At week's end Sutko had a .207 batting average and a 0.00 ERA in two appearances. As for his probably being the first player to get four hits, two homers and a save in the same game, he says, "It's a part of history that I'll never forget. People were calling me Babe Ruth."
Back from the Dead
One of the minor leagues' best relievers this year has been Jay Bailer, 31, of Scranton. Drafted in the fourth round by the Phillies in 1979, Baller was once one of the game's top prospects, but he struggled and has been dumped by five teams since then. Through Sunday, though, he had a 1.20 ERA, 14 saves and 55 strikeouts in 52? innings.
What makes Baller's comeback especially heartwarming is that he almost died five years ago. On Dec. 4, 1987, he had a seizure in a Reading, Pa., store, collapsed and was in a coma for four days, during which he lost 34 pounds. His temperature reached 107�. "Doctors told my family that I wasn't expected to make it and that if I did, there would be an 80 percent chance that something would be wrong with me," says Baller. "There was no way I'd pitch again."
Baller says toxic poisoning from tainted seafood caused the seizure—not drugs or alcohol, as some people suggested. He tried out with the Cubs during spring training in 1988 but didn't make the team. He had a brief and unsuccessful stint with the Royals in '90 but says he's now ready to pitch full time for a major league team. "When I almost died, I promised myself if I got another chance in the big leagues, I'd do what I was capable of doing," says Baller. "I didn't take my career seriously enough when I was younger. I was a little wild, crazy and outspoken. But I'm focused now. If I wasn't, I'd never be able to put up these numbers. Now I'm going after it with a vengeance that I've never had."
When the White Sox acquired second baseman Steve Sax from the Yankees on Jan. 10 for righthanded pitchers Melido Perez, Bob Wickman and Domingo Jean, a White Sox source said, "We did well, but I hate losing Wickman. He's got a chance to be real good."
So far, so good. Through Sunday, Wickman, 23, was 9-3 with a 2.76 ERA for Columbus, New York's Triple A team. The nine victories came in succession after Wickman lost his first outing. During that stretch he had a 1.34 ERA and allowed 35 hits in 67? innings.
When he was two, Wickman lost the top third of his right index finger in a farm-machine accident. "I vividly remember the blood, but there was no pain," says Wickman, who still has a scab on top of the finger. "It still hurts when it gets extra cold, or when the scab rips off."
Wickman played at Wisconsin-Whitewater, a Division III university, because "not very many Division I schools were interested," he says. But he did so well there that the White Sox drafted him in the second round in 1990. The secret of his success is the exceptional movement on his 90-mph sinker, which he gets, according to one theory, because the ball slides off his middle finger, not his shortened index finger.