THIS JOB'S A GAS

May 28, 1989

The lady in the khaki-colored Caddy is dangling a fat $2 tip in front of Glenn Wilson.

"Thanks ma'am," he says, "but I really couldn't take it."

"Listen, you just changed my oil, filled my gas tank and cleaned my windshield. You've earned it."

"No, ma'am. It just wouldn't be right."

"Save your tips, son, and you'll be as rich as the ballplayer who owns this station."

"I am the ballplayer who owns this station."

"Then why the hell are you pumping gas?"

"Baseball is my hobby. This is my job."

Wilson's $750,000-a-year hobby, playing rightfield for the Pirates, makes him perhaps the world's wealthiest gas station attendant. His job during the off-season is running Glenn Wilson's Hit-and-Run Exxon in Montgomery, Texas, the only full-service station between Navasota and Conroe. "We've got everything from a hydraulic lift to a custom wheel changer to a pinup calendar," Wilson says. The only thing missing is a rest-room key chained to a 60-pound log.

"I've dreamed of having my own station ever since I was eight years old," says Wilson, 30, who used to pinch-pump for his older brother Johnie at Bo Simmons's Exxon in Channel-view, Texas. The Tigers fueled Wilson's dream when they drafted him out of Sam Houston State in 1980. They signed him as a third baseman, but 33 errors in half a season of Double A ball convinced them that his super-unleaded arm would suffer fewer knocks and pings in the outfield. His buddy Mike Schmidt now calls Wilson one of the top three rightfielders in the National League. "All right, the top five," Schmidt concedes. "O.K., so maybe the top 10. But write the top three. It sounds better."

But not half as good as Hit-and-Run Exxon, a name that Wilson insists refers to his style of play, not the Valdez oil spill. "Glenn is a high-octane player at a regular price," says Pirate centerfielder Andy Van Slyke. Wilson has a buoyant personality and a flair for the apt quip. After a game in April, a reporter asked him how he felt about going hitless, and he replied, "Pretty good. I went oh for 4 today, but I sold 16 tires."

Wilson compares running the station to owning a ball club. "I've got nine players and a general manager who hires and fires," he says. "I only get on my G.M. when he's not making enough trade." Wilson himself has been dealt three times in a spotty nine-year major league career. "Basically," says Schmidt, "Glenn bought the station off that season he had with Philadelphia in 1985." Wilson drove in 102 runs that year and led National League outfielders in assists. "I carried the Phillies all the way to fifth place," says Wilson, who at week's end was hitting .248 with five home runs and 19 RBIs. "That shows you what kind of impact player I am."

His impact as a dipstick wiper is even less apparent. Most customers can't believe it's really him pumping the gas.

"You look like Glenn Wilson," an old-timer told him last week.

"I am Glenn Wilson."

The old-timer appraised him coolly.

"No, but you're close."

PHOTODANNY TURNERWhen Wilson isn't playing for the Pirates, he worries about his mechanics.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)