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A few weeks before the 1995 season Todd Zeile and the Cardinals
agreed in principle on a contract that would keep him in St.
Louis for three more years. Zeile, who had played in the
organization since being drafted in 1986, promptly put a bid on
a home in the St. Louis area. "It's a good thing the bid was
turned down," he says.

The Cardinals' ownership, which would agree to sell the team
before the year was out, pulled the deal off the table just
before Opening Day, after Zeile had injured his thumb. That set
in motion one of the stranger episodes of big league wandering
since Braves pitcher Pascual Perez couldn't find his way to
Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in his car in 1982. In a 17-month
span beginning with a trade to the Cubs on June 16, 1995, Zeile
was the property of five teams. Following the '95 season he
signed as a free agent with the Phillies, who then dealt him to
the Orioles on Aug. 29, 1996. A free agent again after last
season, Zeile finally got his three-year contract: a $9.5
million deal with the Dodgers that brought a huge sense of
relief not only to him but also to the people who forward mail
at the United States Postal Service. Zeile, born and raised in
the Los Angeles area as a Dodgers fan, was home.

"After seven seasons of playing with one-year contracts, you
become cynical at times," says Zeile, a third baseman. "Then
this happens, and it sounds so great, you think there must be a
catch. It's a cliche, but I was born to be a Dodger." A Dodgers
blue blood, Zeile was born on the day Sandy Koufax pitched a
perfect game (Sept. 9, 1965), and he used to sit in the outfield
pavilion as a child member of the Dodgers-Pepsi Fan Club. "My
father had a friend who was a shoe rep, and one day they took me
into the Dodgers' clubhouse," he says. "I'll never forget seeing
heroes of mine: Bill Russell, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey."

Through the years the Dodgers have used more third basemen than
Zeile has moving men. He will be the 25th third sacker tried by
Los Angeles in the 15 seasons since Cey left the Dodgers,
including the six who played last year. Abbott and Costello had
an easier time figuring out who was playing third. The position
has been a trouble spot since the Dodgers left Brooklyn; they've
used 22 Opening Day third basemen since 1958. The hot corner, in
fact, remains the only position at which no Dodger has won a
Gold Glove.

Zeile, a converted catcher who is an adequate fielder, is back
home because of his bat. He hit a career-high 25 home runs and
drove in 99 runs last year for the Phillies and the Orioles
combined, production Los Angeles sorely needs. No team in
baseball last year had a worse on-base percentage (.316), and
only two, the Marlins and the Phillies, scored fewer runs (703).
With even a modest upgrade to its offense, L.A., which still has
one of the game's best pitching staffs, could be playing deep
into October. "Getting into the postseason with the Orioles
rekindled my passion for the game," Zeile says. "Being with the
Dodgers makes it even better."

In the meantime Zeile has ended his house hunting. He is
building one in Valencia, Calif., about five miles from his
childhood home. Both he and the Dodgers are ready to settle




CF Brett Butler
Turning 40 in June, comeback from cancer still in doubt

2B Wilton Guerrero
Rookie was a .332 career hitter in the minors

RF Raul Mondesi
Free swinger (122 K's) moves up from fifth in order

C Mike Piazza
Slugger also has best career average in L.A. history (.326)

1B Eric Karros
Lifetime .254 vs. lefthanders, .293 vs. righthanders

3B Todd Zeile
Batted .317 in the postseason with the Orioles

LF Todd Hollandsworth
He's the lone lefthanded threat in the lineup

SS Greg Gagne
Hit .255 after batting .254 in 13 years in American League

Ace Ramon Martinez
He was 9-1, with a 2.81 ERA after a Dodgers loss

Closer Todd Worrell
Led league in saves (44) and blown saves (9)


Last season Mike Piazza led the majors with 79 opposite-field
hits, which was 42.9% of his hit total. Among players with at
least 100 hits in '96, only Boston's Reggie Jefferson (44.0%)
and Cleveland's Julio Franco (43.2%) had a greater percentage of
hits the opposite way. Piazza's 19 opposite-field home runs were
also tops. Only Piazza (19 of 36) and Jefferson (10 of 19),
among players with at least 15 homers, hit as many as half to
the opposite field.