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BASEBALL
Peter Gammons
June 01, 1987
WHITHER THE COLLEGES?
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June 01, 1987

Baseball

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For starters, professional baseball should use a small piece of its television revenue to help keep colleges and summer leagues supplied with wooden bats (aluminum bats don't break and are used to save money). And the NCAA should immediately adopt the Little League rule that prohibits a coach from bringing a pitcher back within 72 hours of throwing four or more innings.

THE JAX FACTOR
Auburn coach Hal Baird says that since Bo Jackson forsook the gridiron for the diamond, "a lot of good Southeastern Conference football players are coming out for baseball." Florida quarterback-first baseman Rodney Brewer will be a high baseball draft pick and is expected to sign. Georgia reliever Cris Carpenter (who turned down nearly $200,000 from Toronto last summer) and Clemson shortstop Billy Spiers—both punters for their schools' teams—are other possible first-round baseball picks.

EARLY ARRIVAL

Wade Boggs, going for his third straight AL batting title, had the lead—briefly—sooner this year than in the previous two seasons, and the Red Sox' new leadoff man, Ellis Burks, may be the reason. On May 5, Boggs was moved from the first to the third spot, and in the 17 games since, he has hit .403, with 4 homers and 14 RBIs. "I'm a lot more comfortable hitting third," says Boggs. "You get to look at a pitcher while two guys hit. I never thought I was a leadoff guy, even though I had a high on-base percentage." Boggs had tied his career high in homers (eight) by the 40th game, but he insists he is not swinging for the fences. "[If I were] I'd pop up to the infield more and probably hit .310," he says....

The Dodgers considered moving second baseman Steve Sax to centerfield before they got John Shelby from the Orioles for Tom Niedenfuer. That the Dodgers would go for Shelby surprised many AL observers, who had seen him struggle every time he was handed an opportunity in Baltimore.

STRANGE BREW

A few weeks after their record-tying 13-0 start, the Brewers lost 12 straight to become the only team in this century to win and lose as many as a dozen consecutive games in one season. On May 20 the Brewers averted a 13th straight loss with a 5-1 win over Chicago—the same team that had snapped the winning streak.

During the losing streak, the Brewers maintained their sense of humor and some semblance of confidence. Before one losing effort, outfielder Rick Manning tried to have third baseman Jim Gantner submit to the umpires a gag lineup card that included the names Gehrig, Bench, Clemente, Williams and Koufax.

On the day of the slump snapper, the Brewers were a sideshow of superstitions. Rick Manning wore a tricornered Cheesehead hat with K's painted all over it, and pitcher Bill Wegman taped a rubber mouse to the bill of his cap. "This is the Rally Rat," he said. "Last night we had it hanging from the dugout ceiling, and when Gantner popped out, he came into the dugout and smacked the mouse with his bat." Mike Birkbeck had his pants, shirt and warmup jacket on backward and his hat inside out. "Turn everything around," he said. "If I were married, I'd divorce my wife."

"Those streaks—winning or losing—you can have them," said Rob Deer after the game. "The word streak scares me now."

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