THE X FACTOR
There have been 33 major leaguers whose last name begins with Q and 62 with Z, but none with X. Joe Xavier, a 27-year-old infielder for Greenville ( S.C.), Atlanta's Double A team in the Southern League, is the only minor leaguer whose surname begins with X. For that reason, he has become a cult figure of sorts for readers of Baseball America, which covers the minors extensively. Despite his release from the Brewers' system earlier this year—and talk that the Braves picked him up because he's Atlanta manager Bobby Cox's nephew—Xavier holds out hope of making the majors. "Just because my name starts with X isn't going to get me there," he says. "But it would be great to be the first X in the big leagues."
A LONG ROAD BACK
Eric Brooks, a catcher for Toronto's Class A team in Myrtle Beach, S.C., suffered severe memory loss in November 1985 after a collision while playing high school football in LaMirada, Calif. He lost the ability to read and write and even had to relearn how to comb his hair, among other things. For months, says Brooks, "I couldn't differentiate between my mom and any other female."
After spending some time at a trauma rehab center in May 1986, he was told he could resume his athletic career. Brooks played baseball in the spring of 1986 and football in the fall of '87. In June 1988 he was drafted by the Blue Jays. He still can't remember anything from his childhood—"My imagination fills in the blanks," he says—but he has learned to read and write again. "I have trouble understanding feelings and emotion," says Brooks, who was batting .285 through Saturday. "I get mad sometimes and don't know how to handle it. But I feel great, and I'm playing well. I'm progressing."
GOOD THINGS COME IN SIXES
Righthander Antonio Alfonseca, 18, of the Mendoza Expos in the Dominican Summer League, won his first pro game on June 18 and soon after pitched his first shutout. Alfonseca has six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. The sixth finger grows out of each pinky. His manager, Jesus Alou, who expects Alfonseca to make a Montreal farm team in the States in 1991, says the extra finger doesn't hurt or hinder Alfonseca. Fittingly, in his first victory, Alfonseca pitched six innings and gave up six hits.
The minor leagues have some famous names—Terry Bradshaw is an outfielder for Hamilton ( Ont.), and Ron Howard plays second base for Fayetteville (N.C.)—but none is more famous than Ted Williams. He's an outfielder for Triple A Calgary in the Mariners' chain. "It's Ted, not Theodore, and there's no middle initial," says Williams, who insists he wasn't named for the Red Sox Hall of Famer. Ted bears no resemblance to the Splendid Splinter—he's black, a switch-hitter and has 34 steals—except that he started this season wearing No. 9. After having batted .181 through June 1, though, he changed to No. 12. As of Saturday he had raised his average to .227. "Everywhere I go, people yell, 'Why did they name you Ted Williams?' " he says. " My goal is to be half as good as he was. My teammates tell me, 'He was the Splendid Splinter, you're the Splendid Sprinter.' "
BY THE NUMBERS
?On June 23, Willie Ansley, an outfielder for the Astros' Double A farm team in Columbus, Ga., hit inside-the-park homers in consecutive at bats in Huntsville. Ansley, perhaps the fastest player in the Astro system, scored standing up on both homers. "On the second one," says Columbus manager Rick Sweet, "he was halfway to the dugout when the ball got to the plate."
?Catcher Randal Renfroe of Class A Palm Springs hit two homers on the first two pitches he saw as a professional, on June 17. As of Sunday, he hadn't homered again.