You'd think after all he's done and all he's been through that a couple of home runs in May wouldn't mean much to Fred Lynn.
You'd think that after being American League MVP and playing in the World Series as a rookie back in 1975 as a Red Sox, after being MVP of the playoffs in 1982 as an Angel and after making nine All-Star teams, he'd be over the goose bumps.
You'd think after hitting more All-Star game homers (four) than anybody else except Stan Musial, after winning a batting title, two slugging crowns and four Gold Gloves, he'd have a corner on blase.
After all the tumbling catches and crashes against fences, after all the injured ankles, toes, wrists, ribs and knees that have made him miss more than 330 games in 10 seasons, you'd guess he'd be immune to either ups or downs.
After the million-dollar-a-year contracts and the controversies, the adulation for his grace followed quickly by the criticism that he's fragile, you'd think nothing could get under Lynn's skin again. Well, nothing short of a World Series.
That shows how little we know about Fred Lynn, one of the least grasped important players of his period.
Last Friday night, he broke up a tie game with a sudden-death home run in the ninth inning. On Saturday, he turned a one-run Baltimore deficit into a two-run victory with another sudden-death home run in the ninth inning.
In the entire history of the Baltimore Orioles, no player had hit ninth-inning game-winning home runs in consecutive games.
"I bet there are a lot of other teams on which it's never happened, either," Lynn said with a laugh tonight. "I've never seen it. I've never heard of it. Not even as a kid. When I was running around the bases the second time, I thought, 'This isn't really happening.' "
On Sunday, Lynn hit another ninth-inning home run against Minnesota, this time a three-run job in a lopsided defeat. Just keeping his hand in.
"Those two game-winners," Lynn said, "gave me a sense of euphoria that only an athlete will ever know. After all the trials and tribulations that you go through . . . you work so hard just for that fleeting moment . . . and then it's gone."
His whole career has been an illustration of that quote: euphoria, trials and tribulations, hard work to regain that fleeting moment of stardom.
So far, his final words have always been "and then it's gone."
Lynn understands, even more than most players, the ephemeral and fickle quality of his world. Few players have had Lynn's sweet gifts, his ability to please the eye just by jogging to his position. On the other hand, few players have a bio that lists "major injuries" for half of their seasons: 1976, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1983.
Few players have looked so good so soon or spent so long listening to themselves described as disappointments. No one, it sometimes seems, has ever forgiven Lynn for his fabulous rookie year. Or, for coming back four years later with 39 homers, 122 RBI and a .333 average. That second superstar season has underlined all those years before and since in which Lynn has had his typical 22 homers and 80 RBI.
Few players have as many obvious talents as Lynn, or as many hidden limits. He's quick but not truly fast, strong but not powerful, intuitive but streaky. He's never hit left-handed pitching well -- .253 for his career versus .312 against right-handers. He's always been a hot first-half player who got tired as warm weather wore him down.
Far from being "Fragile Freddie," as some players call him, he actually went to USC on a football scholarship and plays baseball with far too much abandon for his own good. "Fences don't scare me at all," he said today. "I've tackled 230-pound running backs on the USC varsity. That's scary."
Lynn looks languid and casual; in fact, he tends to be intense and alert. Lynn looks like he'd wear high-fashion duds to a fancy night club when the sun's down and head for the beach as soon as it comes back up; in fact, he's a blue-jeans guy who likes to sit in a hotel coffee shop and read the late-night box scores.
"I don't know where all this 'beach' stuff -- about me being 'a California ballplayer' -- came from," he said this spring. "I never grew up around the beach and that 'laid-back' attitude. That's not me at all."
Some wondered if Lynn, with a $6.8 million five-year contract, would be resented by other Orioles. More misunderstanding. Lynn's attitude is far closer to that of nose-in-the-dirt Rich Dauer, his old USC buddy. Lynn's a hard sliding, chance- taking player who never seeks the spotlight or grandstands.
In fact, the Baltimore clubhouse might be the first one he's ever been in where he feels almost entirely at home.
"I never felt any real pressure here, even from the first day," he said tonight. "Eddie (Murray) and Cal (Ripken) are the big guns. I snuck in here as a protector to bat behind them and get them some good pitches to hit.
"It's very nice this way. I've never been a person to hog the attention. I'm more the other way.
"I've always enjoyed team-first clubs. I'm real sensitive to that. You know what a team's all about. You feel it in the clubhouse. I knew in spring training that this club was tight-knit. They've won and they know how to win."
So far, everything has gone exactly as Lynn hoped. He's played every game without a hint of an injury. He used his "contact swing" until two weeks ago "because I was conscious of how a bad start could (snowball). I stopped choking up on the bat about two weeks and the home runs (seven in 15 games) started to come."
With 16 RBI in his last 15 games before tonight, he has shown Baltimore a streak of Lynn at his best. He loves big crowds and big games -- at least when he's healthy. He's hit .517 in his two playoff series and slugged .900 in 20 All-Star at bats.
However, he's also -- in true Lynn fashion -- raised expectations extremely high. Because he makes stardom look so easy when he's torrid, he looks nonchalant when he's cold.
Even in these days when he's living a sort of ninth-inning home run dream, Lynn wants one thing made perfectly clear. He didn't come to Baltimore for stats or cheers or even the money, although he'll take them.
"I've never played on a world champion," he said. "That's why I came over here."