Maury Wills once told us, way before he got his shot at managing in the majors, that he was writing a book: "How to Steal a Pennant." "May way versus the 'book' way," explained the pride of Cardozo High's class of 1950. Now one might say, he's tried to add a new chapter: Wills' way versus the rule book way -- and it's cost him.
He shouldn't have tried it against Billy Martin.
The gamesmanship unfolded the other night as Wills, Seattle's manager, tried to snooker Martin's mighty Oakland A's. Hey, Martin's mighty Oakland A's. Hey, Martin showed umpire Bill Kunkel before the game, the Kingdome batter's box is seven feet long instead of the prescribed six! And the extra foot is out toward the pitcher! Wills said it was not big deal, a couple of inches, not a foot, just a little groundskeeping alteration he ordered because Mariner Tom Paciorek has been stepping out of the box when he hit. Martin noted, though, that he had breaking-ball pitcher Rick Langford working that night and batters being able to move up a foot in the box could cut at pitches before the curve broke.
Kunkel, measuring a full foot of violation, put Wills on report to American League HQ. "That's like setting the bases 88 feet apart instead of 90," gasped Dick Butler, AL umpiring supervisor. That'll cost you a two-game suspension and a fine, President Lee MacPhail's office notified Wills.
The fine was "about $500." The suspension began yesterday in Minnesota, with third-base coach Cananea Reyes taking over the club from a "shocked and dumbfounded" Wills.