Last Thursday night in Baltimore, the umpires stopped a Royals-Orioles game one strike before it would have been official. K.C. manager Dick Howser had no gripe with the umps, but he did have one with his pitcher and catcher.
The situation: Royals up 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth with two out, a man on third and an 0-2 count on Al Bumbry. In the background, thunder and lightning. Then rain. Lots of rain. Bumbry backs out of the batter's box. He stretches this way and that way. Home plate ump Al Clark requests his return. But before pitcher Mark Gubicza, a 21-year-old rookie, can get that last strike, Clark stops the game. Two hours and 36 minutes later the game is called off.
"If we'd gone ahead and done what we had to do, the umpires wouldn't have gotten involved in the decision," said Howser, who felt third-year catcher Don Slaught had allowed Gubicza to do too much dillydallying in the inning. "We've got a pitcher walking around the mound with thunder and lightning in the background. We have a guy [ Gubicza] throwing to first one time that inning. Without ripping anybody, the catcher had to take charge. That's inexperience."
When Angel rookie outfielder Mike Brown broke his last bat recently, he grabbed a Butch Hobson model that had been lying around for a couple of years. But last Monday in Toronto, Brown decided he needed something lighter against pitcher Jim Clancy.
"I'd always wanted one of Reggie's bats to put up on my wall," Brown said. "I asked him for one before the game. Once I got to feeling it and swinging it, I asked if he had any objections if I used it in the game."
Boom! Double boom! Brown hit two home runs. And after the game, as Brown answered reporters' questions, Jackson walked over with a box of his 288 RJs and gave it to the rook.
"It's a beautiful bat," Brown said. "There's magic in it. Maybe I can't hit 490 [Reggie's HR total at the time] with it but maybe I can hit a couple more."
San Diego lefty Dave Dravecky was an All-Star last July but a sore-shouldered pitcher last September. At first the Padres thought it was overwork. Nope. The problem, they finally determined, was flexibility: Dravecky had too much flexibility in his left shoulder.
"I could put my hands together behind my back," Dravecky says, making like a man wearing handcuffs, "and then bring them back over my head." He was so flexible he could manipulate his humerus, the bone in the upper arm, out of the shoulder socket.
"He was grinding bone on bone," says Padre trainer Dick Dent. His solution: exercises to build up the shoulder muscles and reduce the flexibility. Now Dravecky can't make like Houdini. So what? He's 6-4 with seven saves and a 2.21 ERA, and he has allowed only two earned runs in his first three starts back in the rotation. "And I always thought it was an advantage being so flexible," Dravecky says.