Hands, feet, fingers, backs, arms, legs, ankles, groins and ribs. Strains, sprains, pulls, contusions, effusions, lacerations, tendinitis, synovitis and turf toe. Aikens, Blue, Brett, Concepcion, Frost, Geronimo, Gura, Jones, Leonard, Martin, May, Otis, Quirk, Splittorff, Washington, Wathan, White and Wilson. Put them all together and you have the Kansas City Royals, the hurtingest team in baseball, and probably the best.
Their team picture should be an X ray. In fact, an extra team picture had to be taken this month because so many of the players weren't around for the one shot in June. It may only be a coincidence, but their losing pitchers in a doubleheader against the Yankees last week were Black and Blue (Bud and Vida). There was a night in Toronto earlier in the season when Trainer Mickey Cobb had to take three players to the hospital for observation. "I feel like I'm working for a M*A*S*H unit," says Cobb.
The Royals finished the week one game out of first place in the American League West, with six weeks to play. Their position was remarkable considering the fact that they have had their best starting nine available for only 31 of the first 123 games. The regulars have missed a total of 121 games and the reserves 73. The pitchers have missed 34 starts. The only regular who hasn't been out of the lineup because of injury is DH Hal McRae, and he's playing with a slight groin pull.
Says Cobb, who was one of the All-Star Game trainers this year, "I like to keep busy, but I'd much rather be counting bandages. There was a time this summer when for about two weeks the players were literally lined up outside the training room to use the modalities." (The modalities aren't a doo-wop group, but rather the electrogalvanic stimulator, the ultrasound unit, the hydroculator, the Cybex muscle tester and the whirlpool.)
"I don't know how or why we are where we are," says Jamie Quirk, who's on the disabled list with a bad back. Says Willie Wilson, "It must be destiny that we're still in the race." Wilson is the leading hitter in the league with a .338 average. He missed 24 games with a pulled left hamstring early in the season.
Destiny aside, the Royals are a game out thanks to: their strong bench, the patchwork done by the front office, the patience of Manager Dick Howser, their league-leading .286 team batting average, a 44-17 record on their home Tartan Turf, 108 RBIs from McRae and—sh-boom, sh-boom—the modalities.
Last week the Royals did resemble the 4077th. Since Aug. 13 they've done without Third Baseman George Brett, who hurt his right wrist while checking his swing on a pitch by Detroit's Milt Wilcox. Since 1976 the Royals have been only 60-74 without Brett, but fortunately, Greg Pryor, his replacement, is hitting .288. Brett's injury is a form of tendinitis—a chip from the ulna is lodged in the ligament structure, causing the tendon around it to become inflamed.
The same condition may have cost Brett his shot at .400 in 1980, and he felt it again during the Royals' tour of Japan last November. "It happens after I take a funky swing," says Brett. "It usually goes away. This time it didn't." Actually, the injury dates back to his freshman year in high school when he tried to dunk a basketball after jumping off a springboard, hung himself up on the rim, then came down on his wrist. He'll almost certainly have to have an operation after the season, but until then he'll take cortisone shots and wait. As of Sunday he had yet to take batting practice.
In the 2-0, 4-3 doubleheader loss to New York on Aug. 16, the Royals were without Dan Quisenberry, whose 27 saves tie him for second in the league and whose total of 103 innings is fourth-highest on the staff. The Quiz had developed what he thought was a stomach virus. "I must have picked it up in Detroit," he said. "I think I ate a bad goat or something in Greektown. At first I thought I had getting-old disease because my back hurt. Then it moved to my stomach. I made it halfway through the national anthem before I performed a sequel to The Exorcist. Then I slept through both games on the training table."
Although he saved Thursday's 3-0 win over Chicago for Larry Gura and was credited with Saturday's 4-3 defeat of the White Sox, Quiz was still a little queasy at week's end. "The doctor put me on a very bland diet to go along with my personality," he said.