It wasn't exactly Tinker to Evers to Chance. But Buyanov to Bogatyrev to Onokhov had a nice ring to it, and besides, it wasn't exactly the World Series. It was Game 1 of the Goodwill Games baseball competition and the first game ever played between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Soviets, who began playing baseball internationally a mere three years ago, lost the game 17-0, but Buyanov to Bogatyrev to Onokhov—a slick double play in the fourth inning—gave the visitors what they had fervently hoped for in their first major competition: something to prevent comparisons with the Bad News Bears.
"It was a beautiful moment," Soviet assistant coach Alexander Ardatov said of the dva outa. With a man on first, pinch hitter Mike Hostetler grounded to Soviet pitcher Alexander Buyanov, who fielded the ball and threw to shortstop Ilya Bogatyrev, who relayed to first baseman Ilya Onokhov. It is a routine play for most teams, but said Rick Spooner, an American businessman who lives in Moscow and helps coach the U.S.S.R. team: "We often don't get it turned."
Spooner, in fact, was very concerned that the Soviets might bumble through the game. And, indeed, as the Soviets warmed up between innings, Bogatyrev did sail a few into the stands behind first base. Still, said Spooner, "We did pretty good. I was afraid it was going to be much worse. We showed some evidence that we are learning this game."
The Soviets may not be close to mastering it yet, but one thing is certain, they have mastered all the mannerisms—from kicking the dirt with their spikes, to swinging two bats in the on-deck circle, to chewing tobacco. "It is good help in game," said catcher Vadim Kulakov, whose grin revealed telltale brown leaves stuck between his teeth. "I love chew."
August 5, 1990
The team's other catcher, Sergei Korolev, showed less experience. He wore his mask with no hat under it for four innings, then wore a batting helmet underneath, the bill facing forward.
There are other areas in which the Soviets could use some help, too. Like pitching. Neither Viktor Kemen, who threw the first two innings, nor Buyanov, who finished up, has a million-ruble arm. Their fastballs were clocked at 74 mph.
The game was ended after 6½ innings because of the 10-run rule. It is doubtful that the Soviets will get to the seventh-inning stretch of any game soon. However, their performance was far better than that of the czar of the Goodwill Games, Ted Turner, who showed up late (with Jane Fonda) for the game, but still threw out the ceremonial first pitch. No matter that it was the second inning. Now when the Soviets return home, they will probably throw out every ceremonial first pitch during the second inning.
"It's the way it is done in the U.S.," they will say.
But when might the Soviets be able to imitate American playing skills?
"Maybe my children," Kulakov said pensively. "No," he added, looking up and smiling his tobacco-stained grin. "The children of my children."