Bob Welch stood up in front of his Los Angeles Dodger teammates in Vero Beach, Fla., yesterday and delivered a dramatic moment to go with his 1978 World Series confrontation with Reggie Jackson.
"It wasn't that I drank that much, it's just that I couldn't handle it," the young pitcher said in relating that he had undergone 36 days at an alcoholic treatment center in Wickenburg, Ariz. -- "a painful experience" just completed in mid-February.
Now, he said, he feels good mentally and physically.
"I'm proud of myself," Welch declared.
Score one for former Dodger ace Don Newcombe, head of the club's community relations department and traveling lecturer for HEW on alcoholism and alcohol abuse. "I heard whispers in the clubhouse, and (about) some of the things (Welch) did when he drank," said reformed alcoholic Newcombe, who helped Welch recognize his problem.
"I realized," said Welch -- the phenom of 1978 (up at midseason to go 7-4 with 2.03 ERA, helping L.A. win the pennant) and sore arm 5-6, 4.00 ERA struggler of 1979 Dodger stragglers -- "that I couldn't come to grips with the problem by myself . . . But it took a week, maybe 10 days (treatment), before I realized that I had a problem, that it could be affecting my pitching performance."
Welch said he began drinking "when I was 16 or 17 because everyone else did it." At 21, he had millions of eyes glued to TV as he dueled Jackson in the ninth-inning clutch of Series Game 2 and saved victory by fanning "Mr. October."
At 23, Welch may have saved his future. . . .
Maryland and Syracuse may or may not meet in the NCAA East Region final next week, but they'll have a hard time avoiding a basketball collision come December.
Terp Athletic Director Carl James has closed a deal to send Lefty Driesell's team to the Carrier Classic in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse's athletic home-to-be (football capacity 50,000; basketball 25,000). Wagner and Kent State will be the other schools in the four-team tournament -- at half the price being paid Maryland . . .
One Olympian gold medalist out of pro hockey for now: left wing Phil Verchota. "I don't want to take the money and run," Verchota says, heading back to U. of Minnesota to complete business administration studies . . .
Billie Jean King, the day after belting out Martina Navratilova for the Houston Avon title: "I woke up this morning, and I thought, 'Gee, I'm not as tired as I usually am.' Then it came to me: 'You know very well why you aren't tired, you donkey. You won, you little devil you' . . . I've been playing better and better. To me, these are the good old days."
Ring record scandal remembered: In announcing that Thomas (Roughhouse) Fischer of Dayton will take on undefeated New York heavyweight Gerry Cooney, in a N.Y. Hilton ballroom dinner-fight June 21, KO Promotions said Fischer's record is "30-4, with 18 knockouts, and we got it from his wife" . . .