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Original Issue

Diary of a Lame Leftfielder

A new literary technique helps the author explain Kevin Mitchell's inexplicable season

In his new, unauthorized biography of Ted Kennedy, un-author Joe McGinniss presumes to know what the senator from Massachusetts is thinking at critical moments in his life. Inspired by this innovative new journalistic device, I have written the first unauthorized autobiography: The life story of Cincinnati Red slugger Kevin Mitchell. Tentatively titled My Left Foot (Simon & Shyster, $19.95), the book speculatively details what Mitchell was thinking as his extraordinary career unrolled before us like an Ace bandage. An excerpt:

March 2, 1993: Today I report to spring training with my third team in three years. I am four days late. I weigh roughly one eighth of a ton. I am told that before trading for me last winter, the Reds commissioned a 150-page report on the risks involved in the deal. (One hundred and fifty pages? I think it must've been the Cliffs Notes version.)

March 10: I play in my first exhibition game today. I missed the first five games while getting into shape. (Into the shape of an on-deck circle.)

March 11: After playing one consecutive game, I miss today's contest. I've been diagnosed with a broken sesamoid bone in my left foot. It kills me to sit this one out. (My left foot it does.)

March 21: I've played in only three games this spring, but I leave Florida today for my native San Diego, where I am to give a deposition as a witness in a court case. I will miss the next five games. (Like the bailiff on "The People's Court," you can call me Rusty.)

March 26: I return to the Reds' lineup and will play in two of the final eight exhibition games. I also complain today of a sore right wrist. (If they only knew the pain I felt while raising my right hand in court.)

April 9: Today we play the fourth game of the season, and I have to leave the lineup in the first inning, complaining of "tightness" in my right hamstring. I will miss the next five games. (My muscles have done more pulling than most skeet-range operators. I can't imagine why.)

April 22: I strain a hamstring reaching for a bloop single. I will miss another five games. (I've popped more strings than Ivan Lendl and Itzhak Perlman put together. Just unlucky, I guess.)

April 28: I return to the lineup today, but leave after five innings because of the flu. (If you've seen me play the outfield, you know it wasn't motion sickness.)

May 13: Today I go 3 for 4, with two homers and three RBIs. Yesterday I went 2 for 3, with a double and a triple. (Why is it that the fans think I can just turn it on and off?)

May 19: I don't start because my neck is sore. (What exactly did our trainer mean when he wrote "pain in neck" on my chart?)

May 28: I sit out today's game. The reason: My elbow hurts. (Honest.)

June 8: I watch today's game—and the next two—from the dugout: I am "experiencing tightness" in my lower back. (Why, on the other hand, do I not seem to he experiencing tightness with all my teammates?)

June 21: I am left off the lineup card today because I have a sore left foot and a sore left shoulder. (To think they call White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas the Big Hurt.)

June 22: Today I go 4 for 5, with two doubles, a triple, a home run and four RBIs. (Uh, I'm a quick healer?)

June 26: I don't play today. Or tomorrow. Or the next game. An MRI will show a small tear in my left rotator cuff. (The first three letters in Mr. Indispensable are MRI.)

July 4: I returned to the lineup four days ago, but now I observe this great nation's 217th birthday in my own special way: by sitting out today's game with a sore left knee. (From the dugout, I reflect that I am a little like the U.S. of A. Its motto is "E pluribus unum," while mine is "E-7".)

July 8: I leave today's game in the fourth inning after reinjuring my right hamstring. The Reds allow me to fly to San Diego after the game to be with my sick grandmother. (Just yesterday I went 2 for 4, with two homers and three RBIs—that's a good HOMESTAND for most of these other stiffs.)

July 14: I skip a mandatory workout on this, the final day of the All-Star break, and am fined $500. Where am I going to get that kind of jack? (In the cushions of my sofa, that's where.)

July 15: I do not attend today's game in Cincinnati. General manager Jim Bowden calls me demanding an explanation, and I tell him I missed my 6:30 a.m. flight from San Diego. He then fines me one day's pay, which is just under $20,000. (How was I supposed to know that there were half a dozen other flights later in the day that could have gotten me to the game on time.)

July 16: I arrive in Cincy today and am put on the disabled list. I also engage in an altercation with my manager, Davey Johnson, in the Reds' clubhouse. I am suspended for two games—effective whenever I get off the disabled list—and docked two days' pay: $38,000. (In my career, I've been docked more times than the Queen Mary. Why me, I wonder?)

July 31: I have started exactly four games since July 8, but today I beg out of the game complaining of "flulike symptoms." (People are skeptical, but don't these cynics realize that this is the cold and flulike symptoms season?)

August 15: Through today's game I am hitting .347, with 18 home runs and 63 RBIs in only 85 games. I feel good. I don't think I'll miss another game the rest of the season. (My left foot I won't.)