Skip to main content
Original Issue

INSIDE PITCH (Statistics through June 17)

Baltimore leftfielder Gary Roenicke hit a grand slam home run with two out in the eighth inning against New York in Yankee Stadium on Sunday. The homer won a game for pitcher Mike Flanagan and $1 million for Anne M. Sommers of College Park, Md. Flanagan was grateful; Ms. Sommers was ecstatic.

But wait. This gets better.

Ms. Sommers, a 45-year-old secretary, isn't a baseball fan. She has never been to an Orioles game. She had never heard of Gary Roenicke. She entered the team's Home Run Sweepstakes by accident. What does she think of Roenicke now? "He's a great guy," she says with a laugh. "I'd like to see him play." See him play? She can buy his contract.

This is how it happened. Ms. Sommers unwittingly entered the sweepstakes by using an automatic teller at a branch of the Equitable Bank. Every Oriole game this season has one sweepstakes inning, and each hitter in that inning bats for a contestant. The jackpot starts at $1,000 per sweepstakes inning and increases in $100 increments when the Orioles fail to hit one out. The pot was $3,000 last Sunday, but it jumped to $1 million when Eddie Murray walked to load the bases. Roenicke then hit a 1-0 pitch into the leftfield stands off Dennis Rasmussen.

Ms. Sommers probably never heard of Dennis Rasmussen, either.

Commissioner Bowie Kuhn was in Italy last week when he heard about the Cubs-Indians trade snafu: Chicago got pitchers Rick Sutcliffe and George Frazier and catcher Ron Hassey, and Cleveland didn't get outfielder Mel Hall and top minor league outfielder Joe Carter. The commissioner should have blocked the deal "in the best interest of baseball"—just as he prevented Charlie Finley's 1976 closeout sale of Vida Blue to the Yankees and Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox. Instead, he did nothing. Pass the pasta.

Chicago G.M. Dallas Green made a dumb but honest mistake by neglecting to renew waivers on Hall and Carter. But it's the Indians who are suffering because Hall and Carter went into nonplaying limbo, while Sutcliffe, Frazier and Hassey were allowed to join the Cubs. Disgraceful. All players should have remained in place.

One of the arguments Kuhn made in 1976 might have been trotted out here. "Shorn of much of its finest talent," Bowie said in part, "the Oakland club has little chance to compete effectively in its division.... If, as contended by the participants, the commissioner lacks the power to prevent a development so harmful to baseball as this, then our system of self-regulation for the good of the game and the public is a virtual mirage."

On Sunday the Indians weren't sure when they might get Carter and Hall, or who the Cubs might have to substitute if there are waiver claims on them this week. There was even a chance the Cubs' competitors in the National League East could keep making waiver claims on any potential substitutes to sabotage the deal. If Hall and Carter cleared waivers, the stink would be even worse. The NL East may be the most balanced division in the game; if you were the G.M. of, say, the Phillies or Mets, would you let the Cubs backtrack and complete a deal that could make them the team to beat?

When A's catcher Mike Heath found out that Sutcliffe had changed leagues, he snorted, "Good riddance. Glad to get him out of the American League." In his final AL start last week, Sutcliffe had kept his alleged promise to knock Heath down by throwing a pitch behind his head. Sutcliffe was supposed to be retaliating for a 1982 incident in which Heath blocked the plate rather aggressively as Andre Thornton tried to score.

"Sutcliffe yelled at me that he was going to hit me in the head," Heath said about the '82 incident.

According to the A's Lary Sorensen, an Indian in '82, "I played with those guys. I know exactly what they're doing."

"You're not going anywhere," said Cincinnati second baseman Ron Oester last week as he overheard Dave Concepcion's latest complaint about being made a swing man after having been the shortstop for the past 10 years. "They couldn't trade you and me both for Mario Mendoza."... The Giants' Atlee Hammaker, an All-Star pitcher in '83, is in Class AAA on a rehab program; he tested his damaged rotator cuff for the first time on Saturday, pitching three innings without pain but allowing two earned runs.... Dickie Thon, the Astros' All-Star shortstop, hopes his depth perception will improve in time for him to return this season, but it's likely that Thon, beaned by a Mike Torrez pitch the first week of the season, will not play until 1985.... The Cubs' Leon (Bull) Durham is healthy and hitting, and there's a connection. Durham, bothered by leg injuries the past three years, started exercising in a pool last winter—leg lifts and running—and is continuing that program during the season.... Things frustrated managers say. Joe Torre watched Padre rightfielder Tony Gwynn get two hits, drive in a run, throw out two runners and make a brilliant catch as the Braves lost 7-6 last Tuesday. "The rightfielder," Torre said, "must be the best player in the history of the game."

On the same day that the Brewers received a proclamation from Wisconsin governor Anthony Earl thanking them for "lifting the morale of the people of Milwaukee," the team sued the state to prevent the construction of a medium-to-maximum-security prison three-eighths of a mile from County Stadium.

The Brewers, joined in the action by the owner of a restaurant near the stadium, charged that the prison would reduce the "economic, social, cultural and esthetic benefits to the people who live, work, shop, transact business and conduct their leisure-time activities in the stadium area."

Actually, some people believe that the way the sixth-place Brewers have played this year is itself a crime, though team president Bud Selig says, "That's not even humorous."

The Mets made it to first for a while last week and they did it—doesn't this sound like 1969?—with pitching. The staff ERA for the last 16 games, including three straight shutouts last week, was 1.84.

The best pitching comes from the bullpen: Jesse Orosco has picked up 13 saves in 14 opportunities. But he has help: Doug Sisk has seven saves and a 0.64 ERA. He also has walked 28 in 42‚Öì innings even though the first requirement of a short reliever is control.

"Sisk is amazing," says Davey Johnson, the rookie manager. "He gives you heart failure but he still gets the job done. The funny thing about it is you know he's going to get into a jam."

"Davey wants to yell at me," says Sisk, "but he doesn't know what to say. After the game, he just gives me a funny look. The guys, they yell at me, 'Dammit, throw strikes.' Well, I'm trying."

Cleveland's Bert Blyleven lost to the A's last week on Dave Kingman's eighth-inning homer and won the Teammate of the Week award again by saying, "I'm sick and tired of losing games on one pitch with this club." How do you think the rest of the Indians feel, Bert?... More bad news for the White Sox. Carlton Fisk, bothered all season by a pulled stomach muscle, is on the DL.... More good news for the first-place Angels, who always need pitching and are the only team in the AL West with a realistic chance of beating Chicago. Don Aase, out two years after elbow surgery, and Bruce Kison, out since last August with back surgery, were activated last week.... Boston subs Rick Miller and Reid Nichols keep loose before pinch-hitting by playing "tape ball" in the clubhouse. "We break clocks and lights and the clubhouse man gets mad at us," says Miller. "But when we come through, he doesn't say anything."





My favorite player retired Saturday. Lou Piniella, whose first year with the Yankees (1974) was my first as a baseball writer, took the game seriously but not himself. "I'm an expansion player," he loved to say, and he was right. He didn't get a full shot at the bigs until his eighth year of pro ball, in 1969, when Seattle drafted him from Cleveland and then sent him to the Royals before the start of the season.

A player of modest talents, Piniella worked hard, used his head and had a .291 average for his more than 15 years in the majors. The fans loved him because he never made excuses and never hid his emotions. Or, rather, he was never afraid to show his emotions.

I remember when he fell down during an argument in the '78 playoffs because he got his feet tangled, and continued to scream and yell at the umpire as he was sitting behind home plate. I remember all the times I glanced at the outfield between pitches and saw Piniella practicing his swing.

"On the Orioles, we always say he's our favorite player," says Mike Flanagan. "He was mine. He was a working-class hero. He worked hard, he played hard, and the fans recognized that."

For a fan lucky enough to know him, let me say so long, viejo, you'll be missed.


Oakland's Joe Morgan, one of the best defensive second basemen in history, claims the smallest glove in the majors. It fits easily inside a standard infielder's model (above). "I got the idea from Nellie Fox," he says. Lacking an exceptionally strong arm, Morgan knew he needed to get rid of the ball quickly. "With a small glove, you know where the ball is all the time. The glove is the pocket."


HUBIE BROOKS: The Mets' third baseman went 12 for 25 with three homers and eight RBIs as New York won five of seven games. The performance raised his season average 21 points to .310.

"They ain't went nowhere," said Sparky Anderson, that noted grammarian, when asked if the Tigers' three wins in four games in Baltimore recently had knocked the Orioles out of the race. "We got 'em farther back, but they ain't went nowhere."