Continuing saga of Nook, Crash and Annie
While he walked fewer batters than Wild Thing, his struggles with control were more spectacular and life-endangering. There was the night in Atlanta he uncorked a pitch that bounced a full seven feet in front of the plate, ricocheting over the glove of his catcher before lodging itself between the bars of the umpire's facemask. The ump was able to return to action after a restorative seven minutes on his back, during which time he was attended by paramedics. This was a month after LaLoosh had made SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays of the Day be throwing a ball through the protective netting behind home plate. The pitch still had enough mustard on it to leave a circular, indigo hematoma -- complete with stitch marks -- on the gluteus of an unsuspecting beer vendor.
His celebrity was such that he appeared as a special guest on Home Improvement (The quadraphonic Blaupunkt in Nuke's 911 Porsche is on the fritz; Tim helps him fix it). It was on the set of that show that Nuke met, and was smitten by the 23-year-old Pamela Anderson. They kept up a long-distance romance for nearly a year. Then, on a road trip to L.A., the same night he went eight innings in a four-hit shutout of the Dodgers, Nuke introduced the Canadian bombshell to the members of Motley Crue, whom he'd already befriended.
Within a month, she'd dumped him for Tommy Lee. He still sounded bereft and woebegone nearly a decade later, recalling their courtship for the Biography Channel:
"I helped build her confidence. I told her how much I respected her work, and how much more convincing she would be playing a lifeguard than, say, Carmen Elektra or Yasmine Bleeth."
The following June, LaLoosh appeared in a photograph in Sports Illustrated bearing the caption, "I See London ..." The image revealed a hole in his pants -- he'd just brushed himself off after a hard slide into second -- exposing to public view the clasp of a black lace garter. The following week, as "GarterGate" reached a full boil, he explained to beat writers that, ever since his days in Durham, he'd made periodic use of the garter, whenever he needed to get himself out of a funk. (He thought it unnecessary to repeat what Annie had told him: "They're gonna hug your waist so snugly and kinda dangle off your thighs and buns in such a wonderful way it'll help you see things differently.")
What he did say failed to buy him much slack: "Well, Robert Redford has his lucky bat in that movie The Natural. I've got ... these."
While the tabloids had great fun with it, evincing deep shock ( "Ace Disgraced!"; "Nuke's Secret = Victoria's Secret!"; "What -- No Thong?") his teammates and peers around the league seemed less put out. It turned out that the use of frilly underthings to jolt players out of slumps, or, in LaLoosh's case, to "keep my brain off-center, which is where it should be for pitchers and artists," was not completely unheard of in Major League locker rooms.
Following the kerfuffle from a distance, and with considerable amusement, was the woman responsible for it. After two years in Visalia, Crash been named roving hitting instructor for the Los Angeles Dodgers. (He drew raves for the work he did with a fellow catcher, a rough diamond with the club's Class A affiliate in Bakersfield -- a kid by the name of Piazza). Between his keen baseball mind, natural leadership and knack for getting through to younger players ("Don't think too much. It can only hurt the ball club"; "When you get in a fight with a drunk, don't hit him with your pitching hand") his name arose more and more frequently as a managerial candidate.
Annie, meanwhile, had gone back to school -- sort of -- taking online courses at the World University in Ojai and dragging her husband to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur for seminars on tantric sex.
Where the players' wives in Durham had viewed Annie her as something of a threat, the Dodgers' wives used words like "enlightening" "progressive" and "intriguing" to describe her. They listened with unfeigned interest to her discussions of the "shakra connections" and the need, when an athlete is stuck in the wrong side of his brain, to "breathe through his eyelids, like the lava lizards of the Galapagos Islands." When Annie spoke to them of the superb results she'd witnessed, first hand, when a man "re-channeled" his lovemaking, and/or experimented with women's underwear, she had their full attention.
The word got around, and before long, Annie was being handsomely paid to give her talks to Players' Wives Associations all over the country. But then, a few years back, a medical condition temporarily curtailed her travel.
She was pregnant. After multiple consultations, she and Crash had been told that it wasn't in the cards for them. They'd accepted that on moved on, which magnified their joy when the child was born. It was a boy. They named him Thurman.