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BASEBALL
Peter Gammons
June 29, 1987
NOT A BLACK-AND-WHITE ISSUE
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June 29, 1987

Baseball

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BALLPARK FIGURES
Through Sunday, eight players had 20 or more home runs, with George Bell leading in the AL with 23 and Dale Murphy and Eric Davis leading in the NL with 22 each. As further proof that baseballs are flying out of parks as never before, consider that in the previous five seasons only one player had hit 20 by June 21--Murphy in 1982. But a hot start doesn't guarantee anything, as this chart indicates:

LEADER ON JUNE 21

EVENTUAL HOME RUN CHAMP

1986

AL Wally Joyner (19)
NL Mike Marshall (17)

Jesse Barfield (40)
Mike Schmidt (37)

1985

AL Dave Kingman (17) )
NL Dale Murphy (17)

Darrell Evans (40)
Dale Murphy (37)

1984

AL Dave Kingman (19)
NL Dale Murphy (16)

Tony Armas (43)
Dale Murphy
Mike Schmidt (36)

1983

AL Jim Rice (16)
NL Darrell Evans Dale Murphy (19)

Jim Rice (39)
Mike Schmidt (40)

1982

AL Andre Thornton (18)
NL Dale Murphy (20)

Reggie Jackson (39)
Gorman Thomas
Dave Kingman (37)

NOT A BLACK-AND-WHITE ISSUE

When the Phillies fired John Felske on June 18 and replaced him with third base coach Lee Elia, there was bound to be disappointment among black coaches who rightfully consider themselves to be managerial candidates—people like Bill Robinson, Cito Gaston, Bob Watson and Frank Robinson. But the Philadelphia case is not a black-and-white issue. Club president Bill Giles merely hired the best man for the job at the moment.

"These have been the worst two months of my baseball life," said Giles the day before the firing. At that point, the team he worked so hard to assemble—even stepping outside the owners' fraternity to sign free-agent catcher Lance Parrish—was floundering in fifth place in the NL East, 9� games behind St. Louis. Felske had lost the respect of his players, and while Giles realizes that catching the Cardinals is a long, long shot, he could not afford to let the situation get any worse, especially with attendance dropping.

Giles knows the Phillies need a high-profile manager, someone from whom the club can take its personality, someone bigger than the best third baseman ever to play the game, someone with presence. But Whitey Herzog wasn't available last week. Neither was Roger Craig nor Sparky Anderson nor Tom Lasorda nor even Lou Piniella. "There are about six or seven managers in the majors right now and about 19 third base coaches disguised as managers," says one baseball executive. Ken Harrelson, former White Sox general manager, says, "The toughest job for a G.M. today is finding a real manager."

Giles looked around, found no available presence other than Billy Martin (whom he would not hire) and could wait no longer. He also could not give up on the season, which almost certainly would have been the perception had he hired an inexperienced manager from outside the organization. He had to go for the best man in the Phillies organization: Elia. The problem Giles now faces is that, because of Elia's popularity in Philadelphia, the sentiment will be to allow Elia another chance no matter how the Phillies finish. But Giles still knows he needs that big presence. (Lasorda would probably listen closely to an offer of a manager-G.M. position near his hometown.) The Phillies have several problems, but right now racism isn't one of them. Elia replaced Felske not because he's white, but because he was Giles's only logical choice.

A BLUE BIRD

The constant booing at Memorial Stadium and the decline and fall of the once-proud Orioles have apparently gotten to Eddie Murray. He is hitting .209 at home and .304 on the road, and he's also looking unhappy in the supposedly friendly confines. Visiting Yankee players were shocked last week to see Murray frequently standing at first base with his arms folded while an Oriole pitcher delivered the ball to the plate. This is not the real Eddie Murray....

For two years, Astro opponents have accused not only Mike Scott but also Nolan Ryan and Dave Smith (who went 27? innings and got 13 saves before being charged with his first run of the year on June 18) of cutting baseballs so they take off and sail up and away from hitters like 90-mph Frisbees. "I've never seen pitchers throw fastballs with that kind of rotation," says Giants catcher Bob Brenly. "They defy aerodynamics. Whatever it is, it probably will be the pitch of the '90s. Just when we get the split-finger figured out, we'll have to contend with that."

LIGHTEN UP

Will all the politicians in Chicago please get off their soapboxes and let the Cubs install lights in Wrigley Field so they can play a mere 15 or 20 games at night? This will let the Cubs 1) play night games after long road trips; 2) hold occasional workouts at home; 3) appease other clubs who lose revenue when they can't broadcast their own games in prime time....

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