SI Vault
 
INSIDE PITCH (May 13-19)
Henry Hecht
May 27, 1985
When he fractured his leg after crashing into a fence in Anaheim 12 years ago, Bobby Valentine, who might have been a star, became a survivor. He immediately began preparing himself for a managing job. Most recently he was third base coach of the Mets. Last Friday night in Chicago, Valentine, 35, became the youngest manager in the majors, succeeding Doug Rader as skipper of the Rangers, the team with the worst record in baseball. Though Valentine lost his debut 4-2, he couldn't help but be caught up in the excitement of his first game. "In between a couple of innings I said to myself, 'This is it, this really is it,' " Valentine said afterward. "It finally happened."
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
May 27, 1985

Inside Pitch (may 13-19)

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

BALL PARK FIGURES

When Detroit's 5'11", 160-pound Lou Whitaker hit a home run over the rightfield roof in Tiger Stadium on May 13, he became the first leadoff hitter, the first second baseman and the smallest player to clear the 94-foot, double-decked roof. Whitaker is in some rather large company, as evidenced by this list of the 13 other Detroit "roofers":

NAME

HGT.

WGT.

YEAR

F. Howard

6'7"

250

'68

B. Powell

6'4�"

246

'69

H. Killebrew

6'0"

213

'62

K. Gibson

6'3"

210

'83

R. Jackson

6'0"

206

'84

D. Mincher

6'3"

205

'64

J. Thompson

6'4"

200

'77 (2)

M. Mantle

6'0"

195

'56, '58, '60

J. Northrup

6'3"

190

'69

C. Cooper

6'2"

190

'83

N. Cash

6'0"

190

'61, '62 (3)

T. Williams

6'3"

180

'39

R. Jones

5'10"

171

'84

When he fractured his leg after crashing into a fence in Anaheim 12 years ago, Bobby Valentine, who might have been a star, became a survivor. He immediately began preparing himself for a managing job. Most recently he was third base coach of the Mets. Last Friday night in Chicago, Valentine, 35, became the youngest manager in the majors, succeeding Doug Rader as skipper of the Rangers, the team with the worst record in baseball. Though Valentine lost his debut 4-2, he couldn't help but be caught up in the excitement of his first game. "In between a couple of innings I said to myself, 'This is it, this really is it,' " Valentine said afterward. "It finally happened."

Officially, Valentine has no managing experience on any level. But, for three weeks in 1976, he was interim player-manager for Hawaii in the Pacific Coast League. "I had a short meeting with the guys before my first game," Valentine said. "I told them, 'Play hard, have fun, and I'm batting third.' "

Valentine will not insert himself into the lineup this time, but he will put centerfielder Odibbe McDowell in the leadoff spot. The former Olympian and 1984 College Player of the Year was batting .400 in Triple A. Valentine also restored Dave Stewart, who did not get along with Rader, as the bullpen closer. "This is it," Valentine says. "I'm confident." There are still the Rangers, though. They lost two of three to the White Sox.

Tim Flannery, who bats lefthanded, and Jerry Royster, who bats righthanded, have been sharing the second base job for the Padres since Alan Wiggins turned himself in for drug rehabilitation. Flannery and Royster are also platooning on the phone.

Call the Flannery household when no one is home and you hear Royster's voice on the answering machine saying, "This is Jerry Royster. Tim isn't home right now because a righthander is pitching against the Padres. Please leave your name and message and Jerry will get back to you."

Call the Royster household when no one is home and you hear Flannery's voice on the machine saying, "This is Tim Flannery. Jerry isn't home right now because a lefthander is pitching against the Padres. Please leave your name and message and Tim will get back to you."

How quickly they forget department. The fans in Milwaukee really gave it to future Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers after he allowed five ninth-inning runs in a 6-3 loss to the A's. Fingers came back from elbow surgery last year and is trying to return from back surgery this season, but his numbers have been bad: three saves, four blown saves and a 7.15 ERA. "If I pitch like that," Fingers said, "I deserve to get booed."

How quickly they forgive department. Another reliever in trouble, the Twins' Ron Davis, was expecting the worst when he got back to Minnesota after losing three straight games in the bottom of the ninth. Following the third loss, 9-8 to the Yankees, Davis was reduced to tears and said, "It's the lowest point of my life. I know I'm going to get killed when I get back home."

But apparently Twins fans read the newspaper accounts of Davis's torment, and when he came in from the bullpen in the ninth to hold a 7-4 lead against the Tigers Thursday, the fans gave Davis a standing ovation. He responded by striking out the side.

Two of the best rookies this spring were Shawon Dunston, the phenom who took the Cubs' shortstop job away from a bitter Larry Bowa, and Chris Pittaro, the unknown from Double A who impressed Tiger manager Sparky Anderson so much that Sparky wanted to move Lou Whitaker to third base to accommodate Pittaro. Well, Dunston is back in Triple A after hitting .194 and making nine errors, while Pittaro, who became the Tigers' Opening Day third baseman when Whitaker balked at moving, is on the bench with a .237 average and six errors.

Continue Story
1 2