We're not trying to perpetuate stereotypes here, but if your
name is Frank Menechino and you were born and raised on Staten
Island in New York City, this is exactly how you're supposed to
look and act. There's the thick accent, the one that turns
hitter into hittuh and ball into bawl. There's the brash
half-tough-guy-half-comedian persona that smacks of the City.
There are the dark features and the thickly muscled fireplug
build that lends an aura of power to a 5'8" frame.
Imagine, then, the culture shock Menechino felt when, after a
stint in junior college, he arrived in Tuscaloosa as a
20-year-old Alabama junior. "I was like My Cousin Vinny down
there," he says. "I didn't fit in at all."
Menechino, now 30, has found a more comfortable home in Oakland.
After seven years of kicking around the minors and a season in
the majors as a utility player, Menechino is the A's regular
second baseman, having taken over the job when heralded rookie
Jose Ortiz struggled and then suffered a strained left calf
muscle two weeks into the season. Through Sunday, Menechino was
hitting .272; was tied for third among American League second
basemen in home runs, with 10 (the Indians' Roberto Alomar also
had 10; the Mariners' Bret Boone had 22 and the White Sox' Ray
Durham had 11); and was second in on-base percentage (.386,
behind Alomar). He had also continued the role he took on last
year as one of the chief cutups in the A's clubhouse cum frat
"Jason [Giambi] is the ringleader, but Frank is right with him
when it comes to keeping things loose," says DH Jeremy Giambi.
"We get on him about his height and his accent, and he gives it
right back. He's a guy who loves his heritage."
The odds of Menechino jumping from da Island to da bigs were not
good. Coming out of Alabama in 1993, he was so low-profile that
he was drafted in the 45th round by the White Sox, two rounds
after Chicago chose then general manager Ron Schueler's daughter
Carey. Menechino tore ligaments in his knee a year after he was
drafted, and in spring training before the following season,
during the 1995 work stoppage, he played with Chicago's team of
replacement players as part of his rehab.
That show of dedication--he wasn't paid, and says he played only
to prove he was healthy--won him no points from the White Sox, who
didn't promote him beyond Double A despite his flashes of power
and solid defense in each of the next three seasons. After the
'97 season the A's acquired him in the Rule V draft. Menechino
had a September call-up in '99, then got his first extended big
league chance last season, hitting .255 with six homers in 145 at
bats as a fill-in for injured second baseman Randy Velarde and as
a utility player who also played shortstop and third base. (He
even pitched an inning.)
When Ortiz went down, Menechino got the every-day job. "I told
him the difference this year is that his chance wasn't for a
limited time," says Oakland manager Art Howe. "This was his
chance to prove he's a major league player, and he's made the
most of it."
Menechino did play an off-key role in the A's run to the 2000
playoffs. One night late in the season he was blasting Frank
Sinatra's The Way You Look Tonight on the clubhouse stereo before
a game, strutting around the room and providing vocal backing.
Oakland won, and Menechino's lounge act became a pregame ritual.
"It was good luck," he says.
Spoken like a true New Yorker.
COLOR PHOTO: BRAD MANGIN