The Titusville Herald from Titusville, Pennsylvania on March 22, 1993 · Page 17
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The Titusville Herald from Titusville, Pennsylvania · Page 17

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Titusville, Pennsylvania
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Monday, March 22, 1993
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Page 17
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Page 834 Pharos-Tribune, Logansport, Indiana, Sunday, June 25,1995 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL Phillies' Slocumb Overcomes Heartbreak, Doubt To Become Top Closer * With death of wife and father a constant memory, Philly reliever forges on By JOHN F. BOHFATTI AP Sports Writer PHILADELPHIA — Something, usually a set of initials etched into his glove, is always there to remind Heathcliff Slocumb of the best friend he could never forget anyway. Debbie Slocumb, the high school sweetheart who became his wife and (he mother of his two daughters, died of cancer in November 1992. She was 27. Even now, the Philadelphia Phillies pitcher said he has good days and bad days coping with the loss, and the loss five months before that of his father. "What do they say, 'adversity builds character?' " he asked. "Damn. I've had my fair share." The fortification of Heathcliff Slocumb continues, enhanced by his continued success in Philadelphia. This year, in his first season as a closer, Slocumb leads the NL with 17 saves, with Chicago's Randy Myers and St. Louis' Tom Henke lied for second with 15. He came to the Phillies in a trade with the Cleveland Indians before the 1994 season. After he was unable to duplicate his impressive rookie season in 1991 — a 2-1 record and 3.45 ERA in 52 appearances — the Chicago Cubs sent Slocumb to Cleveland midway through the 1993 season. Slocumb was a spring training afterthought when he arrived in Philadelphia. But manager Jim Fregosi started using him as his setup man for closer Doug Jones, and didn't stop until Slocumb finished the season with a 5-1 record and a 2.86 ERA in 52 games. The Phillies decided in the off- season that they couldn't afford to keep Jones, but didn't see Slocumb inheriting the closer's role. Norm Charllon was expected to be the stopper this season, but when Charlton floundered early, was in dedication to my wife, i'd like to tfiank f was able to draw a Sot of strength from (the loss) is still a day-to-day thing." Heathcliff Slocumb NL saves leader Fregosi turned to Slocumb. He hasn't been disappointed. The NL pitcher of the month in May, when he compiled a 1.76 ERA with 12 saves in 15 1/3 innings, Slocumb continued his strong start into June. In his last nine appearances, spanning nine innings, he has not allowed a run. Opponents are batting just .111 with runners in scoring position against him this season. Overall, right-handers have hit .139 against him and lefties and batting .173. "He exceeded our expectations," Fregosi said. "But a hard worker with an arm like his will do that." The Phillies knew Slocumb had a strong right arm, but were unprepared for the control he showed of his off-speed stuff. "He used to not have command of his slider and split-finger, and hitters could go up there thinking they were going to sit on his fastball," catcher Darren Daulton said. "Now he's throwing them all for strikes, and there's not too many guys who have three 'out' pitches like that. He can throw it by you, or he can get you out with the good slider or the good split-finger. It's made him more confident." Slocumb credits Fregosi for restoring his confidence last season — and the memory of his wife for helping him sustain it. "Everything I did last year was in silent dedication to my wife," he said. "I'd like to think I was able to draw a lot of strength from Debbie. I need to, because dealing with (the loss) is still a day-to-day thing." The Slocumbs met when both took summer jobs at a McDonald's in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens. Triangular tread blocks provide responsive handling and unwavering grip on road. • New all-season, low rolling resistance compound improves fraction & fuel economy. " Full-depth sipes provide biting edges on wet snowy roads. a Staggered tread block design reduces noise, • 2 staggered steel belts for increased strength & durability. BECAUSE SO MUCH IS RIDING ON YOUR TIRES.S LOGAN TIRE SERVICE "loganlantl's Most Ctmfleh lire Dealer" OPEN MON-FRI 7:30-5:30 EE3(219)753-3475 "She was laughing all the time," Slocumb remembers. "Through the good times and the bad times." There are still occasional sleepless nights and restless days, but Slocumb said the faith his mother, a Pentecostal pastor, instilled in him has helped him get by. "I always believed in God," he said. "I was taught to keep my mouth shut, watch, listen, learn and pray every day." In that respect, Slocumb said there are very few times when he questions why his wife is gone. "You realize things happen for a reason," he said. "You realize that it's in the plan. You thank God for the good and the bad." The good, aside from upswing in his career, is that Slocumb has a large family that helps him raise his daughters, eight-year-old Jessica and four-year-old Heather. "My daughters are the most important people in this," he said. "When they know I'm not able to f AIR FILTERS SALE PRICE . .1.00 OFF MAtL-IN REBATE, . 2,00 LIMIT 2 X mmmir^Ki^ttr 3ES Wesfiev's BLECHE WHITE LIMIT 2 20 oz. Associated Press Philadelphia closer Heathcliff Slocumb has the initials of his wife Debbie etched onto his glove, serving as a constant reminder of her courage in fighting the cancer that eventually claimed her life. Now, 21/2 years later, Slocumb has become a dominant reliever and leads the National League in saves with 17. 'What do they say — adversity builds character?' Slocumb says. 'Damn. I've had my fair share.' be with them, they're surrounded. There's'plenty of people to give them that love. You can never replace your mom, but they get a good deal of love." The girls live with Debbie Slocumb's mother, Verda Cross. "He's a loving father. He's a softy," she said. "They play him for things that they want. I just sit back and laugh." Slocumb travels the 100 miles to New York to see the girls when he can, and Mrs. Cross also brings them down frequently to visit him in Philadelphia. "We jump on the train," she said. "He'll say, 'Bring them down.' Whenever he calls, that's it." It's no big deal, Mrs. Cross said. "I knew them all my life. When they were born, they came to me. They've always been with me." Besides, she is fulfilling'a promise she made to her daughter! "When she was in the hospital, she told me to take care of the kids," Mrs. Cross said. "She asked me to take care of them and that's what I'm doing." Free from worrying about whether his children are being taken care of, Slocumb concentrates on doing his job. "Once I come in here, 1 don't think about the family or the kids," he said. "But once you walk back through those doors, you're the same guy from Jamaica, New York. The quiet guy. You're Heath, you're not Heathcliff." Heath is Slocumb's given name — he was named for a character in the old TV series "The Big Valley" — but he became Heathcliff-in junior high school thanks to some classmates who were goofing around with his name. "Even my mom, she liked it," he said. "That's why I go by Heathcliff. I put it on my checks and credit cards. It doesn't sound like a kid from the ghetto." -iMMfliiiMMtt- ?• ,- .• •.-• • fl u '•J- ,-v *£» _ -r- Beat The Heat Sale! Presume ft IVlutalite Prestone : POWER STEERING ; OR BRAKE FLUID S [ SALE PRICE .'...-..99 : MAIL-IN REBATE 1JOQ! ,SALE PRICE' 79 'MAIL-IN REBATE 50 Ata Mill-to totally -LJ-.R-. MASTER ONE •ORGANIC PADS FUEL INJECTION / GLEANER OR. 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