Called to ferret out a murderous villian, Sherlock Holmes arrived late at night (always) at a mountain-top castle (always) where he drew on his pipe (always) and, in answer to his babbling companion, (always) said, "I suspect no one, Watson." Puff, puff. "And I suspect everyone."
It disciples of the Cincinnati Reds have their wits about them, they'll put in a call to 221B Baker Street, for Holmes alone might solve The Case of the Missing Seven.
Seven of the 10 pitchers on the Reds' roster in last fall's World Series have vanished. The best of them, Don Gullet, is in New York. Money took him from the Reds. Elementary, Watson. But what of Rawly Eastwick, a superior reliever, and Gary Nolan, a wise and serviceable starter? Where have Pat Zachry, Pat Darcy and Santo Alcala taken their youthful promise? Remember Will McEnaney, who got the last out in the seventh game in each of the last two World Series. Manny Sarmiento, please let us know how you are.
Not everyone is losing sleep in worry over this case. Even as the Reds won successive world championships, it was suggested they did it in spite of the pitchers, not because of them; with those wonderful fielders and fearsome hitters, Raquel Welch could win 20 without using her curves. So the disappearance of seven bodies may seem inconsequential hardly worthy of Holmes' time. Maybe Kojak could wrap it up on his way to the lollipop store. Face is, though, the Reds are dead, and The Missing Seven is why.
If none of the seven is a Tom Seaver, all did reasonable work, perhaps exceeding their capabilities in such secure surroundings. Irony here. The Reds now have baseball's best pitcher, Seaver, but their staff only now deserves the derogation it suffered in the good old days. unless Seaver can start every other day and work relief between starts, the Reds' earned run average soon will be numbers that Miss Welch would envy.
Sparky Anderson knows it. You know the Reds' manager knows it because he won't talk about it. His boss, Reds' president Bob Howsam, disposed of the seven pitchers for reasons thought to range from politics to ability. Once 13 1/2 games behind the Dodgers and barely closer now, Anderson is conducting a pennant race with seven arms tied behind his back. But Howsam has made winners before and he'll do it again; so Anderson, who was hired from nowhere by Howsam and believes loyalty is a man's greatest attribute, maintains a loyal silence when anyone asks about his pitching staff. Like this . . .
Q. Sparky with all those guys gone, your pitching staff is full of names nobody ever heard. Can Seaver make that much difference?
Q. Seven guys . . .
Q. Eastwick, Nolan, Alcala . . .
Anderson. "Alcala?" (Said in a whisper heavy with incredulity.) "You don't want Alcala out there now, fighting for a pennant."
When Gullet chose the Yankees' money, Anderson promised never again to speak the name of his one-time pet. Eastwick publicly called Anderson "a latent liar" this month. Then he vanished.
Nolan publicly said he was tired of the pitchers' "second-class citizenship" on the Reds. Gone, just as Bobby Tolan was a few years ago when he made an issue of a grown man's right to a mustache. The Reds of Bob Howsam and Sparky Anderson are Middle America conformists (always).
The first day Tom Seaver was a Red, he pulled on the team's red stirrups. Tired to, anyway. The Reds' stirrups, unlike any other team's, are very short, revealing little of the white stockings under them. Very un-sexy. Very Red. "What is this?" Seaver said.
Joe Morgan, the league's Most Valuable Player the last two seasons, said loudly, "You will wear them - and you will like them." Smiling, the man who defied the autocracy of the Mets' chairman, M. Donald Grant, pulled on the stirrups.
In two starts for the Reds, Seaver is 1-1, beating Montreal on a three-hit shutout and losing to the Dodgers, 3-2. It is a pleasure, he said, to play with these wonderful fielders and fearsome hitters. Anderson-already is talking about next year - "If we don't win it this year, it's not the end of the world because that big horse will put 25 wins on the board next year and we will win it then" - but Seaver figures to win 12 or 13 more this season, keeping the Reds within miracle distance of the Dodgers.
Seaver, meanwhile, seems at home in the Reds' clubhouse full of big-time needlers. The pitching coach, Larry Shepard, consulted Seaver on a crossword puzzle. He needed the name of David Coperfield's wife. Johnny Bench, at the next locker, said plaintively "I remember when Shep used to come to me."
Seaver said, "That was for a three-letter word for obese."
Seaver and Shepard never did come with Mrs. Copperfield's name.
It was Dora.