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Easler seems out of place at times in the cacophony of the Pittsburgh clubhouse. His favorite singer is Johnny Mathis, and while Easler does a fine impersonation, the sweet strains of Chances Are floating through the air are often drowned out by the heavier disco and salsa beats favored by his teammates.
Chances are Easler doesn't mind. "People see Mike Easler of the Pittsburgh Pirates and think that's just great, but they have no idea of what it took to get here," he says. What today's fans aren't seeing are yesterday's $500-a-month paychecks, or the jobs Easler took to augment that salary: as a bellboy, an assembly-line worker putting together heating registers, an employment-agency temp. "A man has to take care of his family," he says.
Easler never doubted he would make it in baseball, for, as Stargell says, "His heart was always in the game. He could never leave it until he succeeded."
That drive is apparent at the plate, particularly in the clutch, as was demonstrated on May 21 against San Diego when Easler led off the bottom of the ninth with a pinch-hit home run that tied the game at 3-all and ignited the winning rally. On July 1 against St. Louis, Easler's feet won a game for the Pirates. Pinch-hitting in the bottom of the 10th with men on first and third and one out in a 3-2 game, Easler hit an apparent double-play grounder to shortshop but beat out the relay to first to let the winning run in.
Lacy knows a lot about winning, too, even if he has often viewed it only from the dugout. Last year marked his third consecutive World Series and the fourth in six years. "The key to this game is being able to rise to the occasion when it's show time," Lacy says. "I've always known that. Put me out there and I'll play for you." Show time arrives for Lacy almost daily now and refutes the knock that he's nothing more than a glorified substitute. "A yew-til-i-ty player," Lacy says with disdain.
Lacy believes the talk stems from his seven years in L.A., where he was never able to crack the Dodgers' lineup. He also became involved in an "unjust and confusing situation" in 1975, "just when I was coming into my own."
That season, Lacy's first with more than 300 at bats, he had his best year as a hitter—.314. Encouraged by what he says was a verbal commitment from management to give him a starting outfield spot the next season, Lacy went to the Instructional League to master leftfield. But in November he was traded to Atlanta.
The Braves moved Lacy back to the infield for 50 games, then returned him to L.A. Lacy felt he should start every day for the Dodgers and said so. Second Baseman Davey Lopes considered Lacy a threat and maintained that he wasn't good enough to start on the team.
Maybe not, but when Lacy entered the free-agent reentry draft in 1978, he was one of five players selected by the maximum 13 teams. Lacy's self-confidence was demonstrated by the fact that he passed up a chance to join a team for which he would definitely play regularly to become a member of the talent-laden Pirates. Of course, a five-year $1.5 million contract helped him make up his mind.
"No matter what goes down, if you do your job you're going to get your credit somewhere down the line," Lacy says. "I've always been a winner. They know that here and they appreciate it."