Otis picked up a lot of the slack. By All-Star time he had 20 homers, five more than he had ever hit before in a season. His 59 RBIs were only 22 under his previous season high. "He's the best centerfielder in baseball," asserts McKeon. "He is now a well-disciplined hitter. He waits for his pitch and knows what to do with it."
"Hitting just before Mayberry," says Otis, "I'm able to wait for my pitch." As for Big John, he was happy last Thursday when, after picking up his 84th walk of the season, he finally smacked a homer against Chicago. "It was a genuine John Mayberry shot," he exulted, "a line drive right out of there. What I'm hoping is that somebody hitting behind me gets hot. I'm not talking about going 3 for 4 with a couple of bunts. I'm talking, man, about somebody going on a rampage and getting four or five homers in a week."
The Royals got what McKeon calls "a spiritual lift" when Tallis, who has built the Royals largely with a series of astute trades, obtained Kurt Bevacqua over the winter from Cleveland in return for Pitcher Mike Hedlund. Hedlund is now in the minors, like so many players Tallis has traded away. Known as Dirty Kurt because his headlong dives for balls tend to soil his uniform, Bevacqua has kept relatively clean on Royals Stadium's artificial turf. But he still dives for grounders and his exuberance and humor have kept tension low on the Royals. So far he has played everywhere but center field, shortstop, catcher and pitcher.
Seeing Bevacqua and Drago, both of whom wear long mustaches, togged out one day in boots, wide-brimmed black hats and black pants, Royal Broadcaster Bud Blattner dubbed them the Bolivian Bandits. They revel in the name. Bevacqua has posted over his dressing cubicle a sign reading WHEN YOU'RE HOT, YOU'RE HOT. Through his agent Bevacqua is now offering an 11 x 14 photograph and a 25 x 38 poster of himself. In the photograph he is sitting in a reclining chair wearing only bathing trunks. The poster shows him in black hat and black leather pants wearing bandoliers over a nude torso. Price for the two: $5.
When Ewing Kauffman replaced Bob Lemon with McKeon last October he promised Kansas City fans five pennants in the next 10 years. Thousands scoffed. But last week Royal officials were making contingency plans, including ticket-printing schedules, not only for a divisional playoff but for a World Series. "I hope putting on the All-Star Game, strenuous as it was, turns out to have been a rehearsal for staging the playoffs and the World Series," said the Royals' publicist, Bob Wirz. "The All-Star Game involved a lot of work," said Tallis, "but I'll be glad to make the sacrifice again in October."