Last season Boston's Tony Armas hit 36 homers and drove in 107 runs. He also batted .218. "Last year was embarrassing," says Armas, who's hitting .286 this year with 19 homers and 55 RBIs. "I'm not a .218 hitter."
One of his problems was a bum right elbow that needed surgery last winter. Another was Armas's swing. It was the old story—righthanded power hitter who hits to all fields gets traded to Fenway; righthanded power hitter tries to jerk everything over the Green Monster; right-handed power hitter's batting average goes kerplunk.
Enter Red Sox batting coach Walt Hriniak. "I felt Tony could hit to rightfield," he says. "When I knew Tony would be listening one day, I asked Jim Rice what he thought he'd be hitting for his career if he tried to pull every pitch. I knew the answer, but I wanted Tony to hear it. And Rice said, 'About .240.' " Armas got the point.
The remains of Reggie Jackson's $65,000 Porsche 930 were finally found last week in an Orange County (Calif.) industrial park. As W.C. Fields said near the end of The Bank Dick, "The resale value of this car is practically nil."
The resale value of three other Orange County Porsches found there was practically nil, too. Like Jackson's, they were taken from restaurant parking lots in Newport Beach. Like Jackson's, they were minus engine, transmission and dashboard. The resale value of each set of missing parts—$10,000 to $15,000. Said a Newport Beach detective, "You could put what's left of Reggie's car on your desk."
The thieves even took Reggie's license plate. But they obviously kept that for a souvenir. It reads: JAX44.
Last Monday night in San Francisco, Giants manager Frank Robinson and Reds third baseman Wayne Krenchicki, who used to play for Robinson in the Orioles' farm system, traded needles. Krenchicki told Robinson he was going deep that night. Robinson laughed and told him he would get jammed every at bat.
Then the game began. Krenchicki flied out to the warning track in his first at bat, and Robinson sent word to him, through third base coach Danny Ozark, that he didn't have enough pop to hit the baseball over the fence. Oops! The game became a 2-1 Reds win when Krenchicki homered in the ninth. Touché.
Ever wonder what happened to Fred Lynn? Well, he's hitting .255 for the Angels with 25 RBIs in this, the last year of his four-year $5.2 million contract. Lynn, 32, better get hot or else he's going to take one monstrous pay cut.... Lou Piniella's last road game was in Fenway, and when the retirement of the Yankees' batting coach was announced before his first at bat he was given a long standing O. Pinieila repaid the compliment with a letter to Red Sox owner Haywood Sullivan asking him to relay his thanks.... Once the sale of the Indians to David LeFevre is official, former Houston G.M. Tal Smith will become an adviser with "a major role." ...After Oakland lefty Tim Conroy won his first game of the year recently, he said, "I lost my confidence five years ago in the minors, but I'm back now. I'll never lose it again." In his next start, last Thursday against Toronto, he was asked to leave after 15 pitches—two strikes and 13 balls.... Boston's Jim Rice has a timetable. "By the All-Star Game I like to have about 12 or 13 homers, 50 RBIs and a .300 average." So far Rice has 14 homers, 61 RBIs and a .277 average.
Cleveland's Mel Hall has this thing about batting gloves. He uses six each game, but he never puts one on his hand. Instead, Hall sticks three gloves in each of his back pockets. Very precisely, so the fingers flutter hither and thither as he runs. Or, as he says about the view from the rear after he hits a home run, "I'm waving goodby as I trot around the bases."
Hall began the glove shtick in the minors. He won't say why. He does say, "I can't play without the gloves."
The most important event of the Tigers' year may have come just before Opening Day, when they made the trade with the Phillies that brought them lefty reliever Willie Hernandez. Hernandez is 4-0 with 14 saves in 15 opportunities, and, according to Sparky Anderson, he's the MVP of the Tigers so far.
"I don't know what one man can do more to contribute to winning than he did," says Sparky. "I don't think anybody has won more than 16 games. That's a lot of winning for one person."
That's a lot of saves for a pitcher who never had more than 10 in a season. One reason is that he doesn't have to take second billing behind Al Holland. The other reason is his screwball.
There hasn't been a lefty with a scroogie in the American League since Toronto's Mike Willis, who pitched 296 innings before he retired in 1981 with a 7-21 record. The pitch, which breaks down and away from righties, is tough enough to hit even for the guys who see it occasionally.
Baltimore's Ken Singleton and Boston's Bill Buckner last week became the 150th and 151st players to get 2,000 career hits. Singleton thought his dad was in the ball park watching. Nope. He left during a 53-minute rain delay and watched his son's big hit on TV.
But the milestone was one of the few pleasant moments of the season for Singleton, who's 37 and having the worst season of his career with a .233 average and an absurd 14 RBIs in 219 at bats. Yes, the Orioles are wondering if he's nearing the end.
Is the Expos' Andre Dawson going to be the Tony Oliva of the '80s? Oliva, you may remember, was a gamer with superstar ability who had knee problems throughout his career with the Twins and tried to play through them. A lifetime .304 hitter, he had his last great year in 1971, when he was 31 and won the batting title. He retired five years later, barely able to run. Now Dawson, who has had surgery on both knees, is playing with a bone spur in his left knee that could break loose at any time and necessitate a season-ending operation.
Dawson, who turns 30 next week, is hitting .216 with only 34 RBIs and four home runs this year. Sometimes his left knee buckles in midswing. Playing on the Expos' artificial turf doesn't help. But Dawson insists he isn't risking his career. "I could have surgery now and forget the year," he says, "but the doctors say if I wait, I won't jeopardize my future."
On June 25 Oakland's Garry Hancock, an outfielder by profession, made his debut as a pitcher in a game with Kansas City. Although Oakland lost 16-0, Hancock faced four batters and got four outs, which prompted the Royals' Dan Quisenberry, that card, to say, "Garry's got the potential to win the Cy Young Award, no question. He knows it, people around the league know it. Now it's strictly up to him."
Four days later, Hancock, who's 30, was demoted to Triple A and hinted he might retire. "My wife and I have gone through this minor league stuff for too long," he said. "I just don't have the drive anymore. And it's really too bad—I'm leading the team in ERA."
One more record for Pete Rose. On Friday night in Cincinnati—how fitting—he broke Carl Yastrzemski's major league mark for games played, with 3,309, in Montreal's 7-3 win over the Reds.... Another member of the old Big Red Machine, Johnny Bench, will have his No. 5 retired Aug. 11, the first Red player so honored.... When the Cardinals' Joaquin Andujar walked three times against the Expos last week, he tied a National League record for walks to a pitcher in one game. It also put some people in shock. Andujar went from July 1981 to September 1983 without any walks while striking out 87 times.... Houston lefty Joe Sambito, who was out two years because of elbow surgery, has a 1.00 ERA after 18 innings in '84.
Cleveland manager Pat Corrales was explaining the way he was juggling his catchers, Jerry Willard and Chris Bando. He called it his "hot and mad" theory. At the time, Bando was the hot hitter and Willard was the mad spectator.
"I just put them out there as long as they hit well," Corrales said. "It's only the other guy who doesn't like it. In this case it's a catcher, but it could be an outfielder or a first baseman. I never get mad, though. I enjoy it.
"If you play your cards right, pretty soon you have four guys hot and four other guys teed off. What you're really looking for is to get the whole team hot. Then again, you could get the whole team teed off, too."
At this point Corrales started laughing. "I think I'm losing my sanity. I started explaining this to my wife the other day. Finally, she looked at me and asked, 'How old are you?' "
It was the bottom of the eighth in Kansas City last Wednesday night, and Oakland's Steve McCatty, whose team was leading 8-4, was getting tired. So Jackie Moore, the A's manager, signaled to catcher Mike Heath and third baseman Carney Lansford to pay McCatty a visit to give reliever Keith Atherton more time to warm up.
"But there was nothing I could say," Heath admits. "Cat had pitched a good ball game, but he was a little tired, and it was time to come out. When I went out there, he said, 'Hmmm, I'm running out of gas here.' So I started moving my mouth and bobbing my head. But I was saying nothing." Lansford, obviously a quick study, joined Heath in this little charade. McCatty? "He had to turn around," Heath says. "He didn't want anyone to see him laughing."
BALL PARK FIGURES
Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda is baseball's most famous eater. And these are his favorite foods:
3. Any pasta
5. Stuffed peppers
8. Anything Chinese
10. Seafood salad
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
ANDRE THORNTON: Cleveland's veteran DH had five home runs and a double among his nine hits (in 28 at bats) for a slugging percentage of .893. Thornton also drove in 10 runs and scored eight.
"He wasn't hustling, he traded himself," Cardinal manager Whitey Herzog said last week, explaining his decision to send Keith Hernandez to the Mets last season. "I knew it. He knew it. The team knew it."
"He's not man enough to take the heat and say, 'I took a gamble and it didn't work out,' " said Hernandez, who has been a key to the Mets' rise to respectability this season. "I have no respect for him. He's a weak individual."