Acting Like a Pitcher
Pirate Lefthander Denny Neagle, a master impersonator of movie actors, is doing a very good impression of an All-Star pitcher. With his two-hit, 2-0 shutout of the Expos last Friday, Neagle, 26, raised his record to 8-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.82. He had 38% of his team's wins—Pittsburgh was 21-32 at week's end—the highest percentage of any major league pitcher this year.
Entering the 1995 season Neagle was 16-22 with a 4.93 ERA, two complete games and no shutouts over four years. The reason for his sudden turnaround? "He has found out that he doesn't have to overpower the ball," says Pirate pitching coach Ray Miller. "He gets people looking for his off-speed stuff, then he throws hard stuff [his fastball hits 90 mph], and vice versa. The way he's throwing the ball now, he reminds me of a young Mike Flanagan."
When he was growing up near Baltimore, Neagle loved to watch the crafty lefthanders Flanagan and Scott McGregor pitch for the Orioles. In fact, after he beat Montreal last week Neagle said, "I was interviewed by [Expo broadcaster and former Oriole] Ken Singleton, who told me, 'Watching you pitch reminds me of Scottie McGregor.' "
Until recently Neagle was best known for imitating sounds (buses, trains, etc.) and acting out scenes from movies. "I'm one of the goofballs on this team," he says. His impersonations include Bill Murray in Caddyshack, Eddie Murphy in Coming to America and James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams. "We're going to Minnesota to see Moonlight Graham," Neagle says in a perfect impersonation of Jones as Terence Mann in Dreams.
If you're going to the All-Star Game, on July 11 in Arlington, Texas, be sure to see Denny Neagle portraying himself.
The Blue Jays, who were world champions in 1992 and '93, looked old as they sank into the American League East cellar last week. Toronto was 20-32 and 10 games out of first after Sunday's 8-2 loss to the Yankees, its pitching staff was in a shambles, and the middle of its lineup was providing little offensive punch.
Paul Molitor, 38, was finally showing his age, hitting .228 with three home runs at week's end, after batting .329 over the last four years. Leftfielder Joe Carter, 35, got off to a great start but quickly ran out of gas, hitting .231 with five homers and 15 RBIs in 34 games between May 13 and Sunday. And first baseman John Olerud, the 1993 American League batting champ, who is only 26, was hitting .234 with three homers and 16 RBIs at week's end. His bat looks slow these days, and no one in Toronto is sure why he is hitting so poorly.
Last Thursday was, as Blue Jay general manager Gord Ash put it, "one of the darkest days we've ever had." On that day Toronto lost 9-0 to the Brewers, three Blue Jay pitchers ( Mike Timlin, Darren Hall and Duane Ward) went on the disabled list and two pieces of acoustic paneling fell from the 500 level at the SkyDome, injuring seven fans.