SI Vault
John Underwood
July 01, 1985
Whether he's impersonating his manager or coming off the bench to get a hit in a crucial situation, flaky Kurt Bevacqua of the Padres is indeed a good man to have in a pinch
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July 01, 1985

A Great Role Player

Whether he's impersonating his manager or coming off the bench to get a hit in a crucial situation, flaky Kurt Bevacqua of the Padres is indeed a good man to have in a pinch

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If I hang around here Another 20 years Maybe I'll get my act together!

NOTE TO THE READER: While in San Francisco for a game with the Giants in April, Kurt Bevacqua, World Series hero of the San Diego Padres, named himself captain of the team. He said he'd thought about it a lot and felt "They can use a guy like me." It is not known how many Padres are aware of Mr. Bevacqua's selection, but he has been telling them as the opportunity arises.

ANOTHER NOTE TO THE READER: You will recall that the last time—the only time—Kurt Bevacqua's picture graced the pages of this magazine, he was dancing and pirouetting around the base paths, waving and blowing kisses like a bowl queen on the occasion of the three-run homer that beat the Tigers in Game 2 of the Series. Among the mementos Bevacqua received of the feat was a framed picture from the Hawaiian gay community, his image doctored to include a tutu and notes inked in to point out his "twinkling' toes and his hands "held ever so gracefully." Although not gay himself, but more or less in the twilight of a career that has never really known the noonday sun, Bevacqua says he appreciates fan support "no matter its race, creed or national origin," and has put the picture on his den wall.

Good morning. The air around Kurt Bevacqua today is in the good-to-never-better range. We come to you, therefore, directly from Bevacqua's 38th summer, wherein the winds of change have finally stopped blowing and he appears to have at last found a rented house he can call a home. This one, as you can see, snugs up to the lovely La Costa Hotel and Spa, just north of San Diego, and is worth about half a million dollars. This is in keeping with Bevacqua's new image as a man with a leg up on life, as opposed to his old image (of a year ago and a dozen years before that) of a man holding on by his fingertips. My "serious period," says Bevacqua, grinning furiously.

Please note that the town of Carlsbad offers many breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, and any number of residents equally as prominent as Mr. Bevacqua. The host of the soapy-spoofy San Diego at Large show on Channel 8, Mr. Larry Himmel, wants to feature Mr. Bevacqua in a segment to be called Dirty Kurt's Neighborhood, in which he will poke good-natured fun at his new neighbors. The show has featured Bevacqua's gorgeous wife, Carrie, the former Playboy Club bunny who once offered to get her nose bobbed in anticipation of being asked to appear in the bathing suit issue of a certain weekly sports magazine.

Director/star Himmel sees in Bevacqua a kindred spirit—"He thinks I'm as off the wall as he is," Kurt explains. Mr. Bevacqua, who would portray a kind of disreputable Mr. Rogers, is not altogether certain he should do the show. (His neighborhoods tend to come and go and he would like to hang onto this one awhile.) But the skit does appeal to Bevacqua in the fundamental, outlandish way other outlandish things have appealed to him in the past. There was the $2,000 bubble gum-blowing contest he won in 1975, for example, in which—as the Milwaukee Brewers' and the American League's representative—he edged out Johnny Oates of Philadelphia with an 18½-inch bubble on the last day.

Or the time he caught five balls thrown from the top of San Diego's Imperial Bank Tower—24 stories up, or 400 feet down—by teammate Terry Kennedy. ("I'll do anything for charity," he said. Short pause, furious grin. "Or to get my name in the paper.") He missed a sixth when Kennedy offered to donate $1,000 if he could catch it behind his back. The ball ticked off the edge of his glove.

On April 1 of this year, Bevacqua startled listeners of his morning radio phone-in show for KBZT with news that San Diego had traded Tim Flannery to Milwaukee for Rollie Fingers, and then traded Fingers, Steve Garvey and Jerry Davis to the Yankees for Don Mattingly and Willie Randolph. He said by the time he called back to say it was all in fun, he couldn't get through the switchboard. "The lines were jammed!" he says happily. "It was a couple hours before I finally got through."

But Bevacqua says a man inevitably grows too old for bubble gum-blowing contests—"Hell, I was too old in 1975"—and he now gets "a little bored" with "putting my hat on backwards when they want a picture of me with Garvey." He admits to being the one who put the snake in Garvey's shoe on Garvey's first day in San Diego, but it was no more than a future captain's way of helping a straight-backed Dodger become a laid-back Padre. But strike him dead if he ever asked Garvey what the "circulation" was of PM Magazine. "I'm flaky, but I'm not that flaky."

Indeed, it is easy to see that this is a serious new time for Mr. Bevacqua, with growing responsibilities and, at long last, emerging status. When a lifetime .235 hitter sees status emerging, he looks for the handles to grab hold of. For the first time in 18 years as a professional, he has an agent—a onetime minor league player named Dennis (Go-Go) Gilbert, who drives a brown Rolls-Royce and sells insurance "by the millions" to people like Joan Collins and Johnny Carson. Gilbert says Bevacqua is "a very hot property" now, and expects to have endorsements for him any minute. A big new contract with the Padres is hoped for. (Bevacqua is in his option year.)

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