Kruk changes batting stances as often as uniform numbers—he has worn four in three years with the Phillies. He switched from number 28 to 29 last summer after Williams, who coveted 28, offered Kruk two cases of beer. "I knew it would have to be beer or Ding Dongs," says Williams. "I just wasn't sure which."
It could have been hot dogs, too; Kruk inhales four of those before every day game. The appetite, the bulk, the affability...why, he almost reminds you of....
"Kruk is a poor man's Babe Ruth," says Bill Giles, the Phillies" president. Like Ruth. Kruk is sneaky quick: He stole seven bases in seven attempts last season. Like Ruth, Kruk plays with a rumpled ease: His late-inning heroics have prompted Phillie catcher Darren Daulton to say, "It ain't over till the fat guy swings."
"There's only one real difference between Kruk and the Big Bambino," says Daulton.
"Six-hundred-and-forty-three home runs."
Don't expect any cloud-scraping Ruthian clouts from Kruk: He's strictly a line drive hitter, though more than a few of those liners have made it over the fence. 21 of them last season. "The key to Kruk is phenomenal bat control," says Philadelphia coach Larry Bowa. "He used to be an opposite-field hitter. Now he can pull the ball and use the whole field. Most important of all, he believes he can hit. His attitude is the same whether he's 10 for 10 or oh for 10. If he went oh for 40, he'd say, 'Don't worry, I'll get my hits.' Nothing, absolutely nothing, affects him."
Phillie second baseman Wally Back-man calls Kruk a throwback.
"Throwback to what?" asks Kruk. "The Romans or the cavemen?"
Kruk plays old-style baseball. "He takes guys out hard at second, he dives for balls," says Backman. "You don't see that much anymore. You don't see it at all in the American League. There's so much money at stake today that ballplayers worry more about staying healthy than winning. I bet staying healthy doesn't even enter Kruk's mind."