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He slumped most of 1984, when he and Carrie were estranged, but that problem was resolved before the Series, and he has since regained orbit. In his first six pinch hit appearances this season, he reached base every time—two walks and four hits—and once more was considering himself a candidate for the cover of Baseball Gold. Two of his hits were game-winners against the hated Dodgers—a 10th-inning single to beat Ken Howell on April 20 and a two-out, two-run double in the seventh inning to beat Tom Brennan before 49,801 at Dodger Stadium a week later. On June 7 against the Reds, in a rare start at third, Bevacqua went 2 for 4 and hit a grand-slam homer. On Sunday, he hit yet another grand slam in a 6-1 win over the Giants.
And, lo, Bevacqua resides now in the pantheon of pinch hitters. His 78th pinch hit recently put him ahead of Enos Slaughter, Bob Fothergill and George Crowe, into 22nd place on the alltime list. There are only four active players ahead of him: Steve Braun, Jay Johnstone, Rusty Staub and Greg Gross. Dr. Demie Mainieri, who numbers Bevacqua among the 20 major-leaguers he has coached and sent on from Miami Dade-North Community College, says it is "just too bad it took 18 years for pro baseball to realize what a hell of a hitter Kurt is."
Bevacqua calls Mainieri "Doc" and, at tender moments, "my father," although Mainieri is not. Bevacqua keeps him posted on his progress with calls in the night. "Early in his career he called from Savannah to tell me he'd put two out and just missed getting a third by a foot. He said, 'Whatta you think, Doc?' I said, 'Kurt, I think it's two o'clock in the morning!' " Last year Kurt called from the Padres' locker room during a game. "Aren't you playing?" Mainieri asked. "It's only the sixth inning," said Bevacqua. "He won't use me until it's crucial." Bevacqua said he sneaked back there for a snack one afternoon and Jerry Coleman, then the San Diego manager, walked in. "What did you say?" Mainieri asked. "I said, 'Want a nacho, Jerry?' "
One of the things Bevacqua was called in the afterglow of the Series was a "throwback." By today's loose standards, a throwback could be almost anyone who enjoys playing baseball enough to get his uniform dirty, and Bevacqua certainly does that, sliding and diving and tumbling into things. In the minors he was known as "Dirt." Pete Rose, of course, is the ultimate throwback, and manager Williams says Bevacqua, like Rose, is the "kinda guy who woulda fit right in with some of the old ball clubs." Williams especially enjoys Bevacqua's throwback bench-jockeying. "When he calls Tony Pena a dope, Pena listens. He gets to Ron Cey like that all the time."
But Bevacqua is not a throwback. He is an original. Every team should have a Pete Rose. Not every team wants a Kurt Bevacqua, as has been made painfully clear. Perhaps, then, the most poignant Bevacqua revelation of the after-Series was that he had at last found a team that could appreciate him, and vice versa.
Bevacqua says he realized he was home when he went to the Padres' team party after their victory over the Cubs in the 1984 playoffs and Mrs. Joan Kroc, the team owner, "pushed Steve Garvey into the pool." ("Garvey's hair is messed up! Garvey's hair!" shouted Bevacqua.) Mrs. Kroc herself went in and, of course, so did Bevacqua.
Such is the attitude that "makes Kurt good for the club," says Williams. "He makes it easier to come to the park," says outfielder Tony Gwynn. Williams and shortstop Garry Templeton say that Bevacqua's freely imparted knowledge of pitchers and his exceptional ability to perform what is essentially a thankless job have been critical to the Padres' recent success. "He's really the most valuable player," says Templeton, "because he gets it done when it has to be done." Publicist Bill Beck says that the loosey-goosey Padres are now more a reflection of Bevacqua than they realize. He credits Kurt with accelerating the blending of Garvey into "one of the guys."
When Garvey arrived in 1983, it was to Bevacqua's announcement that he, Kurt the Dirt, "wasn't giving up first base without a fight." Garvey is an All-Star first baseman; Bevacqua plays the field so infrequently that he says it takes him four years to break in a glove.
Bevacqua says that Garvey came to him shortly after that and "asked me if I wanted to dine with him that night. I said, 'Dine? Dine? Why don't we just go get something to eat.' " Soon enough, Garvey and Bevacqua were San Diego's most quotable odd coupling. According to Bevacqua, "A winning baseball team is more than just good players, it's a chemistry, a combination of factors. I supply the flakiness."
There is, for example, the hotfoot, which he feels he raised to an art form in Pittsburgh with the use of aerosol sprays and other devices. ("You know that stuff they put on bruises to ease the pain? It can actually shoot fire.") One night on the road with the Pirates he ignited a ring of lighter fluid around the hotel bed of a sleeping Richie Zisk. "Scared the hell out of him, and never even singed the rug."