Bert Blyleven addresses the ball. "Hello, ball," he says, in homage to Art Carney as Ed Norton. Thereupon he drives the addressee 250 yards straight down the middle of the No. 1 fairway at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. The First Annual Blyleven Celebrity Golf Classic, to benefit Students Against Drunk Driving and the Orange County Trauma Society, is under way.
The day is cold and drizzly and awfully close to miserable, and if the setting didn't happen to include palm trees and the swell Riviera clubhouse, one might think one were in....
"Hey, Bert, where'd you get the weather?" shouts someone from a passing golf cart.
"Brought it in from Cleveland," comes the host's reply.
This isn't a tournament along the ropes of, say, the Hope or the Crosby. At the Blyleven the biggest celebrity, literally and figuratively, is Lou Ferrigno, television's erstwhile Incredible Hulk. The Hulk, whose wife wonders where the galleries are, quits after two holes because his shoes are wet. "It was nice of him to come anyway," says Blyleven.
It's also nice of Blyleven to host this tournament. During the winter there are many of these Monday events in the Los Angeles area. Blyleven has put on more than his share in the past, for a variety of causes, and this is his second of the current off-season. One of his best friends is Richie Scheinblum, the former outfielder for six big league teams, who as a Kansas City Royal battled Rod Carew for the batting title in 1972. Scheinblum's son, Monte, who's active in SADD at Villa Park High School in Villa Park, Calif., asked Blyleven if he'd help him organize a tournament. Blyleven was happy to oblige.
Blyleven rounded up the usual suspects, most of them baseball names past and present: Scheinblum, Dan Petry, Ed Roebuck, Enos Cabell, Norm and Larry Sherry, Rick Rhoden, Ken McMullen, Buck Rodgers, Jim Colborn, Bruce Kison, Tom Murphy, Tom Brunansky, Dee Fondy, Jim Slaton, Gary Sutherland, Matt Young, Ed Crosby, Tim Leary, Tom Morgan...sorry, it's just that some people like to see baseball cards come to life.
The tournament follows a scramble format, in which all four team members play from the same lie, as determined by the foursome's best previous shot. Blyleven, who has a seven handicap, is teamed with a couple of Cadillac dealers and an attorney, a zany Mormon named Tom Anthony. This is Anthony's first time on a golf course in 10 years, and second time ever. Naturally, he sinks all the birdie putts. "Golf is my life," Anthony keeps saying. The team finishes at 3-under and out of hunt. But nobody really cared.
Blyleven cared more that everyone was having a good time. He chatted up all the passing foursomes and made sure the volunteer marshals switched holes so they wouldn't get bored. Watching him, one of his partners said, "He seems like a great guy. I know this sounds terrible, but who does Bert pitch for these days?"
For the benefit of those who don't know—and it's quite understandable so don't feel ashamed—Blyleven, a right-hander, pitches for the Cleveland Indians.