Rapp's players say that he lacks nothing, that he has been held back by his excellent record for developing minor-league talent. "Vern is very gung ho," says Pitcher Dick Baney. "He preaches positive thinking. Take this designated hitter situation. He makes us believe we can win no matter what. He doesn't want us thinking about it. He says if there's worrying to be done he'll do it."
In the 89-year history of the Indianapolis team none of Rapp's predecessors, including Al Lopez and Birdie Tebbetts, had ever been encumbered by a similar disadvantage. But last week, as Rapp sat within the ivy-covered brick walls of Bush Stadium, he refused to cop a plea. "I'm an optimist," he said. "Early in the season, when we lost eight of 11 games, I didn't think about it once. Baseball isn't designed for the player who can only hit. It's for the player who does everything. Managers with the DH tend to get lazy. I know I did last year. You don't have to make as many decisions. Do I leave the pitcher in or take him out? Do I bunt? Do I use a pinch hitter? With a DH, you don't worry so much about these things. People want me to say I'm at a disadvantage, but I don't feel that way."
Schumacher disagrees, and compares Rapp's dilemma to a man who must play straight poker in a game where deuces are wild. But the general manager can afford to oppose Howsam, since he is paid by the Indianapolis stockholders while Rapp is an employee of the Reds.
Not surprisingly, Schumacher tends to accentuate the negative and Rapp the positive. The former talks of a 1-0 loss to Omaha in which the designated hitter delivered a homer, and the latter counters by discussing a 2-0 win over Iowa in which Zachry squeezed in one of the runs.
Pitchers enjoy batting in much the same way that defensive linemen savor those rare opportunities to run with a recovered fumble. "The DH takes all the fun out of playing," says reliever Joe Henderson, a converted outfielder with two doubles and a home run among his four hits.
Fun or not, the Indianapolis pitchers acknowledge their handicap, even if their manager refuses to. Reliever Bruce Taylor, an unbeaten submariner, misses the "security" a DH would provide. Lorin Grow, a skinny lefthander, does not like being pulled for a pinch hitter in a game eventually won by a reliever.
Grow did not need a pinch hitter against Denver last week, winning 10-3 and scratching out an infield hit. "You scragged that one," the first-base coach told him as he slipped into his warmup jacket. Grow did not mind. When you are batting only .090, even the scrags look good.