The crop of rookie first basemen includes a pair of virtual clones: Wally Joyner of the Angels and Will Clark of the Giants. At 6'2" Clark has an inch on Joyner, but they both weigh 185 pounds, both are polished fielders, both throw and hit lefthanded and both have line drive power. They are bright and well-spoken, and share a Southern congeniality (Clark is from New Orleans, Joyner from Decatur, Ga.), strong college backgrounds (Clark starred at Mississippi State, Joyner at Brigham Young) and the kind of perfectionism that drove Joyner to the batting tee in disgust after his second straight four-hit game this spring.
"I don't like to compare, but Will reminds me a little of Stan Musial," says Giants manager Roger Craig. Clark's fluid stroke reminds others of Don Mattingly, while his physique and mannerisms suggest Fred Lynn. Clark himself says he has tried to model himself "after a guy like George Brett. He hits the ball to all fields, with power, for a high average. I've been sort of successful at doing that." Clark, a top hitter on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team and last year's Golden Spikes award winner as the best amateur player in the country, had been ticketed for Triple A Phoenix until his .288 spring average with 16 RBIs and five home runs in 18 games forced the Giants to put him at first base.
Joyner, who like Clark seems capable of 20-plus homers a year, will probably bat third in the California order. This spring he hit .400, and had only four strikeouts in 94 plate appearances. "The only other rookie I've had with comparable ability was Richie Allen," says Angels manager Gene Mauch.
Last September Joyner was upset when he wasn't called up to the majors after a fine season at Edmonton. Fearing it might be because he had only average power, he went to the Puerto Rican winter league and began working out at a Nautilus center. Joyner added both muscle and sting, and by season's end had become only the third player ever to win the Puerto Rican triple crown (.356, 14 home runs and 48 RBIs in 54 games). Those numbers convinced the Angels they didn't need to hang on to veteran first basemen Rod Carew, Juan Beniquez and Daryl Sconiers, and they didn't. So far there are no regrets. "Wally can flat out hit," says teammate Reggie Jackson.
The Expos also have a promising rookie first baseman in 6'3", 230-pound Andres Galarraga (gah-lah-RAH-ga). Galarraga, a 24-year-old Venezuelan, hits with tremendous power and is known as the gran gato, or big cat, for his nimble, pouncing defense. He came out of high school, however, looking less like a ballplayer than an overstuffed burrito. "When I was managing Caracas," recalls Felipe Alou, the ex-big leaguer who scouted him, "the general manager of the team asked me if I wanted to see 'a fat kid who can hit hard.' He showed up and could hit all right, but I couldn't recommend someone like that to Montreal."
Eventually, Galarraga slimmed down and firmed up, and last season he belted 25 homers for Indianapolis (AAA). The Expos were so high on him that the first week of spring training they promised him a place in the starting lineup for the first 50 games of the season. But after his horrendous spring (.145 average, no extra base hits) they changed their plans. Last week Montreal acquired Jason Thompson from the Pirates; Galarraga and Thompson will platoon at first. Still, the team has confidence in Galarraga's ability. "Everyone is going to have a slump, and Andres is having his early," says manager Buck Rodgers.
Although his name sounds like it's straight out of the bayou, the Brewers' rookie first baseman, Billy Joe Robidoux, hails in fact from New England. Robidoux (ROE-bee-doe) is a 6'1", 200-pounder with limited defensive skills but a reputation for clutch hitting. Last summer at El Paso (AA) he took advantage of short power alleys to roll up a .342 average, 46 doubles, 23 homers and 132 RBIs. "He's balanced at the plate, has a short stroke, gets a good look at the ball and makes good contact," says Howard. "The only thing that might keep him from being a real high-average hitter is his lack of running speed."
Robidoux was versatile enough as a football player at Ware (Mass.) High School to place-kick, punt, play linebacker and carry the ball as a fullback—unless it was a passing down, in which case he moved to quarterback. Robidoux was drafted as a third baseman in 1982 and played that position in the Dominican league until last winter, when he developed tendinitis in his throwing shoulder and nearly gave up the ghost. Because of elbow surgery on Milwaukee first baseman Cecil Cooper, however, an opportunity arose to put Robidoux at first.
Robidoux wears, and has always worn, No. 13. "I was born on the 13th [of January], so it's kind of a lucky day for me," he says. This could be a lucky season for rookie hitters in general. If Robidoux and Co. come through, baseball could find itself in a swing era.