A strange voice thundered from the showers in the White Sox locker room: "I am the great and powerful Oz!" The Chicago players looked up from their lockers and workout equipment. Could it be? Had new executive vice-president for baseball operations Ken (Hawk) Harrelson brought yet another of his big-name cronies into camp as an instructor? Or hired another exercise guru? Or found an even more unlikely role for Pudge Fisk?
Naw, it was just new White Sox pitcher Joe Cowley, the fireballing flake acquired from the Yankees. "I am the great and powerful Oz!" he again bellowed. This time his teammates smiled. They know they'll need a strong year from Cowley—and some pitching wizardry from the others in an uncertain starting rotation—to reach over any rainbow.
Harrelson hopes some magic rubbed off the living set of baseball cards he brought into camp as coaches and instructors: Don Drysdale, Dick Allen, Moe Drabowsky, Willie Horton, Eddie Brinkman, Doug Rader and Joe Nossek, to name but a few.
The most startling sight of all, though, was the 38-year-old Fisk lumbering around leftfield as if he were still wearing full catcher's gear. Both Harrelson and Chicago manager Tony La Russa feel the move will extend Fisk's career. At catcher, young Joel Skinner has the defensive tools to replace Fisk; his questionable hitting will shift more of the team's offensive burden onto Fisk, Harold Baines and Greg Walker. The White Sox are also hoping that spring phenom John Cangelosi, .345 and 18 stolen bases, is a major league centerfielder.
The Chicago bullpen is more than solid with Bob James, Gene Nelson and newly acquired Dave Schmidt. But among the starters, Tom Seaver has turned 41, Floyd Bannister is coming off a poor year and both Neil Allen and Joel Davis are gambles. The picture will brighten dramatically if Richard Dotson successfully returns from surgery to release part of an overdeveloped pectoral muscle that had cut off the blood flow to his arm.
Harrelson won't be afraid to deal if his team stumbles. "Right now I'm looking to hire a general manager," says the Hawk with a smile, "so I can fire him if I screw up."
THE ELIAS ANALYST:
First White Sox 1B to hit 20 or more HRs two years in a row since Roy Sievers in 1960-61.
Had 118 at bats against righthanders and not one extra-base hit.
One of two rookies to play in 150 games, and the only one not to be run over by a tarp.
Career: .275 with bases empty, .211 with runners on;. 169 with runners in scoring position.
What's more amazing for a 37-year-old catcher, 17 SBs or 37 HRs?
Led the league with a .391 average with runners on base and two outs.
His. 168 career BA in LIP situations is the lowest of any player in the last 11 years.
Has 61 shutouts, 7th on alltime list, close to Warren Spahn (63) and Eddie Plank (64).
First since Ferguson Jenkins ('72, '73, '75) to allow 30 or more HRs in three of four years.
Career rate of one HR allowed every 6.28 innings is 3rd worst among active pitchers.
Career average of 8.37 strikeouts per nine innings ranks 6th among active pitchers.