Boom! There goes one flying out of here now. Boom! There goes another. It's home runs you want? Just stick around for a couple of pitches. Baseball's on an unprecedented homer binge. Mark McGwire, George Bell, Eric Davis, Cal Ripken Jr., Pete Incaviglia, Andre Dawson, Rob Deer, Dale Murphy and Mike Schmidt are going ding-ding-ding like antique fire engines. Talk about a rabbit ball! The other day Oscar Madison picked a brand new ball out of the bag and swears that before he could rub it up he heard it say, "Eh, what's up, Doc?"
Many people think this homer pace is incredible, and last week the Senators proved them right. The Senators hit 34 homers in six games, eight against the Indians Thursday night. John Doe, Moe-Don Dorcas, Doctor Gibson and Stun Gun Ginzburg each had five on the week; Gene McSparron, Orlando Jones and Windy Jackson, three each. But the league conducted an inquiry after Tito Mantequilla blasted four in that Thursday night massacre of the Indians. Mantequilla hadn't hit a ball out of the infield since May. (Cleveland starter Steve Carlton broke his 20-year silence to say, "Mantequilla's not strong enough to hit a golf ball into Lake Erie from the shore. He had to use a loaded bat. If any of those home runs were legitimate, I'll kill myself." Marvin Olshan, counsel to the Baseball Writers of America, called Carlton's promise "too good to be true.")
Mantequilla's bat was confiscated after the game and was, indeed, found to be villainous. While some bats are illegally corked in the middle to provide extra juice, the shaft of Mantequilla's bat was lined with golf balls. It was estimated that if a power hitter like Jose Canseco, using Mantequilla's bat, connected squarely, he might hit a baseball 900 feet.
A statement released in GM Elliott Suskind's name read: "On behalf of Tang Ye-lin and the whole Washington Senators organization, I wish to apologize for this shameful incident. Please be assured that we stand vigilant in our effort not to let it happen again. We will cooperate in every way possible to identify and punish the culprits. Tito Mantequilla assures me he didn't know the bat was loaded." (The commissioner's office ordered an inspection of all Senators bats. But Suskind regretfully informed Peter Ueberroth that the bats had mysteriously disappeared from RFK -- he suspected robbers -- and hadn't yet been found. "Whoever stole them had a very specific larceny list," observed Oscar Madison. "One item only: our bats. Not our balls or our other equipment. I'm guessing the thief is either a woodchuck or a golfer.")
While Suskind continues to insist the Senators are completely innocent, The Washington Post Magazine has learned that Mantequilla's hyped-up bat was just one of a series of unethical or illegal measures Tang Ye-lin has approved to make the Senators more competitive in the American League East:
Three weeks ago, Tang hired a former CIA agent, Jon Jeffress, and secretly flew with him to Haiti, where major league baseballs are manufactured. They returned with a batch of 350 "special-order" balls employing the latest in space-age and nuclear technology (see accompanying illustration). Tang puts these balls in play only when the Senators are at bat. They are the reason Tang now insists that fans return all balls hit into the seats at RFK. He claims it's a cost-cutting move, but in reality he doesn't want anyone to know how lively the balls are. Windy Jackson accidentally dropped one on the dugout floor last week, and it bounced up and blasted a hole in the ceiling.
When visiting teams are up, Tang makes sure the Senators' pitchers use balls that have been frozen overnight. The trapped moisture (adding weight) and the decreased resilience make them less likely to be hit out of the park.
To help his pitchers, Tang brought in Gaylord Perry to lecture on the art of doctoring a baseball. Perry demonstrated how sandpaper, thumbtacks, belt buckles and a catcher's shinguards can nick the ball and produce an exaggerated spin. Perry also demonstrated how to accomplish the same objective by dabbing the ball with slippery substances such as spit, vaseline, airplane glue and even laundry detergent. The day after Perry's lecture, Tyler Motherwell purchased $500 worth of various abrasives at Hechinger's and shut out the A's. The next day, however, Sonny Doyle's gambit of coating his pants with liquid Tide was undone when a light drizzle produced so many bubbles he looked like he was in a washing machine.
When speedy teams come in, Tang orders the base paths soaked to slow down the opposing runners. Against the Yankees, the grounds crew watered so heavily that Windy Jackson went out to third wearing waders. In that game, reserve catcher Tony Cadenza, whose throws to second normally require four bounces to get there, cut down Rickey Henderson attempting to steal. On his way to the dugout, Henderson told ump Ken Kaiser, "Can you believe that mud? Next time through, I'm taking a Jeep."
To get more Senators on base, Tang gave the top of the lineup hitters, Tito Mantequilla and Orlando Jones, flak jackets to wear underneath their jerseys, and demanded they crowd the plate and try to get hit by a pitch. When they objected on the grounds that it wasn't a very Christian thing to do, Tang said God Himself had spoken to him and suggested that they "take a bullet for Me."
To blunt the power of hard-hitting teams, Tang ordered his head groundskeeper, Michael Quint, not to mow the RFK infield or outfield grass. In tall grass, hard-hit balls wouldn't get through the infield or roll to the wall in the outfield. The downside of this idea was evident after recent home series against the A's, Orioles and Yankees. By then the grass was so tall that Moe-Don Dorcas' 4-foot-9 grandmother, Mary Lou, was lost for two days, wandering in centerfield.
In a further effort to help his hitters, Tang has also moved the fences in as much as 50 feet in the Senators' half of an inning. Retractable bleachers in left and right are surreptitiously moved on rails when the umpires and outfielders aren't looking. Against the Orioles, Gene McSparron hit a 260-foot homer over the 309-foot marker in the right-field corner. Emmanuel Lewis, visiting RFK that night, saw the short porch and told his agent, "I can hit one out of here."
When The Washington Post Magazine confronted Tang with these charges, he referred all inquiries to GM Suskind. Suskind said, "If Tang was that clever, a) we wouldn't be under .500; b) he'd be selling Jaguars, not Yugos; c) he wouldn't be into me for $250,000 from gin. :: SENATORS STUFF: Despite their rash of homers, Senators still only went 3-3 last week. Pitching continues to be open manhole Senators fall into. Worst of all, Senators' best pitcher, Tyler Motherwell (10-4, 2.94 ERA), has asked for two-month leave of absence to "pursue career opportunities and challenges in the private sector." Rumor has Motherwell becoming investment banker trainee at Lazard Freres . . . On orders of GM Suskind, Jbra's, a Romanian-Lithuanian bistro on upper Connecticut Avenue, now off-limits to Senators after owner Barbara Winnik called police to coax Windy Jackson and Pappy Doyle down from third-story roof garden after they'd taken off their clothes and were threatening to "fly to Rio." D.C. ambulance dispatched to taxi them to detox arrived on scene five hours later . . . In effort to get himself voted to All-Star team -- and collect $300,000 bonus -- Gene McSparron spent $150,000 on billboard space in all AL parks. In last two weeks, McSparron (.217, 6 HRs, 27 RBIs) moved from 41st to sixth in outfield voting . . . With July 4 doubleheader against Yankees coming, PR honchette Bobbi Fleckman touting "Doodle Dandy Day." Senators to give away spray paint and photos of George Steinbrenner. First prize for best graffiti artist: free ride on New York subway with Bernhard Goetz. ::