They're both named John, but one is Cougar Mellencamp and the other is Philip Sousa. They both weigh 210 pounds, but one is built like the SkyDome and the other like the neighboring CN Tower. They're both dangerous lefthanded hitters, but one's swing is Ted Williams's worst nightmare and the other's stroke is like, well, the Splendid Splinter's. They both play first base, but one chats up guests as if he's Oprah, while the other occupies the position like the Sphinx.
They are, of course, Kruk and Olerud, the Mutt and Jeff, the Hardy and Laurel, the beer and milk of the 1993 World Series. They also happen to embody the prevailing qualities of their respective teams, the spitball-shooting, braid-dunking, back-of-the-class Philadelphia Phillies and the hand-raising, apple-giving, teacher's-pet Toronto Blue Jays.
Neither team would have made the World Series without its man at first; Kruk hit .316 with 85 RBIs this season, while Olerud led the American League in batting at .363 and drove in 107 runs. And each was instrumental in an early World Series victory: In Game 1 Olerud homered off Curt Schilling in the sixth inning to put the Blue Jays ahead to stay; in Game 2 Kruk drove in the first Phillie run with the first of his two hits, which gave him five in the first two games.
The gospel according to both Johns is to get on base, and since they both play first, Kruk and Olerud have plenty of opportunities to pass in the Series nights. But Kruk professed disappointment after his first encounters with Olerud Saturday night in Game 1. "He don't talk," said Kruk. "Man, that guy is boring. He just gets his three hits a game, that's all. He didn't say a whole lot at first base. He don't like me, I guess. I can't say I blame him."
Olerud, for his part, was later taken aback by the suggestion that he didn't like Kruk. "That's not true," he said. "I don't know him very well, but he seems to be a good guy, and I very much respect him as a hitter."
One of them has been on Letterman, and the other seems to be auditioning for the Lettermen. Kruk has kept baseball fans everywhere entertained at the World Series, whether he's talking about his Sept. 23 appearance on Late Show with David Letterman ("I drove two hours for five minutes on the show; that kind of sucked") or playing up his team's image ("One of our fears coming out of spring training was to keep everyone out of jail").
Olerud, meanwhile, has been graciously filling reporters' notebooks with invisible ink. There is a refreshing air of naivetè about him, and some Jays swear he has a sense of humor. But as he readily admits, "I'm just south of comatose."
One man in the World Series who has played with both of them, former Phillie and now Blue Jay pitcher Danny Cox, says there is actually a certain similarity between Kruk and Olerud. "They may have very different personalities, but I'll tell you what," he says. "They're both good people who get along with everybody, and they both would give you the shirts off their backs. I'll tell you something else. They both can hit."
John and John did talk to each other on Sunday night during Game 2. "I don't exactly recall what I told him," said Olerud. "It was something like, 'How's it going?' "
Said Kruk, "I'm guessing that by the time the Series is over, I'll have him swearing and cussing like the rest of us. We might even go and have some beers."
RONALD C. MODRA