THE ROYALS GET WRAPPED UP IN A BO
Bo Jackson finally answered the question. He didn't go the Elway, he went the other way, straight to Royals Stadium in Kansas City. To demonstrate how serious he is about making his business in baseball, not football, the NFL's top prospect hit seven home runs last Saturday in his first professional batting practice. Manager Dick Howser was impressed by the mere sight of him out of street clothes. "I have known some first-round draft choices who wouldn't even suit up the first day, they're so nervous." Hal McRae said Bo reminds him of another Jackson, and he didn't mean Ron. After Frank White's eyes followed a Jackson shot that traveled 460 feet into dead center, he said, "Everything about this day is beginning to impress me."
Most observers thought the day would never come. In turning down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offer of $7 million over five years—the largest rookie contract tendered in NFL history—the former Auburn running back became the first Heisman Trophy winner to pass up a career in pro football since Army's Pete Dawkins did so in 1958. "I'm always going to do the opposite of what the public thinks," said the 23-year-old rightfielder. "I did this so people would swallow their Adam's apple." After a 10-day tour of Kansas City, baseball's prize catch will be sent to Double A Memphis or Triple A Omaha. "I'm so happy right now, I wouldn't care if they sent me down to Pee Wee ball," Jackson said.
Team co-owner Avron Fogelman vehemently denies that the Royals offered Jackson, their fourth-round pick, $5 million over five years, but the deal does cover several years and includes substantial real estate investments. Fogelman promises that Jackson will be back with Brett & Co. on Sept. 1 when the roster expands from 24 to 40 players. Said the Royals' general manager, John Schuerholz, "The sports world has to be shocked. Bo Jackson literally left millions of dollars on the table in Tampa." Kirk Gibson of the Tigers was certainly surprised. When Gibson, another football star who chose baseball, was asked if he could explain why a fourth-round choice received a long-term contract while Gibson, a free agent last year, couldn't get one offer from another team, he replied, "I can't, especially...[pause]...how can a team tampering with me during the season turn around and do what they said they couldn't do?"
PUNCHING OUT AN ALL-STAR BALLOT
Voting injustices have always added to the public interest in the All-Star Game. When Rod Carew keeps beating out Eddie Murray or when Luis Aparicio gets hundreds of thousands of votes after he retires, indignant newspaper columns are written and switchboards for radio call-in shows light up. But it is, after all, a game created for the people, so it is right that the teams be selected by the people. No team will ever be perfect. Players think they should decide the starters, but when they did, back in 1965, they elected Felix Mantilla instead of Bobby Richardson. So why get worked up because some fan in Los Angeles punches out Greg Brock's name every day? Just punch along and compare your ballot to this one:
Don Mattingly, Yankees, and Keith Hernandez, Mets. Poor Eddie Murray. He has been one of the dominant players of his time, but Carew almost always led the balloting. Now Carew has retired, but there is Mattingly in New York City and Wally World Joyner in L.A., two major voting areas. Add to them Kent Hrbek, who hit .422 with 13 homers in the 28 games after adopting his new Oscar Gamble-style stance, and the league's first base delegation is the strongest of any position in either league.
Tony Phillips, Oakland, and Ryne Sandberg, Cubs. Sandberg's edge over Johnny Ray and Steve Sax comes in power, RBIs and defense. Phillips gets the nod over Willie Randolph, who has been superb offensively but subpar defensively.
Wade Boggs, Red Sox, and Ray Knight, Mets. With due respect to George Brett and Gary Gaetti, Boggs is having a storybook season. Mike Schmidt's time has been split between third and first, and, anyway, we all like to have one write-in, which the surprising Knight is.
Tony Fernandez, Blue Jays, and Hubie Brooks, Expos. Brooks's production at the plate can't be overlooked, even if Ozzie Smith is hitting .300 and Shawon Dunston is about to become the best in the league.
Minnesota's Kirby Puckett, Oakland's Jose Canseco and Toronto's Jesse Barfield in the AL, with the Dodgers' Mike Marshall, Montreal's Tim Raines and San Francisco's Chili Davis in the NL. Both Puckett and Canseco should be givens, while Barfield's power (17 home runs), speed and defense make him the pick over Jim Rice. How can Marshall be leading the NL in homers when no one pitches to him? Davis, who's leading the league in RBIs, edges out Dave Parker and Tony Gwynn, both of whom are having their usual fine seasons.
Lance Parrish, Detroit, and Jody Davis, Chicago. Sure, Gary Carter has more homers and RBIs than Davis, but run scoring hasn't been a Cub specialty. Anyway, Davis has thrown out nearly 50% of opposing base runners; Carter is closer to 20%.
Incidentally, this year's ballot includes a questionnaire on the back. Some marketing types want to know each voter's "occupational group" from among professional, managerial, office employee, service, homemaker, student and retired. They must assume that nobody who wears a blue collar ever goes to a game.
YANKS ON A SHORT SHOPPING TRIP
Having destroyed Bobby Meacham's confidence and sent him to Columbus, the Yankees are out shopping for a shortstop, as well as a pitcher. They have thus far shown no interest in Rick Burleson, who is buried in California and would like to play shortstop on an everyday basis. The New York media were pushing for a Ken Griffey-Rafael Ramirez deal with the Braves, but Atlanta doesn't want to trade Ramirez and prematurely thrust rookie Andres Thomas into the pressure of playing every day. What the Braves really need is pitching. They had one win from a starter other than Rick Mahler in their last 29 games through Sunday.... Astros ace Mike Scott, who was only 3-3 during a stretch of 10 starts in which he never once allowed more than two earned runs, is also displeased with an Astros promotion for his newfound strikeout prowess. Management hands out placards with a red K to fans to wave each time he gets to two strikes. "Now I tend to overthrow when I get two strikes on a hitter," said Scott. He also lost two wins when Dave Smith surrendered homers to Chili Davis and Eric Davis, prompting someone to ask Smith how he thought he would fare against John Davis, the Astros' travel secretary.... In any list of trade steals for '86, add the name of Eric Steven King, the hard-throwing righthander the Tigers plucked out of the Giants system in the Juan Berenguer-Dave LaPoint deal last October. The new San Francisco regime got mad at King because he hurt his leg in a motorcycle mishap and couldn't pitch in the Instructional League, so they included him in the deal even though the Tigers had evaluated him as the second-best pitching prospect in the organization behind Terry Mulholland. King has been consistently clocked at 92 mph, and after taking La-Point's spot in the rotation, he has impressed Sparky Anderson with his nerve. When he beat the Orioles on June 18, he knocked down Larry Sheets with two outs in the ninth inning and a 6-1 lead.... Management types won't like hearing this, but technically Montreal has carried 25 players on its roster. When the Expos bought Bob McClure from Milwaukee on June 8, they told him not to report for five days because they had to clear a spot on the roster. McClure wasn't with the club, but for those five days the Expos had 25 eligible players.... While the amateur draft was being conducted, Commissioner Peter Ueberroth called Mark Belanger at the Players Association and told him that his son Rob, an infielder for Dulaney High in Baltimore, had been drafted in the 11th round by Texas. Belanger hadn't expected it, but he excitedly called home, and Rob went off to tell his friends the big news. When Belanger called Rangers G.M. Tom Grieve to thank him, Grieve acted surprised. Five minutes later, he called Belanger back and told him that they had drafted Mike Belanger (no relation) from Cal State-Fullerton, so Belanger had to make a very difficult follow-up call to Rob.... Padres president Ballard Smith met with players to clear the air about criticism of his decision to ban beer from the clubhouse, and when he came out, he was surrounded by the media. Smith angrily called the reporters "flies." When reporters went into the clubhouse the next day, they found that all the Padre players had been equipped with flyswatters.
THE HAWK SWOOPS DOWN
Ken Harrelson's firing of manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan was inevitable, but how the White Sox fare the rest of this season will determine the future of Harrelson and the people he has brought into the organization. Board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, whose attention was riveted on his NBA Bulls while some of the Sox changes were being made, was not pleased with Harrelson's earlier firing of assistant G.M. Dave Dombrowski. If things don't change with La Russa's departure and Dombrowski hasn't taken any of the half-dozen jobs he has already been offered, he could return. The Hawk feels that much of the heat comes from the media and executives who have never played in the big leagues. "Some people out there certainly hope we fail because we're trying something against the grain," says Harrelson. "A lot of things had to be changed to whip this thing into a major league organization, and I'll take the heat to do it."...New White Sox manager Jim Fregosi was a little reluctant to take the White Sox job, because as the Louisville skipper, he was getting a salary of about $100,000, a car, a condominium, membership in a swank country club and private boxes at local racetracks, including Churchill Downs.... The week's two most interesting internal conflicts came from the American League East. First, when Tiger coach Billy Consolo read the lineup last week and included Chet Lemon's name, Kirk Gibson bellowed, "Wally who?" a reference to Wally Pipp, whose one-day headache put Lou Gehrig in the Yankee lineup for 17 years. Gibson then smiled, but Lemon sensitively snapped back, "Are you trying to say my injuries weren't legitimate?" Gibson and other teammates knew that Lemon had been sleeping in the clubhouse during a recent game, and Gibson replied, "Yup," to which Lemon responded, "You of all people. I've been here five years and you've only played two of them—the World Series year and your free-agent year." Gibson answered, "My injuries were legitimate." Lemon had been out of the lineup eight straight games and had missed 18 of the first 59 games.... In Baltimore, after Alan Wiggins made three errors—two nights after being tagged out on the hidden-ball trick by Detroit's Dave Bergman—the Diamond-Vision scoreboard flashed the nightly WHO AM I? contest. The mystery Oriole turned out to be Wiggins, which elicited raunchy booing from the fans. The often-troubled second baseman went into a tirade. "I come here and bust my [tail], and when I make an error, I get booed," Wiggins shouted in the clubhouse. "I've put up with this for a year, and all I've done is hit .285 and produce. This game ain't worth all this [stuff]. I didn't ask to come to the great Baltimore Orioles. They wanted me. All I've done is take 60 drug tests, stay clean and produce. If they don't want me in Baltimore, they should do something about it." Earl Weaver told reporters, "I always said I gave Mike Cuellar more chances than I gave my first wife. I've given Wiggins more chances than I gave Cuellar. I don't know how many chances I have left in me."
¬©TOPPS CHEWING GUM INC.
Happy 44th and nice catch, Ron.
BETWEEN THE LINES
Twelve players with at least 10 full major league seasons have spent their entire pro careers with one organization: George Brett, Dennis Leonard and Frank White of the Royals; Dwight Evans and Jim Rice of the Red Sox; Mike Schmidt of the Phillies; Ron Guidry of the Yankees; Bob Forsch of the Cards; Bill Russell of the Dodgers; Dave Concepcion of the Reds; and Robin Yount and Charlie Moore of the Brewers.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
•"It's like passing a buffet table knowing you can't have anything to eat."—Tom Lasorda, watching Pedro Guerrero start to take batting practice and realizing he can't play until mid-August.
•"Every 15 years, I just go wild. It must have something to do with the alignment of the planets."—Padre manager Steve Boros, on his ejection for presenting a tape of a blown call to umpire Charlie Williams.
•"I still get to sleep at night. It just takes a few more beers."—Oakland manager Jackie Moore, on rumors he may soon be fired.
•"We lefthanders feel we're the only ones in our right minds. It's everybody else who's messed up. I bought a shirt that said EVERYBODY IS BORN RIGHT-HANDED. ONLY THE GREATEST CAN OVERCOME IT"—St. Louis rookie southpaw Greg Mathews, who as a kid in Anaheim played catch with Al (the Mad Hungarian) Hrabosky.
Pirate utilityman Billy Almon's father traveled to New York from his home in Warwick, R.I., to see the Pittsburgh-Mets series June 13-15. His son went 0 for 10 and made an error. When the elder Almon went to drive home after the last game, he discovered his car had been stolen from the Shea Stadium parking lot.
THE HILLSBOROUGH HIGH MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
In the battle of former (Tampa) Hillsborough High School teammates, Montreal's Floyd Youmans and Dwight Gooden threw 101 pitches that registered 90 mph or higher in their combined 11‚Öî innings. Youmans got the 7-4 victory, in which Gooden tied a career low with one strikeout in six innings. "Now maybe you writers will think of me as something other than Dwight Gooden's teammate," said Youmans.
PITCHING COACH OF THE YEAR
•Last year in 46 innings Oakland lefthander Curt Young allowed 15 homers and struck out only 19. Through last weekend he had pitched 61‚Öì innings and given up only 4 homers. The reason? A changeup suggested to him by Dave Kingman, who was drafted as a pitcher by the California Angels in June 1967.
•When Paul Molitor came off the disabled list on June 17, it marked the first time since May 8, 1982 that the Brewers had no one on the DL. Molitor reinjured his hamstring three days later and went back on the list.
•Former Twins center fielder Jim Eisenreich, who retired because of a nervous disorder, is now a DH in softball and semipro baseball in St. Cloud, Minn. He suffered a rotator cuff tear playing volleyball.
•Reggie Jackson was batting .325 on June 20, his highest mark on that date since 1974, when he was at .354.
•The Twins fired Billy Gardner last year when they got off to a 27-35 start. This year they started 25-37 under Ray Miller.
•San Diego relievers have struck out 191 in 211 innings.
•The Angels were one-hit in their last two games against knuckleballers—Joe Niekro on June 4, Charlie Hough on June 16—but went 1-1.
•Cardinal outfielder Andy Van Slyke said a doctor he had seen in Pittsburgh referred to his injury as "gamekeepers' thumb," a reference to what happened when gamekeepers twisted rabbits' heads. "When I heard 'gamekeepers' thumb,' " said Van Slyke, "I told him that it's been a zoo the way we've been playing."
•Remember when the Orioles perennially led the American League in complete games? Until Mike Boddicker beat Boston 14-3 on June 20, they had gone 29 games without a starter finishing.