On vacation, in faraway places, the reports we read about our sports teams are small and so based on the pure essentials that they are nearly meaningless. USA Today has made a fortune out of trying to provide an adequate sports report for every team–the few people I know who bought it or buy it regularly are all sports fans, and though there may be other reasons for buying it I doubt they’re valid–but even these reports are sketchy. When we read things of our teams in other cities, the reports resemble dispatches from some distant war. Thank the gods, however, for the box score.
I spend a bit of time over the box scores every morning, so when I stray from home–as I did last week, sandwiching a trip to the beach between two reunions –I don’t worry about how the Cubs and Sox are doing but instead concentrate on the boxes from day to day. It’s only a week; the teams can take care of themselves. What I really look for, however, are the players on my baseball-pool team, a team of young sluggers and young pitchers I own with a partner. Last year, we gathered the young sluggers, but with them some old pitchers who failed to get the job done and forced us to finish second, the first time I’d failed to win a baseball pool in three tries. This year, we got young, no-name pitchers to go with the young, no-name sluggers we got last year, who are now becoming big-name sluggers, most prominent among them the Davis brothers–Eric, Glenn, and Chili. With the New York Mets’ Jesse Orosco and the Philadelphia Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian in the bullpen, we figured to cover saves, and were doing quite well–challenging for first–when I went off to the east coast two weeks ago. What follows is a little over a week in a box-score state of mind, not unlike my usual state in the mornings at home.
May 31. Friday-night box scores in Sunday’s New York Times. For God so loved the world that he gave his begotten son, Eric Davis, to play for the Cincinnati Reds and for whatever pool players first recognized his true lineage. Competing owners have taken to calling him God, or merely the Son of God, while we refer to him humbly as The Franchise. Davis ties the league record for home runs in April and May, hitting his 18th of the season, collecting along the way four RBI and his 20th stolen base. Elsewhere, a pretty slow night. Mike LaCoss–bought under the advice of the latest Rotisserie League book, which calls him a “candidate to be the next Mike Scott”; right, next time I buy Peter Golenbock’s book–gets hammered in five innings and loses. Glenn Davis’s hot streak petering out. The competition’s hotshot rookie, the Saint Louis Cardinal’s Joe Magrane, walks four and can’t make it through four innings. Meanwhile, the Cubs’ tough-luck Rick Sutcliffe again earns a win only to watch the Cubs’ bullpen drop it on the floor. Lee Smith loses the lead on an unearned run, and Ed Lynch and Mike Mason conspire to lose the game in the 12th.
May 31. Saturday-night box scores in Sunday’s Washington Post. God, Son of God, Jah, or merely The Franchise–whatever one calls him, he is the holiest gone cat alive; Eric Davis breaks the record with his 19th homer, drives in an additional four runs, and fails to make his heritage manifest by not stealing a base. He does, however, win the game for our Bill Gullickson, who allows only six base runners and one earned run in eight innings. The bad news, however, is that one of our young no-name pitchers, Dorn Taylor, is on the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates feeding God his manna. (Gotta find a way to move Steve Trout into his spot when he comes off the disabled list.) Elsewhere, quiet again reigns (except for a gift stolen base by the evanescent Bob Brenly). We don’t call Eric Davis The Franchise for nothing.
June 1. Sunday’s box scores. Goddamn these young pitchers anyway; we should’ve stayed with the names. The Montreal Expos’ Bob Sebra may not be the Philadelphia Phillies’ Bruce Ruffin, but if he’d had the same rookie season he’d be battling him for Sophomore Jinx of the Year. Sebra swallows four runs and 12 base runners in just over four innings. Steve Bedrosian’s save for the Phillies and the quality start of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Rick Honeycutt don’t begin to repair the damage. Elsewhere, another quiet day, except for Brenly’s two ribbies. On a less self-involved note, the Chisox’ Ivan Calderon hits two three-run homers in the first two innings, but the Sox lose to their Red cousins anyway, 10-9, dropping five games below .500. The Cubs lose another extra-inning affair.
June 2. Monday’s box scores. Never thought I’d quote Ronald Reagan, but, “Damn that Washington Post.” They give up after the Orioles are in and leave the rest of baseball uncovered. On to the beach.
June 3. Tuesday’s (and Monday’s late) box scores in USA Today. It’s catching- even USA Today–bought, every Wednesday, to get the complete National League stats–leaves two Tuesday night west-coast games uncovered. Third of the three Davis brothers–the San Francisco Giants’ Chili–drives in three Monday night, aided with two RBI by the red-hot Bob Brenly. Elsewhere, The Franchise goes 0 for 5 but steals a base. The young, no-name pitchers are inactive, thank God.
June 4. Wednesday’s (early) and Tuesday’s late box scores. Sutcliffe, who had recently had two wins stolen from him, wins his eighth while giving up seven runs in five innings. The weather here is rainy (a nor’easter followed us into town not 24 hours behind, prompting miniature golf to replace sunbathing), but in Chicago, obviously, it’s hot and the wind is blowing out as the Cubs win 22-7. Meanwhile, the next Mike Scott, Mike LaCoss, wins his sixth. Elsewhere, the Dodgers’ Franklin Stubbs ends a long drought with his ninth home run, while the relievers go one for two. The New York Mets’ Jesse Orosco gets hammered while Bedrosian earns a tough save. On the beach, it’s raining again. (Now playing miniature golf left-handed; still breaking par.)
June 5. Thursday night’s box scores. I haven’t been terribly impressed by Thomas Boswell’s books–his newspaper writing for the Washington Post doesn’t anthologize as well as the magazine writing of his better, Roger Angell–but I’m beginning to think he might be pleasant to wake up to every morning in the sports section. He writes this lead from the current men’s golf tournament, near D.C.:
A flood of morning birdies and a deluge of afternoon rain inundated the Kemper Open yesterday, leaving the new Tournament Players Club at Avenel stadium course in Potomac ankle deep in mud, glamorous leaders and controversy.
All the man needs is a serial comma. With a glance at this lead and the PGA list I have all I need to know about the event; on to the boxes. All is quiet, except for Stubbs’s homer and three RBI in a late Wednesday game. I devour this while on the Lewes-Cape May ferry going from Delaware to Jersey–travel day.
June 6. Quoting Reagan again: “Damn that New York Times.” Saw the better part of Dwight Gooden’s return to the New York Mets on a bar television in a Poughkeepsie Mexican restaurant. He looked quite sharp, while the fans’ behavior–they called him out for a curtain call after he left holding a 2-1 lead–was all the Broadway drama I wanted and more. Orosco came in to earn the save and, meal over, I left, thinking I’d see the full story in today’s box. The Times’s sports headline blared, “Gooden Returns to Shea, Fans Cheer,” or some such blarney; blarney, because the story only covered his appearance at batting practice and his impending start. The story told nothing of the game, and, in fact, nothing of any games. The paper went to bed with Gooden on the mound. I gave it away. “All the News That’s Fit to Print” indeed.
June 7. What a sucker. Bought a national edition of the Sunday New York Times. It had Friday’s scores (no boxes), Saturday’s schedule (no scores), and no news whatsoever. Burned twice by the same newspaper in two days. Bring on the weekend edition of USA Today.
June 8. Sunday’s box scores. Or the Cleveland Plain Dealer, for God’s sake. Beginning the second, shorter leg of the journey home, I find Eric Davis stealing his 25th base (where were 21 through 24?), while Orosco blows a save and Bedrosian picks up his 14th. Orosco’s heir, Randy Myers–whom we picked up off the ash heap after his ERA skyrocketed to something approaching the national debt–pitched excellently over two games in a doubleheader. Elsewhere, John Kruk, the hit machine, hits a homer for the San Diego Padres, while the red-hot Giants, Chili Davis and Bob Brenly, go a combined 0 for 8. The hotel room, however, had the first television I’d possessed in over a week, and ESPN, and with some Cubs highlights–Keith Moreland’s return to respectability–and word of a White Sox shutout I began to acclimate myself. Rejoining the Cubs, who just lost three of four to the first-place Cardinals; they are in second, two and a half games out, seven games above .500. The Sox, meanwhile, are eight games below .500, in sixth place, seven and a half games out.
We finished the drive back that day, Monday, picking up the Cubs’ three o’clock game on a network station in Goshen, Indiana (believe it, it’s on the map). There was Dewayne Staats doing the play-by-play, while Lou Boudreau blathered on and Jim Frey mispronounced a number of names. We were coming home. Frey, in fact, had that day returned from a three-day weekend, having given his daughter away in a wedding, and Harry Caray (there’s a comfortably grating voice, as homey as squeaky bedsprings) welcomed him back. Well, Frey said, you get away from home and you look at the box scores and you see Moreland coming out of it, you haven’t missed anything. How right he was.
We got back in time to see Lee Smith blow his third Sutcliffe victory, with Manny Trillo giving him a very undeserved win with a home run in the ninth. Good to be home.