Opportunity Knocked...and He Knocked Back
Padres outfielder Kevin Ward, 30, who spent 8� years in the minors before making it up for 44 games with San Diego last season, was very nearly sent down to Triple A Las Vegas on April 13 after the Padres signed free-agent outfielder Gary Pettis. But San Diego assistant general manager John Barr told Ward to wait a couple of hours before leaving for Vegas, just in case the Padres made a deal. "My chances were slim and none," says Ward. Then San Diego traded outfielder Thomas Howard to the Indians, and kept Ward on the roster. Ward caught a flight to San Francisco to rejoin the Padres and the next night pinch-hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning against the Giants, helping to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 win. "Just another crazy chapter of my baseball career," says Ward.
Learning the Hard Way
Oriole reliever Mike Flanagan, who is known for his good control, learned to throw strikes when he was seven years old. He pitched then to his 72-year-old grandfather, who couldn't move quickly. "He'd hold the mitt over the middle of the plate," says Flanagan. "If I threw too far inside or outside, he couldn't reach it. And if he missed, I'd have to chase it. So, I learned to hit the target."
He's Hard to Get a Handle On
One of the more interesting names in box scores this season is that of Archi Cianfrocco, a third baseman-first baseman for Montreal. His full name is Angelo Dominic Cianfrocco, but he goes by Archi. In the Expos' media guide, that's misspelled as Arci, and the phonetic spelling of his last name is incorrect (he pronounces it see-an-FROCK-ko, not the guide's kee-un-FROHN-koh). Cianfrocco got his first major league hit on April 11, a three-run single against the Mets. After the game, a partially disrobed Cianfrocco was invited to do the postgame show on radio in New York. He asked Expo media relations director Richard Griffin just before the show, "Do I have to wear my pants?"
"No," said Griffin, "it's on radio. They can't see you."
Heaven Help the Small-Market Teams
An agent joke making the rounds of major league baseball may say a lot about the state of the game:
An agent was out taking a walk when God came up alongside him. The two started to chat about baseball.
"God, when will we ever see another .400 hitter?" the agent asked.
"Not in your lifetime," answered God.