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A HERO LIVES HERE
Peter Gammons
November 06, 1989
A's ace Dave Stewart was the Series MVP, but in Oakland he's much more than that
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November 06, 1989

A Hero Lives Here

A's ace Dave Stewart was the Series MVP, but in Oakland he's much more than that

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"My circle of friends stayed with our own dreams because we had strong family backgrounds and because we were always playing sports, especially at the Boys' Club," says Stewart. "My parents had strong values of right and wrong.

"I was tempted by the street life. I admit I experimented a little. But every time I got to the brink of getting in trouble, I pulled back. Sure, there was a lot of stuff happening on the street; the projects across 14th Street housed one of the biggest drug operations in the country. But it wasn't hard staying away from drugs or trouble. I had the Boys' Club and sports. There was a heck of a lot more good available to me than there was bad."

"What you see in Stewart is a toughness typical of Oakland kids," says Morgan. "Not just street toughness, but competitive toughness. For every Joe Morgan or David Stewart, there are a dozen guys that were as good who didn't make it. You learn to persevere."

Stewart certainly did. He was 1-8 in his first two professional seasons. He was 7-14 for the Rangers in 1984 and 0-6 for them in '85. He hurt his arm and was released by the Phillies the next year. On July 2, 1986, Tony La Russa, in his first game as the Oakland manager, gave Stewart his first A's start. Stewart beat Roger Clemens that day, and the rest is a 71-34 history, the best record of any pitcher in the game over that span of time. Stewart is the only pitcher in the '80s to win 20 games for three straight years. Yet not until this July did he make the All-Star team, and he has lost out in the Cy Young voting in each of the past two seasons and figures to lose to Bret Saberhagen this year. La Russa says, "It wasn't until this World Series that Stew finally got recognized for what he is."

"The recognition thing bothered me a lot up until last year," says Stewart. "Then when I won 20 the second time and it didn't happen, I accepted that those things might not come." Last winter, when the A's signed Mike Moore, who had had only one winning season, for more money than Stewart was making, Stewart, who was in fact the third-highest-paid pitcher on the Oakland staff this season, never complained. "The team's more important than what I make," he says.

There are any number of reasons for Stewart's lack of recognition, but one in particular haunts him. "I guess the Lucille business was never forgotten," he says. In January 1985, Stewart was arrested in Los Angeles with a prostitute named Lucille, who turned out to be a transvestite. As circumstance would have it, Stewart was scheduled to be honored two days later by the Dallas- Fort Worth baseball writers with their Good Guy award. To the astonishment of everyone, Stewart showed up at the banquet and answered all questions.

"What bothers me is that those who won't forget it are saying one can't ever make a mistake," says Stewart. "I did, and I admit it. I'm ashamed. But if you dig deep enough, you'll find something in everyone that he is ashamed of. If that incident has had something to do with my lack of recognition, I don't care now. Last winter I got back to basics. What is important? Three things: Am I respected by my teammates, am I respected by my community, and am I happy with that? I am."

"Respect is the first word anyone uses about Stew," says A's pitcher Dennis Eckersley. Catcher Terry Steinbach says, "There's just a different feeling when he walks out to pitch. He makes everyone feel good about himself." Says Oakland pitching coach Dave Duncan, "David Stewart is a leader; he gives the other players so much confidence that they play better."

"I spent a lot of days as the eighth and 10th man on staffs," says Stewart, "dreaming about being the Number One guy, pitching in the World Series. Here I am, doing what I always wanted to do."

There are other things he wants to do. Stewart talks a lot about his son, Adrian, 12, and his daughter, Alyse, 7, who live near Los Angeles with his former wife, Vanessa. "Adrian is the light of my life," says Stewart, who sees his children as often as he can. He talks about "getting back to a family situation," but that is for the future. For now, Stewart's concern is raising money for Oakland's recovery. "I've got some fund-raising ideas, and I'm sure the club will have some too," says Stewart, who plans to give a large part of his World Series share to earthquake relief operations. "I also know that I'll get any cooperation I ask for from my teammates."

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