Baseball

October 04, 1992

Wait'll Next Year

As seasons go, this was not exactly a banner one for baseball. Fay Vincent was forced to resign as commissioner. Talk of a lockout next spring has increased. The Giants have all but packed their bags for a move to Florida. The Angels" bus crashed. Steve Howe was suspended for life (which, as George Steinbrenner has proved, means at least two years). Kirk Gibson and Gary Carter retired, and George Brett has talked about following suit. And Rob Dibble engaged in a clubhouse wrestling match with manager Lou Piniella.

On the field, however, it was another marvelous year—except, of course, when the Dodgers were playing. Robin Yount was admitted to the 3,000-hit club, and at week's end Brett was about to join him. Jeff Reardon became the alltime saves leader. Gary Sheffield entered the season's final week with a shot, albeit a slim one, at becoming the first Triple Crown winner in the National League since 1937.

As usual, baseball had its share of surprises. Who would ever have thought that the season's only no-hitter would be thrown by the Dodgers' Kevin Gross; that the only National League player to hit three homers in a game would be Atlanta shortstop Jeff Blauser; that Jose Canseco would be a Ranger; and that the National League strikeout leader, David Cone, would be anchoring the pennant drive for the Blue Jays?

Whew, what a year! Let's take one final look back at the best and the worst moments of 1992.

Play of the Year
Otis Nixon, Braves: On July 25, Nixon gave chase to a long fly to right center and, on the dead run, leaped and reached over the 10-foot-high wall in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to rob Pittsburgh's Andy Van Slyke of a two-run homer. The play, which came with one out in the ninth, saved a 1-0 win for the Braves and kept them two names ahead of the Reds.

Best Offensive Performance
Milwaukee's 22-2 annihilation of Toronto on Aug. 28. The Brewers set an American League record for hits (31) and singles (26) in a nine-inning game. David Cone, in his first game in a Blue Jay uniform, charted the pitches for five innings and then turned the duty over to Jack Morris. "Good thing." said starter Jimmy Key, "or he'd have had to ice his wrist."

Most Offensive Performance
Seattle 4, Texas 3, in 16 innings on Sept. 25. A major league-record 54 players were used in this tedious, inconsequential game. The Mariners called on 11 pitchers, another record. The game lasted five hours and eight minutes, and 462 pitches were thrown. "It seemed like there were 462 pitchers" said a scout who covered the game. Thirty-two runners were left on base, 20 by Texas. The Rangers left the bases loaded in the ninth, 10th and 12th. Seattle left nine runners on between the ninth and the 14th. In the Texas ninth, six players—three pitchers, two hitters and a pinch runner—were needed to complete an intentional walk.

Triple of the Year
Sam Horn, the Orioles' lumbering DH, who's still without a steal or a sacrifice bunt in the sixth year of his big league career, got his first triple on May 5, in his 879th at bat. "Most triples are photo finishes," said Baltimore pitcher Mike Flanagan. "That was an oil painting." Horn, however, will probably finish with one more triple than the White Sox's George Bell, who, with one week to play, was on the verge of becoming the only player in major league history to go three consecutive 500-at bat seasons without one.

Best Single-Game Performance
On Sept. 8, Yankee outfielder Danny Tartabull became the 23rd player in history to drive in nine runs in a game. He went 5 for 5 with two homers, a double and two singles off four Baltimore pitchers. He missed a shot at Tony Lazzeri's league record of 11 RBIs in a game when he was pulled from the game in the eighth.

Injury of the Year
To Padre outfielder Tony Gwynn, who suffered the quintessential mishap of the '90s athlete. He fractured the tip of his right middle finger when he caught it in the door of his Porsche as he was rushing to go to the bank.

It's a Dog's Life
Schottzie (02), the pampered pet of Cincinnati owner Marge Schott, set a less-than-dignified tone for Red home games by cavorting on the field before game time, sometimes, in her excitement, leaving behind little "surprises" for the grounds crew and once almost tripping up pitcher Tim Belcher as he jogged before a start. Schott responded to sportswriter Jerry Crasnick's criticism of Schottzie's behavior by banning Crasnick from the press dining room at Riverfront Stadium. Belcher, in turn, sent three pizzas and a bag of sandwiches to the press box during a game on Sept. 19. Included was a note to Crasnick that read, "Hate to see you 'waste away.' " The note was signed with a paw print at the bottom.

Cruelest Moves

•On Sept. 23, the same day that the Padres held Unemployment Night at Jack Murphy Stadium, the team fired manager Greg Riddoch.

•The Phillies flew outfielder Wes Chamberlain's mother in from Chicago to see her son play on Mother's Day, and then sent Chamberlain down to the minors after the game.

•On June 5, A's outfielder Troy Neel was congratulated by teammate Willie Wilson after Neel's first major league hit. "How does it feel to be a big leaguer?" asked Wilson. Neel replied, "I don't know. I've just been sent down."

Worst Homecoming
To Met outfielder Bobby Bonilla, who, after signing a five-year, $29 million contract in December, said he could handle the pressure of playing in New York because he had grown up there. He batted only .249, haggled repeatedly with the media and was booed by fans at Shea Stadium. "The difference is, he walked around there as a kid with a quarter in his back pocket." said former teammate Andy Van Slyke. "Now he walks around with a quarter of a million in his back pocket."

Achievement Awards Go to...

•The Reds' Bip Roberts, who tied a National League record with 10 consecutive hits.

•Tony Gwynn, who became the first National League player since Stan Musial to bat .300 or better for 10 straight seasons. (Musial did it 16 years in a row, from 1942 to '58.)

•Cleveland's Kenny Lofton and Milwaukee's Pat Listach, who both broke John Cangelosi's American League record for steals by a rookie (50). At week's end, they had 63 and 54, respectively.

•Detroit's Mickey Tettleton, who became the only catcher besides Roy Campanella to hit 30 home runs in back-to-back seasons.

Error of the Year
Amazingly, it's not one of the 42 miscues committed by Dodger shortstop Jose Offerman. The honor goes to Brave pitcher Charlie Leibrandt, who, after striking out the 1,000th batter of his career on Aug. 29, rolled the ball to the Atlanta dugout so that he could keep the ball as a souvenir. Trouble was, time hadn't been called, a runner was on base, and he advanced on the error.

Dumbest Quote
To Met outfielder Vince Coleman, who, after a season in which he rarely played because of injuries but was ejected three times and suspended once, said in mid-September that the sandy infield at Shea Stadium was "keeping me out of the Hall of Fame."

These Little-Town Blues
Only three managers were fired this season, and Greeley, Colo., is home to two of them: San Diego's Greg Riddoch and Montreal's Tom Runnells.

And If You're Keeping Score...

•Bobby Bonilla called the official scorer in the press box during a game at Shea Stadium after being charged with an error and then lied about it, setting off a storm of controversy.

•Boston's Wade Boggs persuaded the scorer at Fenway Park to change an error charged to him to a hit, thus inciting a verbal war with his teammate, pitcher Roger Clemens, whose ERA climbed as a result.

•And all the Mariner players, who were collectively putting up the worst record in baseball, found time to sign a petition to have their official scorer replaced.

ILLUSTRATIONPHILIP BURKEEck's excellence should give him an MVP and Cy Young sweep. ILLUSTRATIONPHILIP BURKEThere was no such thing as a free lunch in Cincy for a reporter critical of Schott and Schottzie. ILLUSTRATIONPHILIP BURKEColeman put his foot in his mouth when he trashed the footing at Shea Stadium.

The Best and the Brightest

The race for baseball's glamour awards has been particularly tight this season. Here are our picks for the honors:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

MVP
DENNIS ECKERSLEY, Athletics
No one in baseball had a more successful year.

CY YOUNG
DENNIS ECKERSLEY, Athletics
Forget starting pitchers. Eck was a Cy of relief.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
PAT LISTACH, Brewers
He was a spark plug leading off and on the bases.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
TONY LA RUSSA, Athletics
Overcame A's injuries with his best job ever.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

MVP
BARRY BONDS, Pirates
Near Triple Crown numbers for a division winner.

CY YOUNG
GREG MADDUX, Cubs
His ERA is a half run better than Tom Glavine's.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
ERIC KARROS, Dodgers
Leads all rookies in homers (20) and RBIs (85).

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
JIM LEYLAND, Pirates
Won even without Bobby Bonilla and John Smiley.

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)