He appears to be made of the same stuff as another famous .200 hitter. Bob Uecker. At a $300-a-plate dinner in Biancalana's honor near his hometown of Larkspur, Calif., Buddy was asked, "Who is the toughest pitcher in the American League?"
"Well, now," he answered, "how many pitchers are there in the American League?"
When Biancalana isn't making fun of himself, someone else usually is—like Letterman. In the wee hours of Aug. 22, as Buddy slept soundly in Chicago, Letterman introduced the Buddy Biancalana Hit Counter, a fancy—and inaccurate—device that kept track of how many hits Biancalana needed to catch Pete Rose. The counter said Buddy had 11 hits when in fact he had 45.
Biancalana handled it like a pro. "I may be 4,000 hits behind, but I'm a lot closer to Pete Rose than Dave is to Johnny Carson," he shot back. By September, the last man in the Royals batting order started hearing chants of "Buddy! Buddy! Buddy!" Says Buddy, "It's amazing what a .188 average will do for you."
When the season ended, Biancalana decided to do his usual—nothing much. But then he realized, "This doesn't happen to everyone. It won't happen ever again to me, so I've got to take advantage of it." He hired a booking agent, made a swing through New York ad agencies and appeared on the Letterman show. "This lady who dresses up turtles took up all my time," says Biancalana. Letterman did show a Buddy highlight film, to the accompaniment of Nobody Does It Better. The clips were all of Biancalana taking pitches.
Not long ago, a student at Buddy's alma mater, Redwood ( Calif.) High, wrote to the "Sports Fantasy" segment of NBC's SportsWorld, saying his dream was to pitch to Buddy Biancalana. NBC arranged a showdown between Buddy and the kid, Cory McPherson, age 17, who has never played organized baseball.
When Royals second baseman Frank White heard about the stunt, he advised Biancalana not to go along with it. "It's just another attempt to embarrass you," said White. "If you must do it, then strike out on purpose. That way you'll get more mileage out of it." Buddy wouldn't dream of that. When Cory McPherson delivered a 2-and-2 pitch. Buddy Biancalana swung mightily. He lifted a pop-up to short leftfield.
And what is Buddy's own sports fantasy? "That's easy," he says. "I want a home run in the World Series. It's the bottom of the ninth—boy, I'm really getting picky now—and it's the seventh game."
Buddy, Buddy, wake up. All you have to do is hit .250.