The Boston Red Sox have asked slugger Jim Rice, who has hit only three homers since last July 22 and just two doubles this season, to try wearing glasses when batting. Though he wears them off the field, Rice has refused to use them at the plate, saying that he sweats too much. Contact lenses are also out of the question, according to Rice, because his eyes don't produce enough moisture.
The Baltimore Orioles made the same suggestion to first baseman Eddie Murray, who at week's end had hit five homers since August 12 of last year, and he vetoed the idea too, saying that glasses would make him look old. "Vanity is more important than production to some players," says one trainer. "Not Reggie Jackson, though. He wore glasses."
DRIFT OF THE DRAFT
The amateur draft takes place June 1, and the first three picks are expected to be: 1) Hamilton (Ohio) High shortstop Mark Lewis by the San Diego Padres, 2) Evansville University pitcher Andy Benes by the Cleveland Indians and 3) Auburn reliever Gregg Olson by the Atlanta Braves. Olson, who as of Friday had nine saves and a 2.33 ERA, might go higher, but, according to a Braves scout, "He's pitched so much people are worried about his arm." Michigan pitcher Jim Abbott, who has the use of only one arm, is the only first-rate lefthander available, so he may be one of the top 15 picks. Abbott is an adroit fielder, quickly slipping on and off his glove, which he balances on the nub of his withered right limb between pitches. Some scouts still have their doubts, however. Says one, "What concerns a lot of scouts is that he'll get hit by balls up the middle as he tries to put his glove onto his left hand."
THE HIT KING'S NEW CLOTHES
When four-time American League batting champion Wade Boggs dropped into a 7-for-45 slump recently, what did he do? "I took as much batting practice as I could," says Boggs. "But the weather was so bad that extra hitting was sporadic. I couldn't get loose. I had so much clothing on I felt like Robocop."
During the slump, Boggs, who is renowned for his superstitions, used 10 pairs of shoes to find one that had two hits in it. He also wore a different T-shirt every day. "I found one I really liked," he says. "I figured it had at least one hit in it, but I went oh for 4, so I threw it away. I tried new underwear and jocks. I even had Rawlings make me up two new road uniforms. I used a new bat almost every time up. Whenever I broke a bat before, it always seemed that I got two hits with the new one. Not this time."
Boggs, who also believes chicken has magical powers, finally regained his form April 27 when the Red Sox came back to Boston for a series against the Twins. Including the three hits he got that night, he is batting .444 since then. The home cooking must have done it.
On April 25, Lew Krausse, a former pitcher for the Kansas City and Oakland A's, celebrated his 45th birthday, and to acknowledge the occasion, we published a picture of his 1965 baseball card in SI. As soon as the issue appeared, the telephone in Krausse's Holt, Mo., house began ringing. "I was tickled," says Krausse. "Fifty people must have called, but the funny thing was that a lot of them said, 'You really looked different when you were younger.' "
Krausse's friends had good reason to be confused, even if he wasn't. He knew that in 1965, Topps, the card manufacturer, had mixed up his photo with one of Pete Lovrich, who went to spring training with the A's that year but failed to make the team. This was not the first time Topps had some confusion with one of its cards. In 1957, for example, somebody at Topps flopped a negative of Henry Aaron, turning him into a lefthanded hitter. For fun—and without Topps realizing it—Aaron's Milwaukee Braves teammate, righthanded pitcher Lew Burdette, posed for his card two years later with his glove on the wrong hand. In '65, Bob Uecker, then a righthanded-hitting catcher for the Cardinals, fined up for his Topps shot in a lefty stance, and in '69, California Angels third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez had the batboy stand in for him. At the Angels' family day three years ago, Topps mistakenly photographed 13-year-old Lynn Pettis instead of big brother Gary, and this spring the first batch of Al Leiter cards pictured minor league pitcher Steve George instead of the New York Yankees pitcher.
With baseball card collecting booming, hobbyists are always on the lookout for flawed cards. But according to James Beckett, author of The Official Price Guide to Baseball Cards, the key factor in pricing is the stature of the player on it, not that it contains an error. As a result, the Krausse-Lovrich card sells for only 55¬¨¬®¬¨¢, while the Aaron goes for $50 and the Uecker $8. Of course, sometimes a card's value to its owner far exceeds its going price. The 1932 card of Krausse's father, Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Lew Krausse, wouldn't command much on the market, but it's priceless to at least one collector, Lew Jr.
On May 1, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Nick Esasky made a play that seemed routine at the time. With two outs in the top of the ninth, a runner on second and the score tied 5-5, Mookie Wilson of the New York Mets hit a grounder to shortstop Barry Larkin. Esasky stretched to catch Larkin's throw and then paused for a moment to look at umpire Dave Pallone—while Mets runner Howard Johnson rounded third. Pallone called Wilson safe and Johnson scored the winning run.
The night before, the Red Sox were in a similar position in a game against the Twins. The score was 5-5 in the top of the 10th with one out and Minnesota's Tommy Herr on second. As soon as the Twins' Mark Davidson hit a ground ball toward third, Boston second baseman Marty Barrett dashed toward foul territory to back up first base. When the throw from Boggs, the third baseman, sailed past the glove of first baseman Dwight Evans, Barrett was in position to field the ball and keep Herr from scoring. After the game, one of Barrett's teammates complimented him on the play, but Barrett didn't remember it. "It was just something I did instinctively," he said.
Barrett's instincts saved the game for the Sox, who went on to win 6-5 in the bottom of the inning. Esasky's cost the Reds not only the game, which they lost 6-5, but also their manager, Pete Rose, for 30 days.
AT WITTS' END
These are hard times for pitchers named Witt. Mike of the California Angels has only two wins in 16 starts since Aug. 22, and batters claim he's throwing an inordinate number of curves and scuffballs, even though his fastball is still in the 90-mph class. "He doesn't need all that other stuff," says Oakland Athletics pitching coach Dave Duncan.
The Texas Rangers' Bobby, who's not related to Mike, was winless at the end of last week after six starts in 1988. "He's always behind in the first inning," says Texas manager Bobby Valentine. "I wish he could get through the first inning and get a lead. Then maybe he could relax and realize how difficult it is for any major league batter to hit him if he simply throws his fastball over the plate."
GIAMATTI'S NEXT TRICK?
Now that the balk rule is being diligently enforced, will baseball start cracking down on the phantom tag? National League president Bart Giamatti says "probably, if I'm still around." But Boston shortstop Jody Reed argues that "the phantom tag is necessary for safety reasons. Otherwise, we'd have a rash of injured infielders cut up by base runners coming in with their cleats high."...White Sox reliever Bobby Thigpen has begun taking batting practice and may be used as a pinch hitter to bolster Chicago's weak bench. As a pitcher-outfielder at Mississippi State, Thigpen batted fourth, between Rafael Palmeiro, now with the Chicago Cubs, and Will Clark, now of the San Francisco Giants....
Kansas City Royals manager John Wathan says Bo Jackson is so talented that if he would play in the Instructional League instead of in the NFL, Jackson could become a switch-hitter. "I saw him take one swing lefthanded in spring training, and he hit a monstrous homer," says Wathan....
Opposing teams contend that Houston pitchers Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan are again throwing scuffed balls, but now somebody in the Astros' infield is supposedly defacing the balls for them....
At week's end the Los Angeles Dodgers were atop the National League West not because of their new high-priced sluggers, Kirk Gibson and Mike Davis, but because of their pitching. Orel Hershiser was 6-0, and relievers Jesse Orosco, Jay Howell and Alejandro Pena had a combined ERA of 1.57 and had gone 8 for 8 in save opportunities. By contrast, last year's bullpen blew 26 of its 58 save chances....
Much of Cleveland Indians pitcher Tom Candiotti's early success—he was 4-1 at week's end—may be attributed to pitching coach Mark Wiley's suggestion that Candiotti "think like a pitcher with a knuckler, not like a knuckleball pitcher." Last year 80% of Candiotti's deliveries were knucklers, but this year he's only thrown that pitch about half of the time....
Asked if he would come out of a no-hitter after six innings, as the Cardinals' pitcher John Tudor did last week, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda replied, "You're asking the wrong guy. How did I get hurt? Was I hit by a car?"
Lasorda wishes I weren't here. I think he has limited confidence in my ability."
A DEAL'S A DEAL
On April 26, the Twins announced that they had agreed to terms with Mike Easier to have him play for their Triple A club, the Portland (Ore.) Beavers. Two days later, Easier changed his mind and signed with the Rangers' Triple A team, the Oklahoma City 89ers. Easier went 5 for 7 in two games for the 89ers, then took advantage of a release clause in his contract and signed with a Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters.
WHO'S ON SECOND?
Last week the Toronto Blue Jays' second baseman Manny Lee missed two games with a bruised shoulder, and manager Jimy Williams replaced him with a bizarre platoon. On May 2 he started third baseman Kelly Gruber at second and Cecil Fielder, who's usually a first baseman and designated hitter, at third, then switched them back and forth, depending on where Williams thought the batter was most likely to hit the ball. The next night he tried the same kind of strategy, starting Gruber at third and backup catcher Pat Borders at second.
The bat former Yankee Bucky Dent used to hit his game-winning, three-run homer in the 1978 American League playoff game against the Red Sox was corked. At least that's what Mike Torrez, the pitcher who gave up the famous shot, says. According to a report in The Berkshire Eagle, Torrez revealed that former Yankee Mickey Rivers had asked him at an Old-Timers' game last summer, "Didn't Bucky ever tell you that I gave him my bat and it was corked?" Dent later admitted to Torrez that he had used Rivers's bat but said he wasn't aware that it had been corked.
•Cubs rookie Mark Grace had 10 major league at bats before swinging at and missing a pitch.
•Through Sunday the Montreal Expos were 2 for 21 with the bases loaded. The lone hits were singles by Tim Raines and pitcher Dennis Martinez.
•When the Phillies beat the Braves 7-3 on Friday, pitcher Shane Rawley snapped a personal 10-game losing streak.
•On May 4, Cubs catcher Jim Sundberg moved into third on the alltime list of games caught, with 1,806. California's Bob Boone was first with 1,956, followed by Al Lopez, who worked 1,918 games from 1928 to 1947.
•At week's end, the Detroit Tigers were the only defending division champions with a .500 record or better.