The grandstands at tinker Field in Orlando have the lonely air of a waiting room for a bus to nowhere. At tonight's Senior Professional Baseball Association (SPBA) game between the hometown Juice and the West Palm Beach Tropics, it seems that the infielders outnumber the paying customers about two to one. The only vital sign in the joint is Mickey Rivers, leadoff hitter for the Tropics.
He stands upright at the plate, as skinny as six o'clock, then beats out a gangly grounder for a single. He turns to Bob Fralick, the first base coach. "I don't want to run, Bob," he says loud enough for Orlando first baseman Bill Madlock to hear. "I don't want to run."
"O.K.," says Fralick.
"I'm telling you, Bob, you can't make me steal."
"All right, Mickey. Hold on then."
On the first pitch, Rivers takes off. He beats the throw easily. Madlock shakes his head and says, "I can't read him."
Fralick shakes his head and says, "You think I can?"
Even when Rivers was swiping bases in the majors, he looked like an old guy with bad feet. Now 41, he is an old guy. and he still moves the same way. "He walks like he's hurting real, real bad." says Toby Harrah, the Tropics' third baseman.
"Like he's dying," says their manager, Dick Williams.
"Dead," says their rightfielder, Lee Lacy.