Of all the pitchers George Brett has manhandled, none has been treated more rudely than Ed Figueroa. Over a span of seven seasons, Brett has gone 26 for 42, for a lusty .619 average, against Figueroa. After tours with the Angels, Yankees and Rangers, Figueroa was brought up from the minor leagues two weeks ago by the Oakland A's, but he didn't see action last weekend when the A's and Brett's Kansas City Royals, battling for the second-half lead in the American League West, met for the first time in 1981.
But you can bet that Figueroa took notes. On his way to last season's .390 batting average, Brett got just 10 hits in 43 at bats against Oakland for a .233 average. If he hadn't faced the A's he would have hit (sigh!) .406. Heading into Oakland on Friday, Brett had been on a .421 (8 for 19) tear in his last five games, but while Kansas City won two of the three games to move two games ahead of the A's, a quintet of Oakland pitchers—Matt Keough, Mike Norris, Steve McCatty, Jeff Jones and Tom Underwood—cooled Brett off considerably; he went a less-than-awesome 4 for 14. As for Figueroa, he actually sounded crushed that Oakland Manager Billy Martin hadn't seen fit to use him against the Royal third baseman. Seemingly drawing confidence merely from having joined the A's Brett-baiting pitching corps, Figueroa said bravely, "I wouldn't mind a shot at him again."
STAYING OUT OF THE LOSS COLUMN
Before the 1981 baseball season (Part 1) began, the Texas Rangers' rotund manager Don Zimmer, and Kansas City's equally ample pitching coach, Billy Connors, made a bet as to which of them would shed the most weight by the All-Star Game. But the strike intervened, apparently leaving Zimmer and Connors less opportunity to exercise and more to sit around and eat linguine with clam sauce, or the caloric equivalent thereof. This may explain how it came to be that when the delayed All-Star Game was finally played last month, Zimmer was one pound heavier than he had been in April, yet still won the bet. Connors had gained 10 pounds.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]