NO MORE WAITING FOR LEFTY
As long as Steve Carlton believed he could pitch, there was no easy way out for the Phillies. Because Carlton—still thinking he could help a contender—refused to retire, the Philadelphia front office had no choice last week but to release the 318-game winner.
The Phillies agonized for weeks over the decision, but after Carlton's last five starts, in which he allowed 37 hits and 25 runs in 20? innings, they could wait no longer. "It was the most difficult thing I've ever had to do as club president," said an emotional Bill Giles, who had earlier been talked out of the release by Carlton himself. It took Giles three days to get up the nerve to tell Lefty.
Should Carlton admit he's done, and prepare for Coopers-town? Or can Lefty still pitch? "I don't think he felt he had the time he needed to work out his problems," said Philadelphia pitching coach Claude Osteen. "He felt that if he was given a little more time, things could have straightened out. There were times when he felt strong, when there was power in his arm, especially at the beginning of the year. But in all honesty, he didn't feel it or show it in his last five or six starts."
Carlton's basic problems were twofold: 1) He was unable to generate the consistent speed needed for his slider, and 2) he lacked control. The former is probably the result of age, even though Carlton is one of baseball's finest conditioned athletes. The latter is something he can't fix, because Carlton never really did throw strikes, at least not with his fastball. When he was a power pitcher, Carlton's great pitch was his slider, and batters were so afraid of that slider they would chase any fastball. "Thirty-eight hundred of his four thousand strikeouts were on balls," said one opposing manager. In the last two years, Carlton had come up with a screwball, but he had trouble controlling it.
What Warren Spahn and Sandy Koufax were to their eras, Steve Carlton was to his. But, as with so many great athletes before him, Carlton has had a hard time differentiating between what was and what is. Hence the awkward farewell.
Carlton didn't exactly leave with a Lou Gehrig speech, anyway. In the pregame ceremony on Wednesday night, announcer Harry Kalas said, "Now Lefty would like to say a few words to you fans." A still picture of Carlton appeared on the message board, accompanied by a tape-recorded message.
A RAT NAMED KONG
The last-place A's chose to give DH Dave Kingman little more than a tap on the wrist after he played an ill-considered practical joke on
writer Susan Fornoff in Kansas City on June 23. In the first inning, Fornoff received a pink box. When she opened it, she found a live rat with a note tied to its tail that read, "My name is Sue." It was only one of a series of incidents between Kingman and Fornoff that other reporters view as clearly unprovoked harassment on the part of Kingman.
"From day one, he asked me to stay away from him, and I've tried to do that," said Fornoff, 28. When she reported for spring training duty in 1985, Kingman spewed obscenities at her. Earlier this year Kingman interrupted a Fornoff interview with Jose Canseco to interject, "You ask dumb questions," and he asked a male beat writer for "dirt" on her. When he hit his 400th home run last year, he refused to talk until she left the clubhouse. Kingman's problems with women journalists are nothing new; he was involved in two incidents in New York with female writers and another in Chicago with a woman television producer. "This is a man's clubhouse," Kingman told reporters after the June 23 game. "If someone can't take a simple joke, they shouldn't be in the game." He then saw Fornoff in the clubhouse. " Kleenex!" he cried out, throwing the box of tissues in her direction. "Anyone want to cry? Kleenex! Man's clubhouse! Tears! Anyone want to cry?"