After Oester joined the Reds in '80 he didn't get a chance to become a regular until a July road trip to New York. "I was out the night before having a few drinks with a couple of teammates until 2:30 or three," he says. "Curfew was at one. I got about six hours' sleep. We had a day game. They put me in and I went 4 for 5. The next day we had a doubleheader and I went 4 for 7. I haven't been out of there since."
Oester's bat has been almost as big a surprise as the Reds themselves, who have been right around .500 this season after having been the worst team in the National League in 1982 (61-100). Oester is enjoying a comeback, too. After a hot start last season, his average sank to .189 for the month of July. He was benched briefly in favor of rookie Tom Lawless and, in a fit of frustration, started a scuffle with Outfielder Cesar Cede�o over a remark Cede�o made to him about not playing. They're friendly now. Upon returning to the lineup, Oester tried to hit more home runs; he did have five of his career-high nine last September, but also developed a loop in his swing and wound up striking out 82 times for the season. He finished at .260 and calls the year "the worst I've experienced."
When the season was over, he took refuge on his 72-acre farm outside Cincinnati with his wife, Jackie, and now-2-year-old Julianne (another member of the family is scheduled to arrive in August). "I've got three piles of wood I cut this winter, each of them 30 feet long and five feet tall," Oester says. "You can take out your frustrations cutting wood." Since the season began, he's been cutting down pitchers.