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ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 3 M12 1938 $ F SECTION SUNDAY, JUNE 12, 1988 njuries, Cards ague Keep Flying Despite PI WHAT KEEPS EM UP THERE? KEVIN HORRIGAN 4C& SPORTS , 5Q EDITOR outfielder John Morris. None is expected back much before July. Third baseman Terry Pendleton and center fielder Willie McGee, who drove in 201 runs between them a year ago, are on a pace for a total of 108 this year. This last statistic is skewed because Pendleton has been out because of a hamstring injury for most of the last four weeks, meaning that Jose Oquendo has had to play third, meaning the Cardinals bench strength is badly depleted. Vince Coleman, the first man ever to steal 100 bases in his first three years in the big leagues, has been hampered by quick-stepping pitchers and is on a pace for a "mere" 78 steals. Ozzie Smith, the No. 2 hitter in the lineup, is hitting .196 with runners in scoring position. McGee, the No. 3 hitter, is hitting .213 with runners on second or third. And yet the Cardinals are five games over .500. Will miracles never cease? "Last year we won because we over-hit for 105 games," said manager Whitey Herzog. "This year, it's different. It's just been a lot of things." Chief among those things would be the Lazarusesque revivification of lefthander Larry McWilliams. An afterthought in spring training and maybe less than an afterthought after a one-inning, 10-run spring performance against the Pirates on the Ides of March McWilliams return from baseball's land of the living dead is one of the year's best stories. He's 4-1 with an earned-run average of 1.74 See HORRIGAN, Page S 'V-. . w., -.-7 - - ----- srs - f h Life is full of mysteries. Why can a bumblebee fly? How does a homing pigeon find its way? Who put the bop in bop-shoo-bop-shoo-bop? How is it the St. Louis Cardinals keep winning baseball games? Think about it. Here we are, a little more than a third of the way through the season, and the Birds are 32-27 in third place, a game out of second, 6 'i games behind the New York Mets. "Considering everything that's happened to them, it's a wonder they're not buried so deep you'd need sonar to find them. Four-fifths of the starting rotation has been on the disabled list at one point or another, missing a combined 22 starts. Lefthanded reliever Ken Dayley was injured on opening day and missed the first five weeks of the season, including six games against the Mets, against whom a lefthanded reliever can be critical. The Cards lost five of those six. First baseman Bob Horner, acquired to supply power after Jack Clark left for the warmer climate in the South Bronx, has only 12 extra-base hits, including only three home runs. ' Reserve first basemen Jim Lin-deman and Mike Laga each went down with injuries, as did reserve 7 ft i ) 73 ST . vi PV,., i , v 1 Alicea OK Lefthanded, Works On Batting Righthanded K o ? 40 f 'yJVA u 'w m. v "3 mm i AP Vv Xkj'l By Dan O'Neill Of the Post-Dispatch Staff Luis Alicea stood in the runway just beyond the Cardinals dugout as Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon happened by. Shannon recruited the 23-year-old second baseman to play in a celebrity golf tournament over the weekend. Alicea informed the persistent Shannon that he isn't particularly accomplished on the links; besides, he had no clubs. "Don't worry about that," Shannon said. "We'll take care of clubs and everything. Which way do you shoot, left or right?" Alicea didn't hesitate. "I swing righthanded." Be it golf or baseball, righthanded is Alicea's swing of preference. But, considering the switch-hitter's performance in the batter's box, Shannon might consider setting up Alicea with a bag of lefthanded golf clubs. It has been slightly more than a month since the Cardinals' No. 1 draft choice of 1986 became their No. 1 second baseman in 1988. Ali cea was summoned from Louisville April 22, after the Cardinals traded second baseman Tom Herr to Minnesota for outfielder Tom Brun-ansky. During these several weeks, the rookie has proven worthy of the promotion in several areas. In the field he is graceful and gutsy, handling the simple and spectacular with equal aplomb. Several times, Alicea has made plays that proved crucial to Cardinals' victories. "Defensively, I feel like I'm playing well, that I'm doing the job," Alicea said. "I'm either here to do one job (offense) or the other (defense), or hopefully both." However, the other side of the coin is not nearly as polished. Alicea has yet to establish himself as a consistent hitter at least from the right side. "I need to learn a little about hitting," Alicea said. "I have been swinging at bad pitches and making some mistakes, especially right-handed. It takes time." As a lefthanded swinger, Alicea is batting a respectable .262 with ii I , jMst seven extra-base blows among 27 hits and 11 runs batted in. From the right side, he has only nine hits and five runs batted in to go with a .146 average. The end result is an overall batting mark of .218, a lingering qualifier on a package otherwise stamped "big league." "My main concern right now is offense," Alicea said. "I know I can hit a lot better. I'll hit righthanded. I know I will." Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog is among those convinced. "I think he's going to be all right," Herzog said. "He isn't fooled too much. He's not striking out a lot; he's making contact. He hit three balls hard the other night and they were right at somebody. "Heck, all the guys except Ozzie are having trouble righthanded. If I'm going to worry about that, I've got to worry about a lot of guys." Smith, with a .288 mark right-handed and .293 lefthanded, is holding his own from the right side. Switch-hitters Vince Coleman, (.296. 336) and Jose Oquendo can hit like this all year. "He's put a lot of work in, but there's still something very instinctive about the way he hits a baseball. When he was here, I told scouts, 'If anyone has a chance to be an outstanding hitter in the major leagues, it's Raf Palmeiro.' " Lenny Booth watches a lot of major-league ball on television in his Hollywood, Fla., home. He gets a special feeling when Palmeiro comes to the plate; Booth was Pal- Past first-round round baseball picks currently playing in the major leagues: 1985 Barry Bone4;, OF, Pittsburgh Will Clark, 1 B, San Francisco Willie Fraser, P, California Pete Incayiglia, OF, Texas Barry J.arkin, SS, Cincinnati Joe Magrane, PCardinals Rafael Palmeiro, OF, Chicago Cubs B.J. Surhoff, C, Milwaukee Walt Weiss, SS, Oakland 1986 Luis Alicea, 2B, Cardinals Greg Swindell, PCIeveJand Mart Williams, SS, San Francisco (.273.300) are solid from the right side, but better from the left. Willie McGee C255.324) and Terry See ALICEA, Page 5 . meiro's first baseball coach at Jackson High School in Miami. But Booth doesn't claim any special credit for Palmeiro's hitting prowess. "When he came to me as a 10th-grader, he had the most natural swing I'd ever seen," Booth said. "It was the best, and I coached some good ones, like (former Montreal player) Warren Cromartie in '71. The initial thing you sa was the smooth flow of everything as it went into the ball. It was overwhelming. "It was rhythmicaUike ballet." Palmeiro's lefthanded swing is a thing of beauty. A stroke more than a hit. He sort of rolls in and gently smacks, like an ocean's calm wave greeting the shore. So simple and constant, it's almost taken for granted. Friday against the Cardinals, he See PALMEIRO, Page 4 Cubs' Palmeiro Has Made Himself Into A Natural At Bat eople think it's easy, me hitting a ball. it's not. They think everything I've done has come easy for me, but I've worked hard, ff RAPHAEL PALMEIRO, Cubs star Detroit Pistons sparkplug Isiah Thomas, taking a pass in Game 1 of the NBA finals, is hoping for a repeat of his team's victory when Game 3 of the series is played Sunday in Detroit. Pistons, Lakers Both Confident . 1988, Knight-Ridder Newspapers I DETROIT Both have tasted vie- ADRIAN DANTLEY has been a tra- tory. Both think they know their op- velin' man throughout NBA career- ponent's weaknesses. And both are Page13F confident of winning the National STARS COME out when Lakers Basketball Association championship. player at The Forum Page 1 3F That's what the Detroit Pistons and PISTONS CHUCK DALY 'fits well' ' Los Angeles Lakers have established jn finals Page 14F after two games of the NBA final. The MiliLMM Lakers' 108-96 victory in Game 2 . n s . ., Thursday night evened the series, f v and J" at tne s'lve,r" with Game 3 Sunday at the Silver- !ome; whffe Plstons arf7'2 'n dome (2:30 p.m., KMOV, Channel 4). ne Playoffs. When you consider he " Right now, the Pistons have the eTf, are 2"5 " he r?ad 'nttne edge. They won Game 1 at the Forum Playoffs, you can t blame the Pistons to gain the home-court advantage, for thmking they re in position to take The next three games (Sunday, Tues- See NBA, Page 14 By Mike Eisenbath Post-Dispatch Suburban Sports Editor "I don't go along totally with the idea that some guys are born hitters," said Ron Polk, baseball coach at Mississippi State University. "A kid when he's 7, 8, 9, 10 years old you get someone who cares about you at that age and wants to groom you by letting you hit all the time, you can get a great swing." At an early age, a kid can learn to hit a baseball. He can make himself a "natural." Rafael Palmeiro did. "People think it's easy, me hitting a ball," the Chicago Cubs left fielder said. "It's not. They think everything I've done has come easy for me, but I've worked hard. "When I was 12 or 13, 1 used to go to the park with my brother and my dad, and I just hit for hours and hours. That's all I would do, every 2 Ueberroth COMMENTARY Style: Wait Until Issue A Crisis day. I learned how to hit." That Palmeiro can bit is no secret. After Friday's game against the Cardinals, the 23-year-old was hitting .329, tied with Montreal's Andres Galarraga atop the National League batting list, and Palmeiro led the league with 19 doubles. He's one of the best young hitters in baseball. These first two months of the season are no fluke. "I'm not surprised by any of it," said Polk, Palmeiro's coach during his three All-America years at Mississippi State. "I really believe he corporate sponsorship and about licensing. They have been major assets to the game. But in leadership, where he was expected to be most effective, Ueberroth has not lived up to expectations. He came in promising to do something about the designated hitter. The American League used it. The National League did not. Ueberroth had the power to make a change, to bring the same rules to both leagues. Instead he did almost nothing, only changing the way the rule is used in the World Series. Would the Western Conference of the National Basketball Association have a 3-point basket and the Eastern Conference not? Would the American Football Conference of the National Football League have a 2-point conversion and the National Football See UEBERROTH Page 2 By Bob Smizik 1988, Scripps Howard News Service How appropriate that on the day Peter Ueberroth announced he would not accept another term as baseball commissioner, he stepped in to end a lingering dispute that had been drawing headlines across the country and putting the game in an unfavorable position with the public. Once again, the commissioner to the rescue. Gosh, we're going to miss that guy. How many times has it been that Ueberroth has charged into a situation that was potentially damaging and brought order out of chaos? It was Ueberroth who stepped in to help bring an end to the baseball strike of 1985. It was Ueberroth who issued guidelines for minority hiring In baseball after the remarks of Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Cam-panis brought attention to the sport's atrocious record. The commissioner defused the potentially ugly situation that existed between New York Yankees manager Billy Martin and American League umpires. What a guy! Or so it seems. What you see is not always what you get. The above cases have one thing in common. Ueberroth waited until the situation reached crises proportions before exerting his influence. The Martin case was an example of the type of leadership Ueberroth has given baseball. No one can doubt his qualifications, only his methods. It was only after the American League umpires had abused their authority and only after Martin threatened to sue the umpires that Ueberroth acted. He comes off looking like a white knight. The baseball strike of 1985 was similar. There were calls from all around for Ueberroth to get involved with negotiations. He did not until a strike was called. They he came in and helped end it. It shouldn't have taken Campanis to alert the world about baseball's hiring practices. Ueberroth was aware of it but did nothing until it became an issue. But at least on these points, Ueberroth acted successfully. His record on other issues is not as good. He was a man who had a mandate to initiate change when he became commissioner in 1984. After his major success as head of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for which he vas named Time magazine Man of the Year Ueberroth was the hottest prospect in the business world. Everyone wanted Ueberroth. Baseball got him. It didn't get what it expected. Instead of dynamic leadership, Ueberroth gave them a course in business practices. He taught baseball about 1: L-JlJ v& Robert La RouchePost-Dispatch All-Metro Track McCluer North High'3 Jon Vaughn and Lincoln's Carmelita Williams are two of the standouts on the Post-Dispatch's All-Metro Track and Field Team. Story on Page 6F.