Rick Dempsey was the first recipient of Baltimore's Wiffle Ball Bat Award, which goes to an Oriole who strikes out three times in a game. The rules, as set by Eddie Murray, require the winner to tote an orange plastic bat wherever he goes—home, hotels, airports—until someone else wins it. "It certainly is a source of embarrassment," Dempsey says. "But it's something that provides a little levity, I guess."
"He'll know he's too old when he can't catch up to the fastball, and that definitely hasn't happened," says Boston Batting Coach Walt Hriniak of Carl Yastrzemski, 43. "His hands are as quick and his concentration as great as ever. I'll stake my reputation on his hitting. He'll hit and he'll hit well." Last week Yaz did just that, batting .364.... One of his hits caromed off the leg of Milwaukee Pitcher Don Sutton, prompting the 38-year-old Sutton to yell to Yastrzemski standing at first, "Would you please pull the ball in the future? I'm about as old as you are, and I can't get out of the way as well as I used to."
"The doctors say there's an 80% to 90% chance they got all the cancer," says Indians Manager Mike Ferraro of a February operation in which one of his kidneys was removed. "I'm not taking any chemotherapy, my appetite is back and I'm sleeping O.K. But when I get down, I still think of it. I'll get depressed and it feels like everything is just caving in on me. That's when I have to get away, go to the racetrack or something."
The 1982 Rangers, who stumbled, bumbled and grumbled to 98 losses, and the Texas bunch that was 9-8 at the end of last week are by and large the same guys. What's been happening on the field, however, is largely the result of what's happened off it.
The Rangers' resurgence began when Joe Klein, 40, became general manager last fall after spending three years as Texas' director of player development. The core of Klein's operating philosophy and the guts of his extensive overhaul are outlined in a red binder titled The Purpose of the Texas Rangers Is To Achieve a Winning Tradition Primarily Through Internal Development.
Under a section labeled "What we learned in 1982," Klein wrote: "Pitchers not in shape. Talent not evaluated and utilized correctly. Waiver list transactions were not kept in confidence. Short-term gains should never be taken at the expense of long-term losses." The last notation referred to a series of trades in which Texas gave up many promising young players.
As farm director, Klein had already beefed up his scouting staff, especially outside the United States, to avoid what he now calls "one-game looks and quick evaluations." Says Klein, "Three years from now, I want players in our minor league system who can be brought up to solve our problems. We want internal development because it's better to go through your own organization than to trade with other teams. That way, you know your players."
One of Klein's prime goals this season was to increase Texas' aggressiveness. At the behest of four new coaches and new Manager Doug Rader, the Rangers have done that, most notably on the bases, where they're suddenly frisky.
There are signs that another objective—"establishing credibility with our own players"—is also being achieved. Ranger players now speak glowingly about the team's new sense of direction and leadership. Much of the credit has justifiably gone to Rader. But it actually began with Klein, who handpicked Rader despite snickers from those who remembered him as an off-the-wall wacko during his playing days. Then Klein indoctrinated his new skipper in every step of how the team should be remolded.
Pascual Perez of the Braves may have to reevaluate the promise he made to his father in the Dominican Republic before the season began. "I'll win 15 games for you this year," Pascual said, but that was before his fast start (3-0 through Sunday).... Oakland's Rickey Henderson, meanwhile, is off to a slow start. The man who stole a record 130 bases last year had only five at week's end. Henderson has been slowed by a slight groin pull, true, but he also seems less inclined to tear up his body with headfirst slides.
Umpire Bruce Froemming made the best call of his life at 4 a.m. last Thursday. It was part of an unusual night for Froemming, who had worked a doubleheader at Shea Stadium. After returning to his hotel room, Froemming received a telephone call informing him that his grandmother had died. At 3:45 a.m. he got another emergency call, this one from crew chief John Kibler, summoning him to Kibler's room.
"John was breathing heavily and was talking in a whining tone," Froemming says. "He told me he had terrible pains in his chest and down his left arm. 'Let's wait an hour,' he said. I told John, 'No, I'm calling an ambulance.' The ambulance people said it was good I called right away." Good indeed. Kibler, 54, had suffered a heart attack, but he's recuperating nicely, thanks in no small part to Froemming's quick and correct call.
Because Dave Hostetler was not hitting, Mickey Rivers took over as the Rangers' DH. Mick was quick with his stick—four hits in one game—and with his lip, declaring: "A man of my caliber, that's no big deal."
Pat Screnar of the Dodgers became the first physical therapist ever ejected from a big league game when Home Plate Umpire Billy Williams thumbed him after the L.A. bench got on Williams about a strike call.... David E. LeFevre, who was born in Cleveland and practices law in New York, is trying to wrap up a deal to buy the Indians by July 4. The selling price is said to be between $20 million and $23 million.... The Padres haven't announced it yet, but Manager Dick Williams' contract was extended from 1984 through 1985.
Over the past several years, Fernando Valenzuela and Salome Barojas have been imported from Mexico with spectacular results by the Dodgers and White Sox, respectively. Now the Mets have acquired another highly regarded Mexican League player, Third Baseman Salvador Espinoza, 17. The Mets think so much of Espinoza that they signed a working agreement with his team, the León Bravos, and sent them First Baseman Rick Poe, a .295 hitter in Double A ball last year. Espinoza, who's training in Florida, will be assigned to one of the rookie leagues when they open in June.
The wind-chill index was 6° in Baltimore one night last week when the Orioles played the Rangers. Down in the bullpen, the Baltimore relievers stayed warm by sitting in a team station wagon and turning on the heater. Up in the press box, public-address man Phil Hochberg announced to the fans, "Will the driver of the vehicle with Saskatchewan license plates please report to your sled? The dogs are ready."
Life has been rough for Cleveland's Toby Harrah since the end of last season. Harrah had corrective surgery for a heart murmur, a fire did $100,000 damage to his house, his father was killed in an automobile accident, Harrah was hit by a pitch in his first at bat in spring training and struck again moments later with a ball thrown by an infielder. Now he's out with a broken left hand after being hit by another pitch.
For the Yankees to win, they need goose eggs from Goose Gossage, but through last Sunday he'd been scrambled for nine hits in 5‚Öì innings and had an 11.81 ERA.... The Red Sox have grounded into 19 double plays, putting them ahead of their pace of last year, when they hit into a record 171.... Pittsburgh, errorless in its first nine outings, committed four boo-boos in the next four games.... Roy Howell of the Brewers, who'd gone 0 for 35 since last Sept. 30, ended his slump with three hits during a 14-0 drubbing of the Red Sox.... Seattle's Julio Cruz, who in 1981 tied a league mark with 32 consecutive successful steal attempts, now has a streak of 21 over two seasons.... White Sox Pitcher Dennis Lamp was trying to light a match when he ignited Catcher Marc Hill's beard, causing Hill to shave the rest of it off.
. Ten bucks, 20 bucks. It's ridiculous."
A STICKY TRICK
Here's interesting news for those batters who suspect the Cubs' Ferguson Jenkins of throwing an illegal pitch. Jenkins, who won his 279th game last week, against the Giants, now reveals he uses pine tar on his pitching hand. Jenkins says Jim Bunning taught him the trick when Jenkins was a young prospect in the Phillies organization in the mid-'60s. "The reason I do it is to make my breaking pitches more effective," Jenkins explains. "I can't throw 'em when my hand is all sweaty. I put it on before the game and use a little resin each inning. Bunning used clear pine tar. I use the brown stuff, same color as my hand. No umpire has ever come to the mound to check me. No one has ever told me it's wrong. As far as I'm concerned, what I do is legal." Not so fast, Fergie. "I'll have to look into this," says Blake Cullen, who's in charge of National League umpires. "You can't use any foreign substance on the ball. An infielder who has pine tar on the batting glove he wears under his fielding glove isn't even allowed to remove his fielding glove to rub up the ball. I didn't know Jenkins was using pine tar. If it's coming off on the ball, that's illegal."
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
GEORGE BRETT: The Kansas City third baseman went 9 for 16, with seven extra base hits and 10 RBIs. Brett's three home runs, three doubles and one triple helped produce a 1.438 slugging average.
"You can count on the fingers of your right hand the number of times I've hit a homer to the opposite field," says Montreal Catcher Gary Carter. "About 10."