St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri on September 29, 1991 · Page 41
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · Page 41

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St. Louis, Missouri
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Sunday, September 29, 1991
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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 1991 . . ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 3E BASEBALL aVOITDinig SmmoftlhlS Teammates Pull For Cards Reliever To Break MarkTi By Dan O'Neill Of th Post-Dispatch Staff The subject has been broached many times with Lee Smith. He just Isn't interested in discussing records. "Those are things that perhaps after the season. I can sit back and look at," Smith said. "But right now, I don't think about it As soon as you start thinking about stuff like that up here, that's when you get yourself in a lot of trouble." Think about it or not. Smith needs just one more save to set a National League record for a season. With saves Friday and Saturday against the Chicago Cubs, he tied the record of 45, set by the Cardinals' Bruce Sutter in 1984. Considering that Smith, 33, is a power pitcher in his 11th season "up here," the feat is remarkable. But to talk about Smith and what he has meant to the Cardinals this season, you have to go elsewhere. i "I'm rooting for him to get the record," fellow reliever Cris Carpenter said. "He's the kind of guy you do root for. He's always talking about his teammates and putting the team first You pull for a guy like that" Carpenter has won 10 games this season as a "setup man" for Smith. "I think he's been an incentive for us all year," Carpenter said. "He makes our job easier in that we know what it is. Our job is to get to Lee Smith and if we do ours, he does his." Another Smith disciple is Scott Terry, who was a question mark coming off arm surgery this season. But he has had one of his finest seasons, appearing in 65 games and posting a 2.80 earned-run average. Terry points much of the credit toward the man the Cardinals fondly call "Big Brother." "It's just like a hitter having a real good hitter batting behind him in the lineup," Terry said. "You don't have to go in there and give in to a guy. You can make your pitch and take a chance on walking a guy if need be. That makes you a better pitcher. "I can throw a 3-2 changeup or slider to a guy instead of having to throw him a fastball. That's been the biggest difference to me." Smith's previous season high for saves was 36 in 1987 with the Cubs. His 44th save Friday moved him ahead of Rich Gossage into third on the career save list; Smith has 310. Only five players have reached the 300 save plateau (Smith, Gossage, Sutter, Jeff Reardon and Rollie Fingers). Single-season save leaders. Player Team Lg YearSv Bobby Thigpen Dennis Eckersley Dave Righetti Lee Smith Bruce Sutter Dennis Eckersley Dan Quisenberry Chicago Oakland New York Cards Cards Oakland KC AL AL AL NL NL AL AL 1990 57 1990 48 1986 46 1991 45 -1984 45 1988 45 1983 45 "I don't know if people realized how good he was," Terry said. "And I don't think people know yet People used to say that Lee Smith wouldn't have done so well in Chicago if not for the shadows. That's bull." Chicago was, indeed, the Windy City for Smith. He pitched seven-plus seasons for the Cubs. Early in his tenure, the wind of public sentiment blew in his favor. In 1983, he led the NL with 29 saves and had a 1.65 ERA in 66 appearances. In 1984, he helped the Cubs win the NL East with a 9-7 record and 33 saves. Cubs fans loved him. But the wind shifted drastically in the '84 playoffs, when he gave up a two-run homer to San Diego's Steve Garvey and lost 7-5 in Game 4. Thereafter, he became a Wrigley Field whipping post. Cards reliever Frank DiPino joined the Cubs in 1986 and stayed until 1988. He was amazed by how Smith was treated. "They hung that home run he gave up to Garvey over his head the rest of the time he was there," DiPino said. "I mean, that happens sometimes. Garvey hit a few other home runs in his career. "But every time Smith got up, they'd boo him. I never understood that. One time, he walked in before a game and just as he was walking over the chalk line, he got hit on the back with something. It turned out it a was a D-size battery. "He turned around and looked and just shrugged and kept walking. He never said a lot about it but I think the way he was treated in Chicago hurt him a lot" It might take hypnosis or truth serum to find out for sure. Come rain or shine, Smith never changes his easy-going demeanor. "I don't know how many situations he's been in with the game on the line," DiPino said. "But after the game, he's the same, win or lose. He knows he'll be out there again the next day. I've always tried to take after him, but I can't do that "He's been one of the dominant closers in the game He's an Inspiration to me. "He's very upset if he doesn't succeed. But he doesn't let it get to him. He goes out and be sits in the dugout for five minutes and then he comes in. He does that whether he wins or loses." Smith's impact can be seen beyond his statistics. He is a prominent presence In the clubhouse. "Everybody looks up to him," DiPino said. Everybody has fun with him as well. Smith Is a popular target for good-natured ribbing and gives as much as he takes. He has been a big factor in a more lighthearted Cardinals clubhouse this season. "He's definitely unique," said Carpenter, who dressed next to Smith in the clubhouse. "I've never met anyone quite like him." Smith, who is from Jamestown, La., keeps teammates and other off guard with a wide array of nicknames and pet sayings. "He's got his own language," DiPino said. "I don't know where it came from, Louisiana, Mars, who knows." Example: Smith calls an airplane a "truck," calls food "grease" and calls his stomach a "gizzard." On a Cardinals flight earlier this season, he had an attendant completely confused. DiPino was sitting alongside. "The stewardess comes by and he says, 'Excuse me miss, what kind of grease you got on this truck that I can throw down my gizzard.' "That stewardess didn't know what to say. She was dumbfounded. I had to explain the whole thing ' to her," DiPino said. But for all his teasing and low-key mannerisms, Smith Is a competitor first and foremost. "Scotty and I talk about how we wish we could go out there and throw a fastball by someone like he does," Carpenter said. "To go out there and do it consistently the way he has for so many years is just amazing." Terry added: "He has his own style. He doesn't like to do any extracurricular stuff. But if you say 'team,' he'll do anything. In this day and age, you don't find that anymore." And In this day and age, you seldom find a closer the likes of Lee Smith. : I ' ' . I '"! . I., .illi. I Limn I I ia i ,,,,,.,,, ,, , . -i- " I fc.., ' Odell Mitchell Jr.Post-Disptei Cards reliever Lee Smith (left) being congratulated by fist baseman Rod Brewer after a 3-2 victory Saturday. Payback: Torre Rewards Veteran Guerrero By Playing Hirri i I. RICK HUMMEL NOTEBOOK you may wonder why Pedro Guerrero is playing every day when the Cardinals have no intention of re-signing him. Cardinals manager Joe Torre says he owes it to the veteran first baseman. "He's played hard for me," Torre said. "He's been part of this team, and just because he's been struggling doesn't mean you should abandon ship, ".He's tried. If he was just going through the motions, he wouldn't be playing." Torre said that Guerrero never had been a problem in the clubhouse. "Anything but," Torre said. "He's been the antithesis. He's helped me with Felix Jose sometimes when we've had some communication problems." By playing late in the season, Guerrero, 35, might interest scouts from other teams. Torre said, "I owe that to him, too." Take Heart, Cubs Fans: The standings show them some 20 games off the pace, but rookie Chicago Cubs manager Jim Essian is unequivocal when asked if his team can contend next season. "Absolutely," Essian said. "Without a doubt. "We have a pretty strong base, I think. You look at the Twins, the Braves and the Cardinals. They certainly competed this year. Last place to first for the Twins and maybe the Braves." Essian, discussing what the Cubs need next season, said: "It's obvious when you look at the pitching statistics that we have to improve our pitching. "But that doesn't mean we have to get all new pitchers. That means we have to get better production out of the pitchers we have. "Taking into account all the injuries we had, we can expect better performance from Mike Harkey, Rick Sutcliffe, Danny Jackson, Dave Smith and Frank Castillo, all of whom have been out with injuries." Essian is a big booster of Torre and reliever Lee Smith for postseaon awards. Essian told the Chicago Sun-Times that Torre should be manager of the year In the National League. "As good as Jim Leyland is, you'd have to say he had the horses," Essian told the newspaper. "Atlanta's Bobby Cox and Joe Torre really turned those clubs around. But I guess you'd give it to Torre because they had no major free-agent acquisitions. He did the best with what he had." When Essian arrived in St. Louis, he again spoke highly of Torre, although not quite as expansively. "Joe Torre would certainly be one of the top two or three candidates, along with Cox and Leyland," he said. Essian told the Chicago paper that Smith and Atlanta's Terry Pendleton should be co-winners of the Most Valuable Player award and that Smith was a top candidate for the Cy Young Award. Asked here about MVP candidates, Essian said: "I can think of a couple. Lee Smith is one. Pendleton, Howard Johnson and Will Clark off the top of my head." Smith and former Los Angeles pitcher Ron Perranoski are the only pitchers to have appeared in 50 or more games 10 years in a row. Cleveland's Jesse Orosco, working on nine years, had 47 appearances before the weekend. Smith has not come to bat in any of his 64 appearances this season. "Pitching coach Joe Coleman said that if we do your job, I won't get up this year," Smith said. "We must be doing an awesome job." Smith got to the on-deck circle one time, July 15 in Cincinnati. "That was the first time I can say I was pulling for my teammate to make an out" Smith said jokingly. "Tom Pagnozzi was hitting and Rob Dibble was pitching. I didn't think my chances were looking too good." Pagnozzi grounded out. Pagnozzi got even with Cubs reliever Les Lancaster on Friday night. Pagnozzi was convinced that Lancaster, a friend and former teammate at the University of Arkansas, intentionally hit him the last time the Cubs were in town, July 7. Lancaster relieved with a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning Friday and Pag- i r t; : :.;.: " - AP Cards manager Joe Torre says Pedro Guerrero (above) has "played hard for me." nozzi drilled a two-run single, leading the Cardinals to a 5-4 victory. "Before the game, he said he bad 99 strikeouts and he said he wanted me to be No. 100," Pagnozzi said. "That juiced me." "I know he threw at me," said Pagnozzi with a smile. "But I respect him for that because you only throw at people who have got the edge on you. Plus, as hard as he throws, it's not going to hurt you." Rex Hudler had a severe case of laryngitis over the weekend. "Some of the guys said they like it better this way," Hudler whispered. Strange, But True: The Cubs' Andre Dawson has 18 walks and 29 home runs. Dodgers manager Tommy La-sorda reportedly was fined $500 by National League President Bill White for having actor Tony Danza in his dugout Saturday and Sunday. Another player not rooting for the Dodgers is San Diego Padres pitcher Larry Andersen. "You really get so sick of the whole Dodger mystique," Andersen said. "All you hear is the Dodgers do this. The Dodgers do that. The Dodgers think they're better than everyone else. It's just like a guy who comes and think he's the greatest player in the world. You just like to see them fall." If Detroit's Bill Gullickson wins 20 games with an earned-run average over 4.00, he would be the first since Milwaukee's Lou Burdette was 21-15 with a 4.07 ERA in 1959. Gullickson spent the 1988 and 1989 seasons in Japan. "I said If I ever get a chance at it again, I'm going to enjoy it" Gullickson said of his return to the United States. "If you look in from the outside, you see things differently. "Let's say you're a sportswriter and you have to go to Venezuela. You would come back and say these deadlines aren't so bad after all." Amid rumors of a shakeup in Milwaukee, Brewers manager Tom Tre-belhorn said: "I don't know if I'm a lame duck. I guess I'm a little lamer than I've been in the past. I'm quacking less but limping more." , The Brewers' victory total has dwindled from 91 to 87 to 81 to 74 in Trebelhorn's first four seasons. Robin Yount of the Brewers tied Babe Ruth at 2,873 hits. "Well," said Yount who is not a great student of the game's past, "at least it's a name I've heard of." They're calling Boston lefthander Matt Young "Doormat." Young, who has a $6.35 million, three-year contract, has not won since May 30. Minnesota's Scott Erickson, the major leagues' top pitcher in the first half of the season, struggled in the second half after hurting his arm. Manager Tom Kelly said: "Earlier in the season, when he was throwing 90, 91, 92 miles an hour, he could leave it up in the strike zone. Now, he has to learn to locate it to survive." One of the reasons the Twins have been so good this year is their defense. They had their first three-error game last week against the Chicago White Sox. The Toronto Blue Jays had a grueling West Coast trip in which they won four of nine games, five of which went extra innings. The Blue Jays' Joe Carter said, "I don't know if there could be more pressure or tougher pitching in the playoffs." Relief ace Tom Henke blew two saves in the first two games of the trip and then was unavailable to pitch in the next seven games because of injury. Henke said he wanted to return in a couple of non-pressure situations. Oakland's Willie Wilson, after receiving a death threat after a recent big hit, said, "I hope it's a long-distance call." California's Dave Winfield, upon whom management has a $3 million option for next year, has batted just .224 since the All-Star break. Whitey Herzog may not want Winfield back at that price if Winfield is only going to be a designated hitter. The Angels are also concerned about catcher Lance Parrish, a .193 hitter after the break. The Atlanta Braves have encountered some distractions that couldn't have helped their division title push. Ten days after outfielder Otis Nixon was suspended for drug aftercare vio lations, rookies Brian Hunter and ' " Keith Mitchell were charged with driving while intoxicated in separate? incidents after both went to an Atlanta nightclub with Dave Justice. The next day, veteran Pendleton; called Mitchell, Justice and Hunter into the players' lounge and dressed; them down. Hunter and Mitchell toQl their medicine. Justice and Pendleton reportedly had a screaming match ytJ and Justice walked out. Deion Sanders' switch fromr-i the Atlanta Falcons to the Braves has? created some animosity between the'' teams. Rankin Smith Sr., the Falcons' own er, said: "We were in a no-win situation with this from the very beginning: No matter what happens, we look like the bad guys here. . , "We're all big Braves fans. We a)l want them to win. But they've handled this Deion thing in an unprofessional " manner." Tickets for single games for the 1991-1992 season go on sale this Tuesday, October 1 , at 10:00 A.M. at the following locations: Arena Box Office Blue Note Sports Shops Locations: (West County, North County South County and IDinois) Mississippi Nights Scott Air Force Base All Famous Barr Stores Gateway Center Westport Playhouse DIALTIX At (31 4) 291 -7600 For group tickets call 781 -BLUE. Home opener is October 1 0, 1 991 . 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