The news last Tuesday -- the surgery on Kansas City Royals
manager Dick Howser had revealed the tumor on his brain to be
malignant -- reached the Royals in the visiting clubhouse at
Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. Interim manager Mike Ferraro, one of
Howser's closest friends, wiped away his tears with a locker room
towel. Players talked to each other in whispers. A monsignor led
the team in prayer.
''Things that you thought were important really aren't that
important anymore,'' said Royals third baseman George Brett. ''I
didn't play for two weeks with a bad shoulder and I thought the whole
world was coming down on George Brett's back. Now, I look back and I
Some of the Royals were reluctant to take the field against the
Orioles; others could not wait. Not that they had a choice. ''This
game doesn't allow you to stop,'' observed second baseman Frank
White. Baltimore won, 5-4, when centerfielder Fred Lynn saved the
game in the eighth inning with an impossible diving catch of Jorge
Orta's bases-loaded liner. Lights out.
By week's end the Royals were in another city, Detroit. The World
Series champions were in another place emotionally, too. The fact
that early this week Howser was to begin a five-week,
five-days-a-week program of radiation therapy in Kansas City provided
the basis for hope. ''Dick never gives up,'' Ferraro said. ''You
look at his history.''
Ferraro's friendship with Howser dates to 1968, when they were
both infielders with the Yankees. When Howser managed the Yankees to
103 wins in 1980, Ferraro was his third base coach. When Ferraro was
fired in 1983 after 100 games as manager of the Cleveland Indians,
Howser hired him to coach third for the Royals. Both men live in
Florida and visit each other in the off- season.
Ferraro was among the first to notice changes in Howser's mood,
his sudden inability to put names and faces together. In recent
weeks, the Royals manager had complained of headaches and neck pain
and was quieter than normal. Ferraro accompanied Howser to the
All-Star Game in Houston and returned extremely worried about his
friend's deteriorating condition. Still, he wasn't prepared for the
thunderclap announcement that Howser had a brain tumor. When Royals
G.M. John Schuerholz named him interim manager on July 18, Ferraro
met the players and the press wearing sunglasses to conceal his
Then came Tuesday and the second wave of bad news. ''My emotions
got away with me over in Baltimore,'' Ferraro said Friday afternoon
in Detroit. ''I was breaking down twice a day with the media and
with my friends.'' Ironically, cancer had disrupted Ferraro's own
brief managing career. In February 1983, surgeons removed one of
Ferraro's kidneys in a three-hour operation after finding a
malignant tumor. ''I've gone through it,'' Ferraro says. ''I know
what it's like to lie there and think about life and death.''
The Royals interim manager did not step easily into his new role.
In Kansas City he dressed at his usual clubhouse stall with the
other coaches, using the manager's office only for postgame
interviews. In the dugout, Ferraro pulled the managerial strings
much as Howser would. ''He feels that Dick is still the manager
here,'' says shortstop Buddy Biancalana, ''so he probably doesn't
want to change things too much.''
One change is inevitable. The affable and popular Ferraro will
have to pull back a bit in his relationship with the players.
''That's one of the mistakes I made in Cleveland,'' he says. ''I
tried to make everybody happy.'' Says Brett, ''Everyone respects
Mike as a friend and as a manager. I don't think anyone's going to
try to take advantage of him.''
Ferraro, in turn, is determined not to exploit Hoswer by flogging
the Royals with ''win one for Dick'' speeches. ''If we can play real
well the rest of the year, I know Dick will be proud of us. But
his battle is more important than whether or not we can catch the
HEINZ KLUETMEIER Ferraro hopes for better news about Howser.