Larry Bowa may not have won any awards for congeniality, but if the shortstop's release last week by the Cubs means the end of his career, it's time to acknowledge him as one of baseball's all-time greatest overachievers.
Bowa, 39, holds the NL records for most games at shortstop (2,212) and fewest errors in a season (nine), as well as major league records for the highest fielding percentage in a season (.991) and for a career (.980). He has 2,189 hits and a .260 lifetime average. "I should be proud of what I've done," he said. "What I'm most proud of is that a lot of people said I'd never play in the majors."
After 809 days and three knee operations, Dennis Leonard (SI, July 29) started a baseball game. And to think, says Leonard, "A lot of guys complain about being set back for a week." He pitched five no-hit innings for the Royals' Class A Fort Myers team against Tampa last Wednesday in his first game since May 28, 1983. Leonard is expected to make three more starts in the minors before being added to the Royals' roster. If he makes it back, he will rank with Tommy John on the alltime medical comeback list. "Once the first inning was over," said Leonard, who allowed a walk and a run in his 5-3 victory, "a whole lot of weight fell off my shoulders."
Houston relief ace Dave Smith and Padre second baseman Tim Flannery live in San Diego and surf together in the off-season. They're so friendly that Smith once promised Flannery he would never throw him anything but a fastball. Which brings us to a recent Astro-Padre game, Flannery at bat against Smith in the ninth inning, two on and two out, San Diego down by three runs. The count went to 3-2 and Smith kept pumping heaters, nine in all, as Flannery kept fouling them off. Finally, Smith threw a curve that Flannery missed. When Smith finished his postgame shower he found Flannery sipping a beer in front of his locker. "All I can say," said Flannery, "is that you've really changed." To which Smith replied, "If you can't hit nine straight fastballs, you deserve a curve."
Greg Harris, a righthanded reliever for the Rangers, has a 2.24 ERA, seven saves and the most strikeouts of any AL reliever (80). But he would like to become the first ambidextrous major league pitcher. Harris has been throwing lefthanded with pitching coach Tom House, who says, "I'd guess his fastball is about 75 or 76 [mph]. I wouldn't put him in a game until he was up around 80."
Are you ready for a 250-pound pitcher rapping on MTV about the delights of fast food and break dancing? Are you ready for Terry Forster and the Love-handles? The Braves' reliever, whose abundant paunch has been made famous by David Letterman, filmed a 3½-minute video last week in which he is shipwrecked on a "dessert" island.... The Cardinals' Willie McGee, leading the NL with a .361 average, could break the record Pete Rose and Frankie Frisch share for NL switch hitters (.348). Mickey Mantle has the major league record (.365).... Believe it or not, Alfredo Griffin and Donnie Hill, the middle of the A's infield, have combined for more RBIs (100-97) than Detroit's Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell.... In Life, Everything Is Timing Dept.: Reggie Jackson hit homer No. 521 in Seattle early last week, to tie Ted Williams and Willie McCovey for eighth-place on the alltime list, at precisely 5:21 P.D.T.
BALL PARK FIGURES
The best way to stop Cleveland's Pat Tabler when the bases are loaded is to walk him. Tabler, a .254 career hitter who's batting .268 this season, has been literally impossible to stop in 1985 whenever the bases are loaded. He's 6 for 6 with 15 RBIs. With the bases filled, in the last three years he's an astounding 22 for 34 with 54 RBIs. Here's the blow-by-blow for '85:
April 28—A three-run triple off Oriole Storm Davis in the second.
June 8—A grand slam off Mariner Jim Beattie in the first.
July 2—A two-run single off Twin Frank Viola in the third.
July 8—An RBI single off Ranger Mike Mason in the first.
July 31—A three-run double off Yankee Ron Guidry in the seventh.
Aug. 12—A two-run single off Oriole Scott McGregor in the first.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
MIKE YOUNG: The Oriole outfielder hit five homers and drove in 14 runs as Baltimore won five straight. Over a 13-game span Young, who lost an RBI single to rain Sunday, had nine HRs and 22 RBIs.