OH, NO, NOT AGAIN
Besides baseball games, the World Series is usually good for two things: the first logs thrown on the Hot Stove League fires and an earth-shattering pronouncement from Yankee owner George Steinbrenner.
In 1985, just before Game 1 of the Series, Steinbrenner announced that Lou Piniella would be his new manager. This week George's pronouncement was that old manager Billy Martin will be his new manager. (Martin thus begins his fifth tour of duty as the Yankee skipper.) Commissioner Peter Ueberroth had asked Steinbrenner to wait until the Series ended, but as Steinbrenner told one Yankee beat writer, "I don't want to interfere with the World Series, but I just can't wait any longer."
Don't feel bad for Piniella, who was named the team's general manager, replacing Woody Woodward. The line of succession in the Yankee organization now reads as follows: Columbus manager Bucky Dent, Billy Martin and, who knows, maybe even Lou Piniella.
GRIST FOR THE MILL
These rumors were heard at the batting cage and in the hospitality rooms before Games 1 and 2:
•The Blue Jays may trade Dave Stieb and another pitcher to the Reds for Dave Parker....
•The Jays are also looking to unload Jesse Barfield, either to the Indians for Brook Jacoby or to the Mariners for Jim Presley....
•If, as expected, the Mets and Red Sox start talking, the names Jesse Orosco and Rich Gedman are likely to come up....
•The Royals have their eyes on any of three shortstops—Kurt Stillwell of the Reds, Julio Franco of the Indians and Andres Thomas of the Braves....
•The Phillies will soon part with Glenn Wilson....
•The Dodgers covet Phil Bradley of the Mariners and Eddie Murray of the Orioles.
Before deals like these can be consummated, teams need general managers, and some vacancies still exist. Former Baltimore general manager Hank Peters will probably sign on with Cleveland, and Bill Bergesch, late of Cincinnati, has been mentioned for the job in Baltimore. Former White Sox general manager Roland Hemond has been a candidate for both those openings, as well as for the one in Houston. Yogi Berra, though, is a very real possibility for the Astros' front-office job. The only current managerial vacancy is on the North Side of Chicago, and the Cubs brain trust is debating between its own third base coach John Vukovich and former Indians manager Pat Corrales.
The Toronto Blue Jays revealed at the World Series that they will pay a falconer $100,000 a year to scare away gulls from their new—scheduled to open in 1989—SkyDome stadium, which will feature a retractable roof. The scavenging gulls from nearby Lake Ontario are expected to pose the same problems they have at Exhibition Stadium. Said spokesman Howard Starkman, recalling the 1983 incident in which a certain Yankee outfielder was arrested for killing a gull with a thrown ball, "We're going to name the falcon Winfield."
THE BEST MAN WINS
A year and a half ago, when John Viola was making plans for an October 1987 wedding, he asked his older brother, Frank, to be his best man. "John said the only problem would be if the Twins made it into the World Series," Frank said last week. "We both had a pretty good laugh at the time."
Well, last Saturday afternoon at St. Raphael's Church in East Meadow, N.Y., John married Donna Litt, while the best man was 1,200 miles away, preparing to start Game 1 of the World Series. All went well at both fall classics. John and Donna went from the church to the reception at a Knights of Columbus hall, where guests watched Frank's videotaped toast to the newly-weds. And at the Metrodome, Frank allowed one run, five hits and no walks in eight innings as the Twins bombed the Cardinals 10-1.
"I got a double win," said Helen Viola, Frank and John's mother. "It was the happiest day of my life." She said Frank's toast was very nice, although it was hard to make out because Frank's baby girl, Brittany, could be heard—and seen—on the tape crying. "Frank told John how much he meant to him, and that he was the best brother anybody could ever have," said Helen. She also said she was proud of the wedding guests because they did not sneak out of the reception to find a television set.
The wedding party did not arrive home until the eighth inning, so the Violas were able to see Frank pitch only one inning. Said Helen, "I don't get excited until the ninth inning, anyway. I'm from a baseball family, you see." Not only did John and Donna miss most of Game 1, but they may have to forgo all of the others because the couple left on a week-long Caribbean honeymoon cruise Sunday morning. "First things first," said Helen.
After the game Frank said, "This is the best wedding gift I could have given him. It just topped off the whole Viola day." Over in the loser's clubhouse Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said, "He should have gone to the damn wedding."
A FOREIGN AFFAIR
Game 2 of this World Series will go down in history as the first in which both starting pitchers were born in Europe. Danny Cox of the Cardinals drew his first breath in Northampton, England, where his father was stationed with the U.S. Air Force. Bert Blyleven of the Twins was born in Zeist, the Netherlands, and emigrated to the U.S. with his parents when he was a little boy. Both pitchers had previously started World Series games, Blyleven in 1979 for the Pirates and Cox in '85 for the Cards. The Series' only other European-born starting pitcher was George Chalmers (born in Edinburgh, Scotland) of the 1915 Philadelphia Phillies.
A TV crew from the Dutch network, AVRO, was in Minnesota last week to do a feature on Blyleven and his family. "We think it's a wonderful story," said commentator Sierd De Vos. "A real American dream, no? We'll show a 20-minute piece on Bert. It will go coast to coast, though our coast to coast isn't as big as yours."
This is from an interview De Vos had with Blyleven, in English, after Game 1:
"What will you do tonight?"
"I'll go out with my family and feed them."
"What will you eat?"
"We have an expression: He eats and sleeps baseball. So first I'll eat baseball; then I'll go home and sleep baseball."
"Thank you very much, and good luck tomorrow."
This has been labeled the Riverboat Series, and because Clinton, Iowa, is situated on the Mississippi River midway between Minneapolis and St. Louis, we called George Kampling, the sports editor of the Clinton Herald, to find out which team Clintonians are rooting for. "The Cubs," he said.
KEEPING THE CARDINALS IN STITCHES
While St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog puts together patchwork lineups, longtime Cardinal fans Fern Class of Beaufort, Mo., and Clara Rothmeier of nearby Gerald, Mo., express their devotion to the national pastime with patchwork quilts. Says Claas, "There aren't too many people who do baseball quilts."
Claas's masterpiece is a huge (8' X 8') quilt she sewed to commemorate the Cards' 1982 World Series victory. It features 39 Redbirds perched on 39 bats, and beside each is an embroidery of a player's autograph. Stitched along the border of the quilt are likenesses of baseballs, Clydesdales and Fred bird, the St. Louis mascot.
Rothmeier's best work is My Favorite Baseball Stars, which took her 10 years to complete and was once displayed in the Hall of Fame, in Coopers-town. It contains fabric images of 44 baseball greats, including Stan Musial and Ted Williams, as well as embroidered autographs of 500 other players. She tried to create a similar quilt depicting current Cardinals but eventually had to give up the project. "Every time I completed a player, he was traded," Rothmeier says with a sigh.
If the Cards should sew up the Series, Claas and Rothmeier plan to collaborate on a quilt honoring the team. In the meantime, Rothmeier is needling her husband, Roman, a retired soybean farmer from Clements, Minn., who is something of a Twins fan. "Somebody around here might just have to sleep on the couch," she says.
THEY SAID IT
•Marty Springstead, American League supervisor of umpires, on the heft of the six-man World Series umpiring crew: "We've got 3,000 pounds of umpire out there, and that's not even counting the two little guys. This is the Year of the Beef."