Dodger-blue brims bob under the stadium lights as Scott Radinsky
jogs in from the bullpen. The bases are loaded, two men are out,
the Dodgers lead 5-2 in the seventh inning, and Tony Eusebio of
the visiting Houston Astros is at the plate. Radinsky takes the
mound and grabs the ball from his catcher, Mike Piazza. "Hey,
Mike," he says. "Sing me a song."
"Say what?" asks Piazza.
"Sing me a punk song."
So, while 38,937 spectators hold their breath, Piazza launches
into the Angry Samoans' Ballad of Jerry Curlan: "Jerry Curlan is
nice, sensitive, has lots of friends in Washington/Jerry has
friends, and people like meeting them...."
July 27, 1997
Piazza turns, strides back to the plate, settles into his
crouch. Radinsky rears back, whips in a fastball. It's inside,
ball 1. The crowd holds its breath again. Radinsky throws a
turbocharged cutter. Jammed, Eusebio slaps a meek roller to
second. The Dodgers get away unmarked, and the fans breathe easy
once more. Descending into the cool shadows of the dugout,
Radinsky spies Piazza and shouts, "You called the right song."
Radinsky is a barbed original: a punk-loving, jock-loathing
lefty who, despite missing the entire 1994 season while being
treated for Hodgkin's disease, is one of the Dodgers' sturdiest
setup men. Fellow reliever Darren Dreifort describes him as a
kind of bullpen Pan, piping a merry, woody tune. "Rad's a
different kind of easygoing," says Dreifort. "An aggressive
easygoing, if that's possible."
Like Jerry Curlan, Radinsky is nice, sensitive, has lots of
friends. Born and bred in the suburbs of Los Angeles, he has an
uncreased brow, a delicately turned-up mouth and hair cropped as
close as a Cheever lawn. But there's also a defiant, seditious
side to Radinsky--a side reflected in the X he etched into his
right forearm with needle and india ink in eighth grade. "I love
the five minutes I'm actually in the game," he says with a
quick, almost adolescent enthusiasm. "Those five minutes are why
I come to the ballpark and put up with the writers, the dress
code, the team meetings, the authority of the dugout, the major
corporation that is baseball. I just turned 29, but at heart I'm
15. I haven't grown up. Who wants to grow up?"
These sentiments resound in the fever-blister ballads Radinsky
writes and sings for the punk band Pulley. On the music video of
the group's anthem, Cashed In, Radinsky half snarls, half shouts
lyrics that he swears are not aimed at the Dodgers' front office:
Played my share of dues
Yet you still want to put me down
Started on the bottom
Tell me why I feel here again
Radinsky pitches the way he sings: with headlong intensity.
"Some pitchers don't want to enter tight games," says Dodgers
bullpen coach Mark Cresse. "Rad not only wants to enter tight
games, but he also never wants to leave them. He's totally
The same sort of punk bravado helped Radinsky when he faced
cancer three years ago. Though weakened by chemotherapy and
radiation treatments, he worked out daily with the varsity team
at his alma mater, Simi Valley High. "From the git-go, Scott
never doubted he would beat the disease and return to the big
leagues," says Mike Scyphers, his old Simi Valley coach. "He
missed team practice only every other Monday, when he would go
in for his chemo treatments." The rest of the time Radinsky
counseled pitchers, threw batting practice, raked the mound. He
also shelled out $150 to play first base for a summer rec team
that ended up winning a national championship. "The cancer
pushed away any negativity I had," Radinsky says. "I told
myself, You're going to miss a year, so just go out and have the
best summer of your life." And he did.
In a way, cancer elbowed Radinsky into baseball. His father, a
sign maker who coached him in Little League, died of lung cancer
when Scott was a high school sophomore. The illness was slow and
ugly, and Scott often skipped school to help care for his dad.
On days he did attend class, he would stand at the front door of
his home before leaving and listen for his father's wheezy
gasps. He didn't want to go without making sure his dad was
still alive. "I was an angry, rebellious kid," says Radinsky.
"The death of my father didn't help."
Out of this, Radinsky developed an ability to endure loneliness.
He filled in the empty spaces by singing in a punk band and
joining his high school baseball team. His sophomore year he
played a little first base for the junior varsity but mostly
rode the bench. In the final game of the season, the coach let
him pitch. To the surprise of everyone but Radinsky, he threw a
one-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts. "Scott had absolutely no
mechanics," says Scyphers. "He just got the ball and threw it."
Radinsky graduated to junior closer on the varsity and, in 1986,
senior starter. His numbers that year (14-1, 0.72 ERA, 180
whiffs in 100 1/3 innings) attracted more radar guns than an
Aston Martin rally. That June, Radinsky got a call from a White
Sox scout. "Congratulations, Scott," he said. "We drafted you in
the third round today."
"Uh-huh," said Radinsky. "O.K."
"Don't sound so excited."
"Oh, I'm excited," Radinsky said unexcitedly. "The White Sox,
"Yeah, we're in Chicago."
Radinsky wasn't trying to be impertinent. He just didn't follow
baseball and had no idea who was on the White Sox. "Scott hardly
knew the names of any ballplayers," says Scyphers. "The good
part was that no hitter intimidated him. He came right at
He still does. "You don't see many pitchers throw consistently
inside anymore," Cresse says. "The only Dodger who does is Rad."
His inside stuff comes sidearm, submarine and everything in
between. Ken Griffey Jr. has called Radinsky the toughest lefty
he has ever faced. "Usually, when a pitcher changes angles, his
control goes down the toilet," says Cresse. "But all of Rad's
pitches are consistently over the plate."
Radinsky's 94-mph heaters are powered by long legs strengthened
by years of mountain biking. Over his first four seasons in the
Chicago bullpen, Radinsky averaged 68 appearances. He often
biked to home games--a 10-mile round-trip from his house in
downtown Chicago. When the Sox ended their 1992 season in
Seattle, he pedaled more than 1,000 miles from the Kingdome to
his doorstep in Simi Valley.
Biking also kept Radinsky fit and focused during the year he
missed. He arrived at spring training in '95 in good enough
shape to make the White Sox, though not good enough to make
hitters miss. "I wouldn't let myself think the treatments had
sapped my strength," he says. But they had, and Radinsky got
Not until mid-July could he jog in from the pen without feeling
winded. Yet despite his late-season success--over 11 innings
from Aug. 15 to Sept. 15, he allowed only one run--the Sox gave
up on him. "I was crushed when they let me go," says Radinsky,
who was granted free agent status on Dec. 21, 1995. "I would
have accepted any contract, even a minor league contract." The
Dodgers stepped in on Jan. 16, 1996, and signed him to such a
contract. Radinsky made the club in spring training but went on
the disabled list for two weeks with tendinitis in his left
middle finger. As part of rehab, he dropped down to Class A, at
San Bernardino, for three games. After rejoining the Dodgers on
April 12, he pitched in 58 games during the season and struck
out 48 batters in 52 1/3 innings, going 5-1 with a 2.41 ERA.
This year at the All-Star break his record was 3-1 with a 3.03
ERA. "I still see an oncologist every few months, just to make
sure the cancer stays in remission," he says. "Otherwise I don't
give it a second thought."
Unlike Dodgers outfielder Brett Butler, another cancer survivor,
Radinsky is discomfited by celebrity. And by excess. He regards
many big leaguers with the same wary disdain he reserved for the
high school jocks who once ridiculed his devotion to punk bands
such as Gay Cowboys in Bondage. "A lot of players are caught up
in buying a new Mercedes or shooting shampoo commercials or
making sure they've got the nicest limo to the airport,"
Radinsky declares scornfully. "They're insecure and have no idea
who they really are."
Radinsky has a pretty good idea who he is. "I'm a punk rocker,"
he says flatly. "I'm crazy about playing ball, but it's just a
sideline." A sideline that sometimes runs counter to his punk
credo. "I'm not a fan of the act you have to put on to be a big
leaguer. You play for some guy in a skybox. You're like a
puppet. You've got to do everything textbook, or you lose your
job. You want to warm up, but the umpire stops you because he's
waiting for a TV commercial to end. What I like about punk is
that it's anticommercial. It's pure."
Radinsky has been a punk purist since seeing the Circle Jerks in
ninth grade. The music was urgent, abrasive, threatening. The
rowdies in the mosh pit had spiked dog collars around their
throats and safety pins punched through their cheeks. "Kids were
spitting at the musicians out of respect," Radinsky recalls. "I
thought, This is the life for me. These are my kind of people."
So, at 14 he launched his own buzz-and-blast band, Soldier of
Fortune, and headlined in the cafeteria at Simi Valley Junior
High. By 15 he was writing his own punk fanzine and touring
Europe with a band called Scared Straight. Radinsky sang for the
group until two years ago, when they handed him his outright
release. "No hard feelings there," says Radinsky. "The other
guys were just tired of booking gigs around my baseball career."
He and four other musical free agents formed Pulley and signed a
recording contract with Epitaph, a label whose punk roster
includes Voodoo Glow Skulls and Rich Kids on LSD. "My whole
attitude in life is about not cashing out," Radinsky says. "And
yet I make my money as a pro ballplayer. Sometimes I feel like a
hypocrite to punk kids."
Though his salary is just shy of $1 million, Radinsky and his
wife, Darlenys, live modestly and unobtrusively in his old
neighborhood. They share the digs with their five-month-old
daughter, Shylene, and their golden retriever, Punky. "Darlenys
keeps me grounded," allows Radinsky.
If his passion for the game faded, Radinsky says he would
happily quit. "I'm not going to sell out just for one more
paycheck," he says with Sex Pistols righteousness. "If I get
tired of all the rules, if those five minutes are not enough, if
the phone rings in the bullpen and the coach tells another
reliever to warm up and I don't mind, then it's time to walk
away. I'll just go and join a men's league in Simi Valley and
pay my $150."
For now, the game suits his punk ethos. "The other day a fan
with blue hair and four earrings leaned over the wall of our
bullpen," says Cresse. "He pointed at Rad and screamed, 'Love
your music, man!' Normally, blue-haired people don't like