Reds president Bob Howsam's decision to lower the Riverfront Stadium outfield fence from 12 to eight feet was an instant success on Opening Day. Centerfielder Eddie Milner and shortstop Dave Concepcion both hit homers that just cleared the new fence in Cincinnati's 8-1 defeat of New York. But Mets rightfielder Darryl Strawberry's leaping grab to steal a second home run from Milner exhibited the thinking behind the change, according to Cincinnati publicity boss Jim Ferguson, who suggested it. "The most exciting plays I saw last year were outfielders stealing home runs," he said. "You've got that two or three seconds where you can't tell if the guy caught the ball or not."
Rookie shortstops Joaquin Gutierrez of Boston and Bobby Meacham of the Yankees both lost games with throwing errors, but they took different routes from there. Gutierrez appeared in three more games and didn't make an error. Meacham, however, was dispatched to the Yanks' Class AA Nashville team the morning after his mistake, on the orders of owner George Steinbrenner, and to the consternation of manager Yogi Berra and Meacham's teammates. About the only person who wasn't upset, in fact, was Meacham, who discussed the change the next morning in a phone conversation with the Boss himself. "I was surprised he called," said Meacham. "He doesn't have to answer to me. Some people were worried I'd be discouraged, but that's not me. Mr. Steinbrenner said he wants me to play every day."
Royals pitcher Larry Gura, who beat New York 15-4 last week, has this plan to deal with a heckler: "I want to find out where he works. I'll go there, and if he drops a pencil I'll throw a beer at him, yell obscenities and throw batteries."
Only after the Giants had thoroughly checked out the drug-abuse rumors concerning outfielder Dusty Baker did they sign him to a two-year contract for nearly $1.4 million. "We asked a lot of questions about these rumors," Giants owner Bob Lurie says, "and they didn't prove out. We went to the commissioner's office and talked [to its investigators] and got assurances that Dusty isn't on their list."
Giants fans greeted Baker with an extended standing ovation on Opening Day. "I didn't know what to expect," the former Dodger said, "because Candlestick Park hasn't been the friendliest park I've played in. I've never had a reception like that in my life."
Texas catcher Ned Yost supposedly has' corrected his throwing flaw—he threw out only 16 of 101 base stealers in four seasons with Milwaukee—but the early results don't prove it. In two games last week the Indians were successful on eight of nine stolen-base attempts against Yost, including six in Thursday's 7-3 win. That tied a Ranger club record for most steals allowed in a game. In spring training, Texas bullpen coach Glenn Ezell worked with the 28-year-old Yost, whom Texas got from Milwaukee in exchange for Jim Sundberg, and changed his footwork. Yost's throws were stronger and more accurate last month, but he nailed only two of 15 runners in exhibition games. However, manager Doug Rader blamed Cleveland's thefts on his pitchers, not Yost, calling Thursday's debacle "the worst display of holding runners I've ever seen." The Indians may be tough on everyone in '84; they stole six more bases off Kansas City's Don Slaught in a 2-0 win on Friday night, and finished the week with 15 steals (in 18 attempts) in four games.