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Original Issue

Rob Deer, Free-swinging Slugger April 27, 1987

One off-season, when he was an outfielder for the San Diego
Padres, Rob Deer ignored the clause in his contract that
prohibited him from riding a motorcycle. He drove his Harley
Heritage Softtail all over the place in the fall and winter of
1995-96, usually extremely fast. Then, about three weeks before
spring training, he crashed. Deer had to have stitches in his
forehead. His arms were bruised and swollen. Worst of all, he
could barely toss a baseball. Bruce Bochy, the Padres' manager,
demanded to know what had happened. "I told him I crashed on an
ATV," says Deer. "I tried to be honest and go by the rules, but
sometimes I just had to cheat a little. Speed was my thrill."

The 37-year-old Deer has built a second career around that
passion. After retiring from baseball two years ago, he and his
father, Bob, formed Deer Racing. With the backing of eight
sponsors, they drive their two drag racers in some 75 events a
year, mostly on the National Hot Rod Association circuit. "When
I was growing up, my dad was always racing things," says Rob,
who lives in Mesa, Ariz. "I was there with him, waterskiing
behind a speedboat at 100 mph or in a fast car. I took off a lot
of years to play baseball, but I never got that rush out of my

Not that he didn't enjoy his 11-year, five-team run in the big
leagues. Deer, who took one of the biggest cuts ever seen,
batted only .220 for his career and whiffed a whopping 1,409
times, including an American League single-season record 186
with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1987. No matter. When he hit the
ball, it traveled. Deer's 230 home runs--including a career-high
33 in '86--made him one of the best pure power hitters of the
1980s: a poor man's Dave Kingman. In '87 he was part of a
Milwaukee club that started 13-0, a streak highlighted by an
Easter Sunday win against the Texas Rangers. The Brewers trailed
4-1 with two men on in the bottom of the ninth when Deer smacked
a Greg Harris fastball 445 feet. Right fist raised, Deer graced
SI's cover. "I have that homer on video," he says. "Every time I
watch it, I get goose bumps."

One day Deer--whose daughters, Brenna, 8, and twins Ellery and
Karly, 6, live with his ex-wife in San Diego--hopes to run one
of the country's top racing outfits. If that doesn't happen, he
has another sport to fall back on. "I've started enjoying
softball," he says, "because even with my swing, it's really
hard to miss the ball."

--Jeff Pearlman

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO [Cover April 27, 1987 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED featuring Rob Deer]

COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT TROYANOS [Rob Deer in drag racing suit]

"I took off a lot of years to play baseball, but I never got
that rush of going fast out of my system."