The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on May 21, 1986 · Page 23
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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio · Page 23

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Wednesday, May 21, 1986
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Earley CONTINUED FROM PAGE B-l "It was the pits," Amy recalls. "He was treated like a subhuman. It was degrading. I thought, 'Is this what he wants? Is it worth it?' Finally, after his American roommate left, Bill said the heck with it. He came home and told the Cubs, 'Release me if you want. I'm not going back to Mexico.' " It was not a good year for Earley. A few weeks previous, he had come home from Mexico to be with his ailing mother, who died shortly later. Just getting out of Mexico to visit her proved a considerable adventure. "I had to get up at 5:30 in the morning and jump on the back of a truck with a Mexican euv who was going with me because he spoke tne language, isaney said. " i hen, I had to ride a sweatv bus for three hours, standing up, just to get to the airport . . . 1 don t know why I went back to Mexico. I felt like I owed it to myself, to my career, to stick with it. But its the lowest I've ever been." It was then that Earley first realized the dream might be over. Few make it to top The odds of an American male, age 20-39, playing in the big leagues are 62,500-to-l. There are 16 players in the big leagues for every one million Americans of that age, according to Bill Deane, senior research associate at the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown. Only 13,000 players have appeared in the majors since the formation of the National League in 1876. "Expansion" from 16 to 26 teams has not watered down talent in the major leagues, Deane says. "The easiest it's been to make the big leagues was in 1914-15 when the ratio was 37 players per million," Deane said. "It's become progressively more difficult. The number of teams has expanded by a multiple of IV2, but the population has tripled." The attraction of other major sports for top athletes has siphoned some of the baseball talent. But just by signing a pro contract, let alone excelling in Triple A, Earley is in a select group. Author Roger Kahn says in his new book, "Good Enough To Dream," that only 500 of the 1.15 million high school seniors who like to play baseball will sign pro base ball contracts this June. That makes the odds 2,300-to-l against a senior signing a pro contract. In 1974, Earley was on the wrong side of that 2,300-to-l ratio, even though he was one of the best all-around athletes in Elder's history. He played on state championship teams in basketball and baseball. But he wasn't good enough to be drafted. Basketball interfered "My senior year, basketball was over late and I only had a couple of times to throw in the gym, Earley recalled. "I really aired it out 6ne day and the next day we played Finneytown. There must have been six to eight scouts there. I didn't have anything left. The scouts said, 'Geez, this guy isn't throwing like he did last year.' And that's about the last I saw of them. If I'd had any offer at all, I'd have taken it. My dream was to pitch in the big leagues." Trial CONTINUED FROM PAGE B-l ordered off at least one of those networks. But the only new information elicited was Rozelle's disclosure of the offer of the USFL job, which he said took place in 1982, before the new league had played a game. "Were you ever offered a job as commissioner of the USFL?" "Yes," Rozelle replied. "I told them I was already the NFL commissioner and I didn't accept it. "And how much money did they offer you?" asked Rothman, but before Rozelle could answer, Myerson objected and U.S. District Judge Peter K. Leisure sustained it, so Rozelle didn't answer. Rozelle said the offer was made in early 1982, before the USFL began operations. Asked during a recess for other particulars, includ Akeem CONTINUED FROM PAGE B-l players on my team if I saw that they were not trying as hard as they could." The captain of the Rockets is the other half of Houston's Twin Towners, Ralph Sampson, who sometimes is accused of disappearing in games and wandering away from the basket. Not so Olajuwon, who thrives under the basket. "He's the man," teammate Mitchell Wiggins said. He has been particularly so in this series against the defending NBA champion Lakers, who seem almost unable to stop him. "We have to make him work for every point," Johnson said. "He's working, but he has to work a little harder. "If he only has to make one move, he's too good and nobody cans top him. And that's what he's been doing. One move, one fake in the lane and he's got it Since graduating from Elder 12 years ago, the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Earley has added 15 pounds to his frame and a moustache and a few wrinkles to his face. More importantly, he's added a wife, two children and a steady income. "The fans give me abuse sometimes," he says, smiling. "They look at the program and see that I'm 30. They yell, 'Hey, Earley! Why don't you get a real job, ya' bum!' I laugh at them. Sometimes I tell them, 'Hey! I'm making more money than you are and I enjoy what I'm doing.' " He says he's making about $33,000 a year, thanks largely to playing winter ball. He's played in every country on the winter-ball circuit Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Mexico. "A Triple A player can make anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000 per month and that doesn't include housing and meal money, all of which is paid for," he said. Toss in some American capitalism and there is some real money to be made. Earley and his seven American teammates went on strike one night against the owner of their Venezuelan team because he missed their first paycheck. "The fans and front office got real hyper because we were in first at the time and they'd never won the league championship," Earley said. "The owner paid up in a hurry." He also had to pay the Americans for the incentives in their contracts $1,000 for first place, $1,000 for winning the playoff and $1,000 for winning the championship. Winter ball pays "We picked up three grand in a week-and-a-half. In three months time, I saved $12,500. That's why you play winter ball. It's allowed me to stay in the game," Earley says. Venezuela is a tougher tour than the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. There is no American TV, no beach, a language problem. Earley tells of fans starting bonfires and dancing in the stands and pelting an umpire with oranges and liquor bottles. Earley prefers the Dominican: rice-and-beans, roasted pig on a spit, pizza topped with goat cheese, beach boys climbing trees and slashing coconuts from which the juice is drunk and the flesh eaten. "But you see a lot of poverty there, too, and it makes you appreciate what you have," Earley said. "A shack in the States is that much better than what these people have on $20 a month shacks made out of cardboard and carts-and-don-keys to travel about." But there's no beating the baseball: "That one little city of San Pedro has produced more ballplayers per capita than anywhere in the world Pedro Guerrero, Juan Samuel, Rico Carty, Rafael Ramirez, George Bell . . . Kids play all day outside the stadium. They have sticks for bats, crummy balls and cardboard on their hands." Among Earley's teammates in his lVz seasons in the Dominican have been Mario Soto, Domingo Ramos, Alfredo Griffin, Guerrero, Samuel and Bell. "It's by far the best league I've ever played in," he says. As he's done the past two years, Earley will hook up with one of the ing who had made the offer, Rozelle said he couldn't answer now "because I'm a witness." Later, just before the court adjourned for the day, Rozelle testified that at the time the USFL was formed, the new league came to the NFL for help and the NFL complied. But Myerson objected to further questions on that line. As for the Harvard study, one of three key documents Myerson says will make the USFL case, Rothman spent part of the day emphasizing his point that the NFL had never implemented it. His principal tool was the letter from Moyer to Jack Donlan, executive director of the Management Council, the club owners' labor arm, under whose auspices the study was presented to 65 NFL executives. Rozelle testified he or or pin you under the hoop and dunk. You can't let it be so easy." Someone said Olajuwon has overshadowed Sampson in this series. "Akeem is probably going to overshadow Ralph forever because of all he can do," Johnson said. "It's not a knock on Ralph. "The way he operates down low, he knows there's nobody who can stop him one-on-one. And he can score off the glass, too. And he can score off the break because he runs, too. The stats are going to tell you that." "He's still got a lot to learn and can go so much further with his ability," Fitch said. "But some of what he's accomplished already is extraordinary. "He has that special ability to reach down and come up with something extra in the clutch. When you jump on his back, more times than not he'll carry you." ; rw,,,W!"M""JI ' 1 . J. -JiiMU iMJ..i mxwmm .. . ! 1 I I ' " ft ,' ' J It The Associated PressBud Kraft Bill Earley receives some exercise instructions from fellow Louisville teammate and roommate Dave Rajsich. two teams in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this winter. Joining him will be another Cincinnatian, Skeeter Barnes, who is also a staple on the winter-ball circuit. Earley's big-league teammates in Puerto Rico have included Gary Redus, Brad Komminsk, Randy O'Neal and Roger Mason. Ironically, the same thing keeping Earley out of the big leagues is keeping him in winter ball: Reputation. "Once you get in the league, and you do well, you're going to have a job because they're going to remember you," Earley said. "San Juan is the best place to play. It's the most Americanized. You live right on the beach. You have cable TV." Louisville good to him Earley's favorite minor-league city and he's had plenty to choose from (Geneva, N.Y.; Midland, Tex.; Wichita, Kan.; Des Moines, Iowa; and Oklahoma City, Okla.) is Louisville. He commutes the 220-mile roundtrip each day when his team is playing at home. He says Redbirds owner A. Ray Smith, like nobody else in minor-league baseball, treats players like major leaguers. "The best example I can give is that even though Triple A meal money is $14 a day, A. Ray kicks in an extra $11 out of his own pocket for each guy. You throw your dirty uniform on the floor and the guy dered Moyer to write the letter. "Much of the content of the presentation seems obvious," Moyer wrote in part, "and the remainder offers approaches that are largely impractical or legally impermissible. ... In two prior instances of two-league competition with the NFL during Commissioner Rozelle's tenure, the league has acted with an eye on both the practical and legal limitations and we intend to do so again." The discussion of the television contracts was filled with procedural wrangles and objections centering on Rozelle's qualifications to answer questions about television. But the gist of Rozelle's testimony was that none of the NFL's television negotiations was specifically aimed at tying up all three networks. v . f . picks it up and washes it and it's hanging in your locker the next day. He shines your shoes . . . All you have to think about is winning, and that's all A. Ray wants. He wants to draw fans." Soon, Earley's wife, Amy, and their two children, Jessica, 2xh, and Billy, 11 months, will move into a Louisville apartment. As has often been the case, Amy has "stood in" for her husband in recent days. Earley's father, Ralph, died suddenly three weeks ago. Earley has dedicated the season to him. Earley attended the births of both his children Jessica in Des Moines, Billy in Oklahoma City but it was Amy's girlfriends who took her home from the hospital. When Jessica was three months old, Amy had to fly her back to the States from Venezuela to see "a competent doctor" as Bill stayed behind to play ball. "There are times I wish he was around, but overall, I'm happy because he's happy," Amy says. "I figure we'll play as long as they're willing to give him a paycheck. We have a house, food, clothes and two beautiful kids. He's supporting us, doing what he does best. As long as he's playing, he's got a chance. "The tough part is when he's pitching really well, and another left-hander gets called up. That's like a slap in the face. It's hard to pick him up at times like that and say, 'Go back out there.' You start wondering, 'What do you have to do to get called up?' " MARK SMITH "AMERICA'S DEALER" KAWASK1 1000 ONLY ALMOST Vi PRICE 81 YAMAHA XS400H '899 81 YAMAHA SR500H '998 '82 YAMAHA MAXIM '1699 '83 VENTUR ROYALE '8899 ADULT FULL SIZE ATV's"$80S ALL MODELS REDUCED WHILE SUPPLIES LAST NO MONEY DOWN NO FREIGHT OR PREP CHARGES MOPEDS $799 ORIG LIST HOURS: MON.-THUR. 10-8 TUES.-WED. CINCINNATI COLERAIN AVE. BEHIND JOSEPH CHEVROLET 385.2273 1 1 Wednesday, May 21, 1986 THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER SportSB-7 'I deserve a shot' After Earley's miserable six weeks in Mexico in 1982, the Cubs told him to rejoin the Des Moines team, which was playing in Louisville. Earley started pitching in relief and began what he views as his final run at the bigs unless there is expansion. He was 4-2 with four saves in '82, 5-6 with two saves in '83 and 6-6 with six saves in '84, all with the Cubs' Triple A farm team. He was 7-4 with 12 saves in '85 for the Texas Rangers' Triple A team and had the best stretch of his career: 30 consecutive scoreless innings. "My attitude in '80 (after his two outstanding minor-league seasons) was 'I deserve a shot,' " Earley said. "But the velocity thing kept coming up. 'He doesn't have the velocity,' was the rap. But a sinkerballer, a forkballer, doesn't need velocity. My attitude now is the same as it was then I deserve a shot." Earley is a few hours short of his physical education degree from Miami. He has been offered minor-league coaching jobs by the Cubs and Rangers. He says he may one day take a pro or college coaching job. He was taught his forkball by Fred Martin, the same person who taught the Atlanta Braves' Bruce Sutter the split-fingered fastball when Sutter was with the Cubs's Double A team at Midland, Tex. The forkball and split-finger are similar pitches they break downwardbut the latter is much harder to grip and is thrown with considerably more velocity. A fork-ball has more of a "tumbling" effect when it gets to the plate, Earley says. Earley compares himself to his buddy, Charlie Leibrandt, the former Reds' pitcher now at Kansas City, who is able to throw fastballs and breaking balls at various speeds with good location. "I look at him and I think, 'I can do the same thing,' " Earley says. "But I've got to get the shot up there to prove it to them." In the National League, San Diego's Craig Lefferts is the man with whom Earley compares himself: "He's the set-up man for 'The Goose.' (Goose Gossage). Lefferts isn't going to strike out a lot of guys." Never in right place Unless Earley's luck takes a sudden turn, the lead footnote on his career will be that he wasn't ever in the right place at the right time. Had he still been with the Cubs last season, he likely would have been called up to the bigs. The Cubs' entire staff went on the disabled list. The Cubs called up Derek Botelho, Jay Bailer, Reggie Patterson, Ron Meredith, Steve Engel and John Abrego. Only Bailer has stuck with the Cubs. The rest are in the minors or out of baseball. Had Earley been at this stage of his career in 1976, he may have been taken in the expansion draft by the Seattle Mariners or Toronto Blue Jays. Baseball's next expansion will probably come too late. "Bill's not the only guy caught in between like that," says St. Louis' Lee Thomas. "If expansion came along in a year or two, he'd really benefit by it. But I don't know what's going to happen. It seems like they've put it (expansion) on the back burner." '82 KAWASKI KZ 440 LTD...' 11 99 '82 KAWASKI KZ 550 '1399 '82 KAWASKI KZ750 CSR ..'1499 '85 ZL 900 ELIMINATOR '3799 Vi PRICE now $399 10-7 f Rl. 10 8 SAT. 10-5 COLUMBUS W. BROAD AT 1-270 272.2320 82 KZ1000 CSR Louisville manager Jim Fregosi - wasn't optimistic when he was . asked to assess Earley's chances of being called up to the Cardinals this season: "It'd be very difficult with (Ken) Dayley and guys like that up there. With five guys in the ' bullpen up there, it's tough for . , , them to go with three left-handed pitchers." But Fregosi, who played in the big leagues until he was 38 years old, doesn't discredit Earley for trying. "There's not a lot of money . down here," Fregosi says. "It comes down to enjoying the game. ,,r' I know from experience that when you stop playing, you miss the"" thrill of it. If I was still a player, I u" wouldn't quit playing until I was "" forced to." Two teams have tried to force " Earley to stop. "The Cubs and the Rangers " ' have shut the door on me," says Earley. "But there are 24 other teams out there. As long as there's a glimmer of hope, I'll keep on pitching." UC volleyballers play all-star team The University of Cincinnati volleyball team will play an exhibition game against a collegiate all-star team Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the UC Armory Fieldhouse. Sharon Moore, former UC and Olympic player, will play with the all-stars. Admission is free. ff CINCINNATI l U OUTDOOR OUTFITTERS it Q D a D a a NEW FISHING IN! Q mm RODS - REELS HUNTING -ARCHERY n u D D FREE! FISHING LINE TRILENE ON YOUR REEL 1-75 TO SHARON RD 1 MILE EAST AT RT 42 n PH:oy-4099 n I V GOOD THRU 5-3I-86 I Fri. 2 pm HI Mon. 10 am ALL NEW MODELS RENTACAR CALL 829-8000 RENTAL DEPT. I3ARCKERYCv CINTI 0UTD00R U "OUTFITTERS" l Annuw OALt FREE CUSTOM CUT D D GAME GETTER 27.99 PER D0Z. XX75 33.95 PERD0Z. J9-4099 f )N RD. I U 53186 PHONEi 7(9-4099 E. SHARON RD SHARONVILLE GOOD THRU 53186 You Deserve National Attention For Memorial Day $1Q50 JLVVVLLkENDS 100 miles ovt day included. 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