen—all started in meaningless weekend games for Columbus. Piniella was forced to start reliever Mike Armstrong, who allowed six runs and got five outs. "It's crazy, it's ridiculous," says Don Mattingly. "It's absurd for a team that's in a pennant race to have to deal with that. No other club operates this way." That night Piniella had to write out a lineup that made the days of Horace Clarke and Celerino Sanchez look positively halcyon: Bryan Little, Leo Hernandez, Joel Skinner, Wayne Tolleson, Ron Kittle, Henry Cotto, Armstrong. And the owner blames the manager?...The new front-runner for the Twins managerial job is Bob Lillis....
With George Foster gone, the Shea Stadium boo-birds have turned on Strawberry, who was 0 for 47 at home from July 29 to Sept. 7. Manager Davey Johnson gave Strawberry Sept. 1 off, then had him only pinch-hit in the next two games. "He's more disappointed in himself than I am," said Johnson. "He thinks he has to hit 40 home runs." For the season, Strawberry is hitting .207 with 6 homers at home, .293 with 13 homers on the road....
The best second baseman in the American League has been Boston's Marty Barrett. He has performed in the clutch from the first day of the season, and he has more extra-base hits (42) than either Eddie Murray or Reggie Jackson....
Barrett's counterpart on the Mets, Wally Backman, is hitting .333, slightly better than National League batting leader Tony Gwynn of the Padres, but Backman will probably fall short of the 502 plate appearances needed to qualify....
Giants players are irate at fragile third baseman Chris (the Tin Man) Brown, who scratched himself from the starting lineup Sept. 1 in New York because of a tender left shoulder, and then suggested he might have to miss the rest of the season. Brown had what the club diagnosed as a "hint of tendinitis." One teammate said, "In batting practice, he looked like Willie Mays out there. And now he can't play? There's just no way to understand this." Don't be surprised if Brown and injured teammate Jeff Leonard are elsewhere next season.
BETWEEN THE LINES
Pete Rose left Riverfront Stadium Sept. 2 saying, "Tomorrow night it could be five games." The streaking Reds were within 6½ games of the Astros, who had to play a make-up double-header the following afternoon in Wrigley Field.
Rose sat down to watch them, but his satellite dish went on the blink. The first game went off the air, and onto his screen came Mr. Ed. Rose rushed to a local restaurant to watch the game, which the Astros won in 18 innings as both teams scored three times in the 17th inning and used a record 53 players. Astros manager Hal Lanier made two double switches in one inning. Harry Caray sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game after the 7th and 14th.
The Astros won both ends of the doubleheader, and the Reds lost that night, so when Rose left Riverfront on Sept. 3, the lead was eight games.
A JIM KAAT AUTOGRAPH-MODEL GLOVE
To Giants pitcher Terry Mulholland. Unable to get the ball out of his glove after fielding a sharp one-hopper to the mound in Shea Stadium on Sept. 3, he flipped his glove—with the ball—to first baseman Bob Brenly to retire Keith Hernandez. "Brenly should have thrown the glove around the infield," mused San Francisco pitcher Mike Krukow.
On Aug. 30 the Red Sox beat Cleveland 7-3. Roger Clemens got the win, Calvin Schiraldi finished up, and Spike Owen had the game-winning RBI. All three were at the University of Texas in 1982.
THE JOHN R. TUNIS NAMES TO REMEMBER
•Minor league pitching phenoms Blaise Ilsley, who has won 21 games for the Astros' Asheville and Osceola farm clubs, and Steve Gasser, who has 225 strikeouts in 188⅖ innings in the Minnesota organization.
•Asheville's 6'5" outfielder, Cameron Drew, who, as the University of New Haven center in 1985, won the opening tap from Manute Bol of the University of Bridgeport.
THE SAN DIEGO CHICKEN
The Padres had to alter their battered rotation to accommodate Ed Whitson's request not to pitch in New York.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
•"I'm the best second baseman the Orioles don't have."—Alan Wiggins, batting .205 at Rochester, on why he should have been recalled.
•"He couldn't cut me if he hit me in the lip with a fastball."—Giants manager Roger Craig on possible Cy Young Award winner Bobby Ojeda.
•"I sure hope we don't lose this thing by one game, because I have two game-winning RBIs against the Red Sox this year, and I feel awful about that."—Outfielder David Henderson, acquired by Boston from Seattle. (He actually has only one GWRBI.)
THE JOAQUIN ANDUJAR QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Explaining why he has decided not to retire at the end of the season, the A's pitcher said, "I'll make everybody more money that way. I know you guys have to have something to write about or you don't get paid. I'm just trying to help."
•In Bo Jackson's major league debut, he got his first hit against a future Hall of Famer (Steve Carlton), just missed a home run as the ball hooked foul, and almost hit into a 5-4-3 triple play.
•Jim Rice's grand slam Sept. 5 was his first homer with more than one runner on base since June 10, 1985. Two days later, he hit another grand slam.
•Indians catcher Andy Allanson has 18 errors and 12 passed balls, and he rarely catches either of the team's knuckleballers, Tom Candiotti or Phil Niekro.
•All four divisional leaders had at least 3½-game leads on Sept. 1. Since divisional play began in 1969, only four teams have led by three or more games on Sept. 1 and not finished first.
•When Tommy John, 43, and Joe Niekro, 41, pitched a doubleheader against Seattle on Aug. 30, they became the first 40-plus teammate combo to start a doubleheader since Sept. 13, 1933, when Chicago's "Sad Sam" Jones, 41, and Red Faber, 44, appeared against the Philadelphia Athletics.