Another time, during a night game in minor league ball in Bend, Ore., Stone is supposed to have asked a teammate, "Is this the same moon that shines back home in Missouri?"
Another time, after a season of winter baseball in Venezuela, somebody supposedly asked Stone why he wasn't taking his TV back to the States. "What would I do that for?" Stone is said to have replied. "It only gets Spanish stations."
And yet another time, while on the road for a series against the Pirates, it was suggested to Stone that he count sheep to get to sleep. Stone said, "They don't have sheep in Pittsburgh."
If Stone didn't exist, you'd have to invent him. In fact, says Stone, most stories about him arc inventions. "All that stuff used to tick me off," he tells you, "but it don't bother me no more. Like I say, nothing bothers me no more."
Disappointment tugs gently at the corners of Stone's mouth. In his soft face, wilted by a decade of setbacks, the softest feature is still that mouth. "It's my mother's mouth," he says blithely. "I don't know what happened to my father's." He was one of 15 children from a poor family in southeast Missouri. According to legend, a Phillie scout timed him running barefoot with some friends in a plowed cornfield. "How much money do you want to sign you?" asked the scout.
"Money!" said one of Stone's buddies. "He'd sign for a doughnut."
"I ain't signing for no doughnut," said Stone. "I want $500 and a handshake with Pete Rose."
He got two grand and the handshake.
"People thought he was dumb, but he wasn't," says Paul Owens, Stone's first skipper in Philadelphia. "He was naive, but beautifully naive. It was as if he had been in a vacuum for 18 years."
He roared into Philly fast, elusive and swinging a hot bat. In 51 games in '84, he batted .362 and stole 27 bases in 28 attempts. The Phils put him on posters, made him a cover boy for their calender and built a p.r. campaign around Stone and teammates Juan Samuel and Von Hayes. One newspaper writer wrote, "Welcome to the Stone Age."