It was a weird week, even by Senator standards.
How weird was it?
"It was the weirdest, wackiest, craziest dang week of baseball I ever seen," Pappy Doyle, the Senators' 44-year-old resident raconteur, said last night. "And I seen a lotta weird weeks in the 40 years since I usta wrap a road apple up with electrical tape and whack it around the old cow pasture back on my granpappy's worm farm down in Hog Holler, N.C."
Pappy was sitting in the trainer's room after beating the Royals 5-0 in his first shutout in eight years. His ancient right arm (and two six-packs of Molson Golden) were packed in ice. The victory -- and the beer -- had fueled his natural loquaciousness.
"It's not just that we won all six games we played -- though that's fair-to-middlin' unusual, I'll admit -- it's all the surroundin' doin's that were just flat-out weird. Take Monday's game. Danny Broccoli beats the Twins 6-2 but gets thrown out of the game in the eighth for beanin' his third batter of the night. Well, that's not too unusual. Danny-boy's a tad high-strung. So he's takin' a shower and listenin' to the game on TV and he hears there's a bench-clearin' brawl goin' on. So out he comes, runnin' back on the field with just a towel wrapped around his waist and still all drippin' wet. And he hits Kirby Puckett with a sucker punch and then scoots back into the shower before the umps see a thing. That's a bit weird, wouldn't you say?"
With a loud, painful groan, Pappy lifted his much-abused arm out of the ice and laid it on a soft pillow. Then, with his left hand, he picked up his black leather bag -- "my doctor's satchel," he calls it -- and began his personal post-pitching ritual. He pulled out a bottle of Texas Pete red-hot pepper sauce and sprinkled a liberal dollop on his pitching wing. He rubbed it into his leathery epidermis while he continued his story:
"Then there was Tuesday, and you gotta admit that Shaky Faloon Paper Bag Night is one of the strangest promotional gimmicks you ever seen: Ever' fan in the park gets a bag printed to look like an empty seat to wear over their heads when Shaky comes to bat. That was a stroke of genius, don't you think? Here's a guy who bops the ol' horsehide like Babe Ruth in batting practice, but as soon as he sees all them eyes starin' at him and hears the roar of the peanut vendors, why, he gets so nervous he can't swat a fly. So ever' time Shaky gets up to bat, ever'body puts on their bag and Shaky puts on a Walkman with a tape that Major Banks made up special for him. It's fulla lonesome music -- "Only the Lonely," "Alone Again, Naturally," "I'm Mr. Lonely." And danged if that crazy scheme don't work. In the bottom of the ninth, with us down by two and two guys on base, Ol' Shake proceeds to bang a tater over the right field fence to win the game. Crowd didn't see it, o'course, but they loved it anyway."
Pappy sucked on a beer, pulled a jar of China Bowl Chili Paste With Garlic from his bag, heaped a huge gob on his arm and started rubbing. "Whoa, boy, that's hotter than a sailor on shore leave," he said with a shudder. Then he continued his story:
"Wednesday I git to the ballpark early and what do I find? A whole crowd of crazy people standin' in front of the clubhouse door demandin' to see John Doe. I say, 'Who should I say is askin' for him?' And about six of them say, 'His wife,' and a dozen say, 'His mother.' Well, I look at the moms and some of 'em's black and some of 'em's Chinese and even the white ones don't look much like Doe. And suddenly, they start screamin', 'You're not his mother, you hussy, I'm his mother,' and they commence to swingin' purses and pullin' hair. I barely got outa there alive, I swear. Ever since Doe got famous hittin' that tater in the All-Star Game, ever'body in America claims to be his long-lost kin."
Pappy cracked open another cool brew, poured some New Orleans Jubilee Cajun Mustard Sauce on his forearm and winced. "Hoo, boy, that's hotter than a June bride in a feather bed," he said as sweat poured off his arm.
"Thursday was the strangest of all. Gene McSparron, who's the only ballplayer I ever seen who gets psyched for a game by readin' Foreign Affairs, hits a tater to tie it in the ninth and another to win it in the 11th. Well, naturally, all the word herders gather 'round his locker to ask him how he done it and how he feels about it. And it musta gone to his head because he proceeds to announce that he's a candidate for president. At first we all thought he was kiddin', but he was dead serious. He starts makin' a political speech, and one of the writers interrupts to ask whether he's a Democrat or a Republican. 'Neither,' he says. 'I mean both. I mean, I'm gonna be a free agent and take the best offer.' Now, I'm no historian or nuthin', but I'll wager it was the first time a guy announced for president while standin' in just a jockstrap. Later on, I kinda sidled up to Gene and said, 'I wish ya the best o' luck, ol' buddy, but you know the president only makes 200 grand. That's about a million-dollar pay cut for you.' And he says to me, he says, 'Pappy, that 200 is just a base pay. I'm gonna ask for incentive clauses, too -- you know, $100,000 if I balance the budget, $250,000 for an A-bomb treaty, that kind of thing.' "
Pappy killed another brew and poured a jar of Old El Paso Hot Picante Salsa on his pitching elbow. "Whew! That's hotter than a Tijuana bachelor party!" he said as a red vapor rose from his arm.
"On Friday, our female phee-nom came back and had the Royals talkin' to themselves. God bless that li'l gal -- she weighs about as much as Babe Ruth's bat, but she throws harder than Goose Gossage. Averaging 10 Ks a game, too. Her only problem is those dingers. Man, when those dudes hit her pitches solid, that ball goes about 600 feet, don't it? They don't hit her often, though, and she never lets 'em do it when there's guys on base. She's somethin', that dame. And she can drink you under the table, too. I know. I made the rounds with her the other night. Dang near killed me. 'Round about 3 in the mornin', she takes me out to the parkin' lot and teaches me to throw that underhand sinker of hers. I struck out Brett on it twice tonight. I thought I'd tried 'em all -- knucklers, spitters, split-fingers. Hell, I've even used pine tar on the dang ball. But I never thought a l'il gal would teach me how to strike out George Brett throwin' underhand.
"I needed that lesson, too. The ol' arm ain't what it usta be -- and it was never anything Sandy Koufax hankered after. On TV these days they start a commercial after I release the ball and then cut back in time to see it reach the plate. I usta think I'd be back on the ol' worm farm before the season ended. Now I figure I may pitch another 20 years."
Pappy popped the cap on another beer and spooned some Jamaican Hot Pepper Sauce on his bicep. He rubbed it gingerly into the skin, then wrapped the arm in plastic. "I'll marinate this sucker overnight and it'll be as good as new in the morning. I call it 'Pappy Doyle's Szechuan arm.' When I die, my body goes to Georgetown University Medical School, and my arm goes to Trader Vic's. They're gonna use it for a poo-poo platter." :: SENATORS STUFF: When Minnesota's Kent Hrbek hit home run to give Twins brief lead Monday night, utility infielder Dwayne Ford shocked teammates by leaping up in dugout and yelling, "Aw right! Way to go!" Angry coach Nick Barbario asked, "You rootin' for the other side now?" "Oh, sorry, guys," Ford replied. "It's just that I've got Hrbek on my Rotisserie League team . . . In gesture reminiscent of Babe Ruth's famous called-shot home run, Gene McSparron stepped out of batter's box Friday night and dramatically pointed bat toward left field fence. On next pitch, he grounded weakly to second base . . . Tony Cadenza caught stealing for 12th straight time Tuesday; Tim Laudner threw him out by 20 feet. "I'd have nailed him by 40 feet, but I was laughing so hard, I double-pumped," said Laudner. "I've seen guys run faster carrying kegs of beer." Cadenza said Major Banks didn't send him; he was running on his own, just as he was other 11 times. "If he does that again," Banks said, "he'd better have his suitcase with him."