"I said," repeats Van Slyke, "I'm surprised that pitch didn't knock me out for the season."
When you read They Said It, chances are He Said It. While his colleagues won't so much as cut cheese in the direction of a writer, Van Slyke actually enjoys chatting up scribes. He could talk the car off a brass monkey. If there were a Gold Glove for fielding questions from the media, Van Slyke would have retired the trophy.
Tough day at the plate, Andy?
"I couldn't have driven Miss Daisy home today," he says.
Any resolutions on Earth Day, Andy?
"To replace all divots in the outfield."
What would you say is the biggest difference, Andy, between playing at home and playing on the road?
"On the road, when you go downstairs for coffee in your underwear, they throw you out of the kitchen."
Of course, he is as elegant in centerfield as he is eloquent in the clubhouse. Franco Harris didn't cover as much ground at Three Rivers as Van Slyke does, which is why he will be awarded his fifth consecutive Gold Glove this season. Van Slyke considers winning the Gold Glove the most underrated accomplishment in pro sports. It is the only award he displays in his home.
Which isn't to say that the guy is Good Quote, No Hit. Van Slyke may well win his first batting title this season. As of Sunday his .331 average tied him with third baseman Gary Sheffield of the San Diego Padres in the National League batting race. In July, Van Slyke made the All-Star team for the second time in his career. The first-place Pirates could afford to extend the contract of only Bobby Bonilla or Barry Bonds or Van Slyke in their outfield, and they chose to spend their money on baseball's Bartlett. "Andy has carried us this season," says one member of the Pirate organization. "Probably even more so than Barry."