If Ozzie Smith's home run on Monday in St. Louis is the most unlikely story of the 1985 baseball playoffs, then Steve Farr can't be far behind.
When the season started, Farr was home in La Plata, Md. He was out of work, having been released by -- of all people -- the Cleveland Indians. Friday night in Kansas City, Farr, who pitched 10 years ago at American University, came out of the bullpen with the Royals trailing. 5-2. He pitched 4 1/3 innings of shutout ball.
Farr, a 1974 DeMatha graduate, had gone from La Plata to baseball Shangri-La. He was a winning pitcher in the playoffs.
"The phone calls I've gotten since Friday have been unbelievable," he said tonight, sitting in the Royals dugout prior to Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.
"My family had driven out for the weekend so they were there to see it, but I was amazed by the number of people who saw it on television and called. Friday, I was just happy to pitch well. Now, it's starting to sink in a little."
It may not be until this winter that he truly understands how far he has come in six months. When the Indians released him he was 28 and had spent less than a season in the majors. He had left AU after his freshman year to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates and bounced through their system and the Indians' system until getting a big-league shot in 1984. After a 3-11 season with a 4.58 ERA, the Indians let him go.
"I thought when I went to spring training that I might end up back in Triple-A," he said. "They had a couple guys who had been hurt who were going to make the club just by showing up. I didn't get much chance to pitch in the spring and I thought I was going down.
"Then one day Phil Seghi (then the Indians' general manager) and (Manager) Pat Corrales called me in and said they were releasing me. They said it was the best thing for me." He laughed. "As it turns out, they were right.
"It was kind of a depressing time for me. You get released, that's just like getting fired from a job . . . I had friends who had been out of college a few years who were making 30 grand and up and they kept telling me, 'Give up this game; start making some money.' "
When the Pirates signed him they gave him no bonus -- "I didn't even get a free cup of coffee out of them" -- and when the Indians released him they only had to pay him one-sixth of the major league minimum ($60,000).
"I was just about to go work for some friend of mine in construction when I got the call that Kansas City wanted to sign me. My agent really didn't think I should go there because their staff was pretty tight. But the other offers I'd gotten had been Double-A. The Royals were willing to send me to Triple-A.
"All we were looking for was a 10th man in Triple-A," John Schuerholz, the Royals' general manager, said. "The Indians were in town and Corrales mentioned Farr. I asked (Indians General Manager) Joe Klein about him and he said, 'He's no better than Triple-A.' I said that was all we were looking for."
Sent to Omaha, Farr blossomed. After three months he was 10-4 with an ERA of 2.02. He credits Jamie Quirk, the Royals utilityman who was his catcher in Omaha.
"Jamie is a left-handed hitter and he taught me to think like a left-handed hitter," Farr said. "I had always thrown my slider when I was behind because I was afraid guys would jump on my fast ball. But guys will jump on any pitch if they're looking for it. Jamie got me mixing things up and it really helped me."
The Royals recalled him on Aug. 8. "He forced us to bring him up," Schuerholz said. "We were all messed up with our middle relief and he was pitching great ball in Omaha."
"I figured I'd be the mop-up man," Farr said. But when he walked into Dick Howser's office on his first day back in the big leagues, he was told he was starting the second game of that day's doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers.
"I told Steve right away we didn't call him up to watch," Howser said. "He's thrown the ball well almost every time we've given it to him. He knows he has to throw strikes and he's done that consistently. That's all I can ask."
That is what Howser asked Friday. Farr delivered. "I know guys who have played 10 years in Cleveland and they'll never sniff the playoffs," Farr said tonight. "I'm here. Whatever happens after this, nobody can take this season and these last few days away from me."