THE CLASS OF '68
In 1968 the Dodgers had one of the best June drafts of any team ever. In one eight-day period of 1987, three of the biggest stars of that draft—Steve Garvey, 38, Bill Buckner, 37, and Ron Cey, 39—got discouraging news from their current teams. Padres president Chub Feeney told Garvey, who is out for the season following shoulder surgery, that the club might not offer him a new contract after his current five-year deal concludes in October. Buckner and Cey were released, by the Red Sox and Athletics, respectively.
Buckner will hook on with someone—Minnesota, probably—as a designated hitter. He was hitting .273 when released, and his 254 RBIs for 1985-87 were only five fewer than Boston leader Jim Rice's total. "He is still one of the great clutch hitters in the game," said teammate Dwight Evans. But G.M. Lou Gorman said, "We have to be realistic about this season." What Gorman meant was that, before 1987 ends, Boston wants to find out if outfielder Mike Greenwell, DH Sam Horn and OF-1B Todd Benzinger can be everyday players in '88.
Buckner will always be one of Boston's most storied players because of the ball that went through his legs to end the sixth game of the '86 World Series. "It's just too bad that everyone seems to remember only that play," said Buckner. "It just wouldn't go away. Then, with all the rumors about my release, it got difficult to play. I just want to get started somewhere else." If he doesn't wind up with the Twins, he could heed the overtures of the Texas Rangers and manager Bobby Valentine. Valentine was L.A.'s No. 1 pick in that splendid '68 draft and was Buckner's roommate at USC and with the Dodgers.
Garvey, who has 2,599 hits, 10 All-Star appearances and an MVP trophy, is scheduled to meet again with Feeney in September, so his career may not be over either. Cey, however, is almost certainly finished. He left with class, sending his A's teammates a telegram wishing them luck and apologizing for not contributing more to their pennant drive....
One other significant career may also be coming to a close. Kansas City ended Hal McRae's 19 years of distinction by removing him from the roster on July 21, though he will remain as hitting coach. McRae had just 32 at bats this year. He and George Brett were the heart and soul of the great Royals teams that won four divisional titles and a pennant between 1976 and '80, and Brett always credited McRae with "teaching us how to win." McRae aggressively broke up double plays the way Frank Robinson used to, and had he not suffered a serious shoulder injury early in his career, would have hit even better than his lifetime .290 average.
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
When the Yankees took over first place on June 29, some people suggested they had nothing to fear but the owner's fear itself. Between then and July 26, the Yanks played 24 games and made 24 roster changes. After a 2-1 loss in Minnesota on July 21, in which Mark Salas was thrown out at the plate in the ninth while trying to score from second on a single, George Steinbrenner stood in the visitors' clubhouse, arms folded, glaring. Steinbrenner then had p.r. man Harvey Greene telephone for updates on the Detroit and Toronto scores, and when Detroit rallied in the 10th to beat Oakland, Steinbrenner snarled, "They're getting too damned close. I was worried about this." That was with 67 games remaining and the Yankees holding a three-game lead. The next night produced a 3-1 loss, and afterward, Lou Piniella held a clubhouse meeting and complained about the team's "lackadaisical play." He wouldn't single out anyone, but it's known his target was Rickey Henderson, who had been less than exuberant in recent games while recovering from a nagging hamstring problem. "The next time someone loafs on a play, I'll take him out, right in the middle of an inning," Piniella told the players. The Yankees then lost two of three to the White Sox, and the week ended with Detroit and Toronto 1 and 1½ games out, respectively. August could be a stormy month in Gotham....
Padres fans embarrassed themselves by booing and harassing Andre Dawson in his first game in San Diego following his beanball run-in with Eric Show in Chicago. Crazies in the rightfield stands bombed Dawson with a beer cup and a tennis ball after he made a catch. Dawson also said he was taunted by racial slurs. After Monday's incidents, security guards moved all rightfield spectators one section farther away from Dawson for the next two days. Dawson later said, "If they think I'm at fault for going after the guy [Show], they're crazy. Anybody would have acted the same way I did." ...That Twins lefthander Frank Viola is 8-1, 1.86 in his last 12 starts is not especially surprising, except to those who have been waiting for him to finally elevate himself from a solid starter to the level his talent suggests. Frank Viola Sr. says it's simply a matter of his son growing up. "You'd see the scouting report and it would say the same thing every year: The only person who can beat Frank Viola is Frank Viola. We all kept hearing about his potential, and I have to admit I was getting as sick of hearing it as anyone else. It just seemed that he let so many bad things bother him out there—bad calls, bad plays behind him, whatever."
Some bullpen stalwarts of old haven't been up to par lately. The Blue Jays have to worry that the American League is catching on to reliever Mark Eichhorn's unique sidearm delivery. For a year scouts have suggested that hitters lay off Eichhorn's sweeping breaking ball, and recently clubs have started to wait him out. He has nearly doubled his base-on-balls rate (39 in 82‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings, as opposed to 45 in 157 innings last year), and when he's forced to throw strikes he gets hit. Before picking up a victory against the Twins on Friday night, he had lost his last three decisions. Against the Rangers on July 22 he walked three straight batters on 14 pitches, forcing in two runs, including the game-winner....
Oakland's All-Star reliever, Jay Howell, is also having trouble. He blew a save opportunity in the last game before the break, was the losing pitcher in the All-Star Game and then blew his first three save opportunities after that. Manager Tony La Russa explained to the media that Howell has a bone chip in his elbow and may have to undergo surgery. "It's unfair that he take the rap, because he's been a hero for us," said La Russa....
The Royals have the fewest doubles and have attempted the fewest stolen bases in the American League. They are a far cry from the teams Whitey Herzog tailored to the Royals Stadium AstroTurf in the late '70s....
Forget Mark McGwire, Devon White, Matt Nokes, et al. The rookie with the potential for legend is Tigers infielder Jim Walewander. Asked the difference between the majors and the minors, he answered, "There are fewer bugs in my apartment." Asked, after a game against Seattle, how he found Mark Langston, he replied, "I took a left at the on-deck circle, went to the batter's box and he was there." This is a guy who once played a 36-hole golf tournament in heavy work boots. While in the minors at Toledo he lived in an apartment with no furniture and used aluminum foil for drapes. Because of his love of punk music—his favorite group is The Dead Milkmen—Walewander goes by such nicknames as Sid Vicious and Little David Bowie....
To the suggestion from Reds players that they have been distracted by various injuries, Pete Rose sniffed, "I was served with divorce papers and a paternity suit and went 17 for 28." Jayson Stark of the Philadelphia Inquirer looked it up. Pete was 17 for 28.
Despite his glittering RBI totals, the 37-year-old Buckner had to give way to a Boston youth movement.
A tribute to Candaele power.
¬¨¬®¬¨¬©TOPPS CHEWING GUM INC.
Best wishes on your 47th, Roger.
Hitters have caught on to Eichhorn.
BETWEEN THE LINES
POWER, RICHES AND FAME
The Expos had a pool to predict when Casey Candaele would hit his first major league homer. But when he finally did it, hitting the screen that's attached to the rightfield foul pole in Montreal on July 19, it turned out that none of the entries had picked the winning date. So the pool will continue until Candaele hits his second home run. The club has commemorated Candaele's maiden homer by installing a yellow seat in the row of blue seats in right, roughly where the ball would have landed.
There is one other yellow seat in Olympic Stadium—in the upper deck of rightfield—and it marks a home run by Willie Stargell in 1978, the longest dinger ever hit in the park. That 535-foot shot went approximately 200 feet farther than Candaele's blast.
When Juan Beniquez was recently traded from Kansas City to Toronto, he became the first man ever to play for eight American League teams. The trade moved Beniquez past Woody Held, Eddie Robinson, Ken Brett and Ken Sanders, who played for seven AL clubs. The National League record of seven teams is held by Joe Schultz and Frank Thomas. The record for most major league teams, both leagues, is shared by Brett and Tommy Davis, each of whom toiled for 10.
Last Saturday, Kansas City's Willie Wilson became the fifth player to steal 30 or more bases for 10 consecutive seasons. The other four are Lou Brock (14 straight years), Ty Cobb (12), Honus Wagner (11) and Bert Campaneris (10).
With 23 homers, 19 stolen bases and 18 errors so far, Mets third baseman Howard Johnson could be the first 30/30/30 man ever.
DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB, RICK
When Yankees catcher Rick Cerone pitched the eighth inning of a 20-3 loss to Texas on July 19, he balked in a run, and his fastball was clocked at 81 mph. He was also fined $15 by his fellow pitchers for failing to cover first on one play and back up home on another.
THE MOUSSY WARS (CONT.)
After White Sox general manager Larry Himes banned alcohol from the clubhouse, Carlton Fisk made a tongue-in-cheek threat to bring a cooler loaded with beer and put it in his locker. Himes took him seriously and asked Comiskey Park security guards to check Fisk at the entrance gate.
•In extra innings this season, Jack Clark is 6 for 9, with three home runs and six RBIs.
•Harold Baines set the White Sox career home run record last week when he hit his 155th. That is the lowest team home run record for any of the 16 nonexpansion clubs. (Jesse Barfield has a club-record 148 for the Blue Jays, a franchise only in its 11th year.)
•In his last nine starts Ron Guidry of the Yankees has a 2.23 ERA and has averaged 6⅖ innings per start, yet his record is 3-2. Another hard-luck pitcher, Jimmy Key of the Blue Jays, has a 2.47 ERA for his last nine starts but is only 3-3. But the game's unluckiest pitcher may be Milwaukee's Bill Wegman, who is 8-9. In eight of those losses the Brewers scored a total of seven runs, and four of his five complete games have been losses.
•An update on two of baseball's brightest all-name prospects: Steve Gasser was second in the Southern League in strikeouts for Orlando before being moved up to Portland of the Pacific Coast League; and Padres outfield prospect Brad Pounders tops the Texas League in homers and RBIs.
•While Oakland's Mark McGwire chases Roger Maris's 61-homer record, Toronto's George Bell is in pursuit of another single-season home run mark, Babe Ruth's total of 32 on the road. Bell has 22.
•Texas manager Bobby Valentine has been ejected 13 times in his managerial career by 13 different umpires.
•The Dodgers' Ken Howell got his first start in three years on Saturday. In his last 45 appearances as a reliever, dating back to Sept. 3, 1986, he failed to get a single save.