Bob Knepper, the Houston Astros pitcher, was sitting in his St. Louis hotel room, crooning along with Mario Lanza to a song on his CD player. The top of the television set was laden with oatmeal cookies, and the small desk near the window was cluttered with periodicals: National Cattlemen, Beef, Stockman/Grass Farmer, the quarterly journal of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Oregon fish and wildlife journal and Evangelist, Knepper, who subscribes to 19 publications, says his favorite is the National Federation for Moral Decency newsletter.
Knepper's suitcase rested on the floor, loaded with 12 books on Christian doctrine and philosophy and a handful of paperback Westerns. Packed among the lefthander's polo shirts were two recently purchased Shirley Temple video-cassettes, Heidi and Rebecca of Sunny-brook Farm, for his children.
Earlier in his career, Knepper would bring an empty suitcase on road trips and fill it with treasures from out-of-the-way bookstores. Once he stuffed 40 pounds of books into his extra bag. After an elderly bellhop in Cincinnati nearly threw out his back lifting it, the Astros' equipment men begged Knepper to show some restraint.
Knepper now compromises by traveling with several small carry-on bags. In a black tote he crams 30 compact discs, including the greatest hits of the Carpenters, Tennessee Ernie Ford, the Mills Brothers and Barbara Mandrell; Beethoven piano sonatas; Verdi arias; Madama Butterfly; La Boh�me; Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2; and Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
Knepper's blue tote bag houses a 35-mm camera and several lenses. He is working on a photographic record of the 1988 season. In St. Louis, Knepper woke at 5 o'clock the morning after he pitched, to capture on film the sunrise through the Gateway Arch. He has photographed the blue-collar grit of Pittsburgh on a damp gray afternoon and the bustle of New York City.
Of late, Knepper has also been lugging a large Astro duffel bag. Inside it are many of the more than 300 letters he has received regarding remarks he made several months ago about women lacking the qualifications to be major league umpires. At the end of a spring training game on March 14, Knepper praised the work of home plate umpire Pam Postema, who was hoping to land a job in the majors after 11 years in the minor leagues. But then Knepper added, "This is not an occupation a woman should be in. In God's society, woman was created in a role of submission to the husband. It's not that woman is inferior, but I don't believe women should be in a leadership role."
The reaction to Knepper's assessment of women and their roles was swift and stinging. Editorial writers and columnists took him to task, making Knepper the early favorite for sexist-of-the-year honors. The mail has been evenly divided between men and women, and so far the tally is running two-to-one in his favor—or so says Knepper.
Wrote a Gatlinburg, Tenn., woman: "Thank you for speaking out for the majority of women and the few real men that are left in this world of bra-burning women and wimpish men."
From a Houston man: "It's about time someone told women who they should be."
And from an Indio, Calif., housewife: "In my previous life (before Christ), I was a probation officer. Prior to that, I wanted to be a policeMAN. Thank God, God already had a handle on my life, or perhaps I wouldn't be so secure in my career as a happy homemaker."