The Pittsburgh Press from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 29, 1990 · Page 44
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The Pittsburgh Press from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 44

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Sunday, July 29, 1990
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C4 The Pittsburgh Press Sunday. July 29, 1990 BASEBALL Pirates farmhand overcomes long odds just to keep playing! By Sean Brennan , Press news services ; The dream is a simple one. "I just want to play in the major leagues some day." I For Harrisburg Senators catcher Jeff Banister, 25, it's 1 good to be able to dream . . . especially in a life that has I had its share of nightmares. His string of ill fortune began in 1982, when Banister ', was a junior in high school in League City, Texas. Pulling off his socks after a game, Banister noticed a strange 1 swelling on his ankle. J "I thought I twisted it or something. But when it didn't , get any better I went to my doctor, Dr. (Leroy) ; Lockhardt. He ran some tests. Banister had bone cancer and he said Lockhardt said if J he didn't have his leg amputated above the knee, the cancer eventually would kill him. ) The night before the operation, he had a long talk with his father. He told him he was rethinking his position on ; the operation. Although he didn't want to die, he also wasn't ready to surrender his leg. In his mind, the decision was clear: "No operation." Three-and-a-half months and several operations later, Banister was released from the hospital leg intact. He bad beaten the odds. r,: He enrolled in Baytown (Texas) Junior College in the fail of 1984. He was the team's everyday catcher and the , season seemed to be going well until . . . MINOR-LEAGUE SPOTLIGHT "I don't remember the team or even the name of the runner, but there was a guy on third and their batter hit a short fly to right. The guy tried to tag up and when the throw came in, it was a little up the line. The ball skipped on the lip of the grass, so I dropped to my knees. I was in an awkward position, and that's when the runner just crushed me. He hit me in the neck with his knees and I went down like a shot." Banister remembers little after that. "I remember feeling blood rushing down from a gash on my head. But that's all I could feel. I was numb from the neck down. But I do remember asking if the guy was out." He wasn't, but Banister was. , He was rushed to the hospital, where X-rays revealed he had crushed vertebrae in his neck and was paralyzed from the neck down. Extensive operations were needed. "Dr. Lockhardt removed the bone chips and fragments from the neck and then grafted bone from my hip into my neck. One operation went through the front of ray neck and the other went through the back. It was no picnic, I'll . tell you." " After a six-month stay in the hospital in a body cast ("I looked like that C3PO guy from 'Star Wars"), ."I practically had to learn to walk all over again. It's a very strange feeling, you know. One day you're playing baseball, an athlete, and the next day you're learning to walk. Unless it's happened to you, it's hard to explain. :; "The hardest part was lying around all day, wondering if I'd ever walk or play baseball again. That's the time I'd get down the most. But you know what kept me going? The fact .that I had already beaten cancer. So I kept saying to myself, 'If I could beat that, I sure can beat this. I'm going to be out there (on the baseball field) again.' " Less than a year after his injury, Banister was playing ball again. This time in right field. "I wasn't catching. So they put me in right field. I figured I couldn't get into any trouble out there." Wrong. . "This guy hit a ball to deep right and I was giving chase. So I'm running back and all of a sudden, bang, I hit the fence and wind up on the floor again. There was no warning track or anything to let me know I was getting close to the fence. "So I'm lying there and saying to myself, 'Man, Jeff, now what did you do?' " Fortunately, he did nothing but give himself and the crowd, which included his parents and friends, a good scare. Banister has been virtually injury-free since then, but ' has had some emotional pain the past two years. ." ' ''Back fn '88, in a matter of six months, I lost my dad, - grandfather and Dr. Lockhardt. It was a very difficult . time for me because all during my tough times they were 5 always there. It took a lot out of me." But now Banister is bent on getting to the-nwjws. Selected in the 25th round of the June 19jL6draI5, Banister worked his way up through the bases' organization to Harrisburg. -,,-, He has split time as a catcher, first baseman and designated hitter with the Senators. He haX"!63 average, eight home runs and 38 RBI. .: Banister was promoted to Class AAA Buffald twice this saeson when catcher Dann Bilardello was called up by the Pirates. His average in 12 games with the'Bisdns was .320. au. "He's played very well at Harrisburg and Buffalo," said Pirates director of minor-league operatioJftiefc LaMar. "To get as far as he has is an outstanding story itself, but I don't think Jeff is going to be satisfieOe js thankful for every day and gives his fullest because of what happened to him. ; "He has power and the potential to hit the bailout of the park at any time. If he can learn how to Sdjtfs'nti different pitches in the strike zone, it could push hinvover the top." ,VI -Ml I Banister has dedicated his career to the three men who meant so much to him. ,iit.i,.i "I've been given a lot of chances to play this garriend I'm determined to make it. When you've been'Tp' the bottom like I have, there's no place to go but' up (New York Daily Newsdistributed by Knight-flews'-Tribune) Van Slyke, Bonilla happy to say bye to July By Bob Hertzel The Pittsburgh Press July is almost gone and Andy Van Slyke and Bobby Bonilla could not be happier. Folks, it just ain't their month. Even though the two showed signs of snapping out of their long slumps last night, each hitting a home run in the Pirates' 4-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, their numbers for July say much about why the Pirates have dropped out of first place and trail the New York Mets by a game. PIRATES NOTEBOOK 1 Bonilla, who stretched his hitless 'streak to 22 at-bats before hitting his '21st home run, is hitting .232 this July with just four homers and 13 BI. ''Van Slyke is worse. Even though he hit his first homer since July 5, he is hitting .195 during the month with three homers and five RBI. Now, get this. The two are having better Julys this year than last. Honest. Last year Bonilla hit .190 in July with three homers and 11 RBI. Van Slyke set the tone for mediocrity, however, hitting .163 with one homer and six RBI. J Are the two out of it now? "Hitting a home run doesn't mean ;a heck of a lot," said Bonilla. "Give me those line drives. I'm not saying Jit isn't nice, but I want to be consistent." I "It takes 30 at-bats to be out of it, ? V A J' V a I i i 1 Z!?' ii ntnrt aril i1i.'iil an Greg LanierThe Pittsburgh Press Tom Herr watches finish of double play after toppling Jay Bell on front end Bonds angers Bell just like it takes 30 at-bats to get in it," said Van Slyke. "I got two hits in a game ... for a while I thought the league had a rule that you couldn't do that any more." The last time Van Slyke had more than one hit in a game was July 3. Slaught hurts finger Catcher Don Slaught jammed the ring finger on his left hand sliding headfirst into first base in the ninth inning last night. The finger was dislocated and while Slaught, who was disabled earlier this year with a hairline fracture of his right hand after taking a foul tip, was sent for precautionary X-rays although he did not feel the injury was serious. There was a near confrontation between Pirates shortstop Jay Bell and outfielder Barry Bonds last, night when Bonds, after breaking his bat and popping up, threw the handle of the bat and nearly hit Bell with it in the seventh inning. Neither talked about the incident after the game but the Phillies said they observed the two heading down the runway from their bench after the incident. End notes Moises Alou got his first major-league hit in the third inning, the first hit by an Alou wearing a Pirates uniform since his uncle Matty Alou's last hit 20 years ago . , ; The Phillies have handled Bonds and Bonilla well this year,', allowing them three homers and three RBI, meaning neither has driven in a teammate. The two combined are 7 for 51. . . . Bob Kipper is 4-0 with an 0.71 ERA in his past 14 appearances '. . . Stan Belinda is -3 with a 10.80 ERA against the Montreal Expos, 2-0 with a 1.67 against the rest of the league . . . Doug Drabek quietly has emerged as one of the league's top winners, his 12 victories being second behind Frank Viola's league-leading 14 . . . The Phillies' Charlie Hayes has six career homers against the Pirates, made up of two clusters of homers in three consecutive games. I960 revisited A day-by-day review of the Pirates ' Incredible season of 30 years ago.) " JULY 29 - Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell pitched a two-hitter and Don Hoak was 2 for 4, including his ninth home run and three RBI, . as the Pirates (57-37) beat the Cubs in Chicago, 4-0. It was the Pirates' fourth consecutive victory, increasing their lead to three games over the second-place Milwaukee Braves, and the last-place Cubs' eighth consecutive loss, dropping them 2314 games behind. Mizell, who improved his record to 7-5 overall and 6-2 as a Pirate, had a perfect game through Ws innings ' before losing pitcher Jim Brewer (0- ' 3) singled. Richie Ashburn had a single in the ninth, but was thrown out by right fielder Roberto Clemen-te while trying to stretch it into a double. ' "When I went into the dugout after the sixth inning was over I suddenly remembered that nobody had been on base before," Mizell said. "It was the best game I ever pitched." Luka Krneta Collier from Page CI Not permanently. One or two days, three at the outside. The results can sometimes be jarring. It puts a player who is totally lost in a position of total focus, where, in his mission to get on base, he looks at the pitch better and disciplines his swing better. Danny Ozark, the noted mystic, occasionally did it with no less a thoroughbred than Mike Schmidt, with the results just described. The first night, Schmidt would hit two singles and a homer and the second, three singles and a homer. Then he'd go back to No. 3 or No. 4 spot and be back, as Schmidt would say, "in the flow." "I don't think there's anything wrong with that," Leyland said. "I've done it in the minor leagues and I'm not saying I wouldn't do it here. But if you do that, it's more just to wake a player up. "I don't think it's that big a deal. I don't think it has that much texture, that much substance to it. Sometimes it's just to get a laugh, to loosen your team up. "But if you do it and you win, do you do it the next night or do you go back to the other way? It's just like if you drop a player to hit eighth. As soon as you do, you'll get a situation where he could have been up there in a position to drive in some runs. "I don't have anything against it, I'm just not sure it's the best way to do things." Van Slyke thinks the best way to do things is pretty much the way they're being done, although he allows for the unorthodox. "I'll hit first, I'll hit eighth, I'd hit ninth if it would get me going; I wouldn't be embarrassed. Next game .Today, 1:35 p.m., Doug Drabek (12-4) of the Pirates vs. Pat Combs (6-7) of the Phillies (KBL) . But if you're hitting between .275 and .300, you know you're a pretty good player. I'm just a better hitter than I'm showing right now. ' "Baseball can be a frustrating game. Joe Montana isn't going to struggle at what he does, unless his receivers start wearing boxing gloves. Baseball isn't like that. "It's just like Barry. When he was a .250 hitter, people knew he was a better hitter than what he was showing. Now he's a .330 hitter. "I'm sure that I'm going to show I'm a better hitter." Leyland shares that sentiment with him and, with everyone else, shares this articulated caution: "I'm not trying to put pressure on anybody, but if Andy Van Slyke and Bobby Bonilla don't do it for us, we're not going to make it. "It's just like the Mets. If Howard Johnson and . Darryl Strawberry don't do it for them, they're not going to make it." For pennant race analysis then, it pretty much comes down to whom you trust, and Leyland trusts Van Slyke enough, not 'to mess with him. Pirates farm report (Through Thursday's games) Buffalo American Association (AAA) Ofllrmfi rirst-place Buffalo (59-47) is lvi games ahead ot Nashville (56-47) in the Eastern Division . . . OutfielderJlriw. baseman Mark Ryal leads the league with a .359 average . . . Outfielder Moises Alou had a .286 average, five home rcrrrr and 25 RBI before he was called up by the Pirates Thursday . . . Outfielder Steve Carter is fourth in the league wiYrTa"" .305 average . . . Catcher Dann Bilardello is batting .293.dtt$r; catcher Tom Prince .254 . . . Shortstop Carlos Garcia has a .293 average . . . Infielder Tommy Shields (.266) has"i.i" stolen bases and 24 errors . . . Second baseman Kevin Burdick is batting. 288 .. . Mike York (8-4, 4.64) has-lOO strikeouts in 118W innings . . . Dorn Taylor's 2.73 ERA is best among Buffalo's starters. He is 11-3 ... VicenteJ Palacios is 6-7 with a 4.40 ERA . . . Mark Ross (5-6,. Iv73)" has eight saves . . . Randy Kramer is 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA.- tart' Harrisburg Eastern League (AA The Senators (51-50) are in fifth place, 6lA games behind" ' Canton-Akron (57-43) . . . Outfielder Julio Peguero (.57$ drove in four runs and outfielder Ed Yacopino (.275T-T"" Aliquippa had three RBI as the Senators defeated Neww; Britain, 11-5. Reliever Ben Webb (5-10) pitched fcww scoreless innings and got the victory . . . Third baseman . John Wehner (.276) of Carrick scored the winning run as Harrisburg beat London, 4-3. Wehner scored from third base on a delayed double steal. Wehner leads the team withllOlT hits, 47 runs, 18 doubles, 45 RBI, 30 walks, 17 stolen bsei" ? and 38 errors , . . First baseman Jeff Osborne of West- Middlesex is batting .246 . . Jim Tracy (9-6, 3.41) has' lost'"' three consecutive games . . Randy Tomlin (8-6, 2.30),.Eas, 85 strikeouts... Joe Ausanio (3-1, 1.90) has 10 save.s.w Salem Carolina League (Ap Salem (8-23 in the second half) is last in the Northern.. Division, 8lA games behind Prince William (16-14)' Z"''" Second baseman-third baseman Austin Manahan, shwt-"' stop Willie Greene and catcher Felix Antigua were" promoted from Augusta. Manahan, the Pirates' No. 1 choice'", in 1988, had a .302 average, seven home runs and 52 RBI af Augusta. Greene, the No. 1 choice last year, had a .258-; average, 1 1 home runs and 47 RBI at Augusta. Antigua had- .286 average . . . Outfielder Domingo Merejo is batting ,.29kL . . . Outfielder Ken Trusky of Swissvale has a .267 average . . . Third baseman Bruce Schreiber is batting .287,'V. ."' Outfielder Greg Sims (.257) has 66 runs, 92 walks and-25---stolen bases ... Tim Wakefield (5-11, 4.94) has" W strikeouts. '"" Augusta South Atlantic League '(A.) The last-place Pirates (15-22) are 10 games behind-Savannah (25-11) in the Southern Division ... Second,-.,, baseman-shortstop Rob Bailey was sent down from Salem. where he had a .181 average . . . Catcher Rob Peterson promoted from Welland, where he had a .283 average anilO RBI . . . Infielder Roman Rodriguez is battine .279 and outfielder Daryl Ratliff . 292 . . . Eric Parkinson (5-10,43 has 104 strikeouts. Welland New York-Penn League (Q First-place Welland (20-16) has a half-game lead bl?r Niagara Falls (20-17) in the Stedler Division . . . Outfiettfer Wes Grisham (.291) leads the team with 18 RBI . . . Outfielder Scott Bullett is batting .314 and first baseman Michael Brown .301 ... Alex Pacheco is 0-4 and has a 5.16 ERA. - - rial lUnt m Bradenton Gulf Coast League (Rookie- The Pirates (16-15) andYankees (16-15) are tied for third" place in the Southern Division and trail the Expos (221I)) ' by 5'2 games . . . First baseman Joseph Calder (.280) .'has 21 RBI . . . Third baseman Mitch House has a .293 aveje . . . Rick White (3-1, 0.53) has 26 strikeouts . . . Ron Way H- u, j.uu) nas three saves. t numno V nnoiftinm nnrnrnrsnn (snirn : r ; Nfc Trrn . l2L-..-. . : ' f-L -r. '" Jill i"'Tm llllltL . - -M. , ,? .- rs wes. 1 ""f t " r,X3b SZ&M&gSy Sgawfg? 55!!!!J5 HQ Jd uu We couldn't be more proud. For the fourth year in a row, Acura has won the customer " satisfaction award for both its cars and its dealers. To celebrate, we're having some of our most satisfactory deals ever on the Acura Legend and Acura Integra, which is still under $13,500. There's never been a better time to test drive, because there's never been more inventory to ot choose from. The sales lasts now through August. So see your nearest Western Pennsylvania-Acura Dealer now. If you Drive An Acura, You'll Buy An Acura. ACU MOWER Y ACURA 4716 William Penn Hwy. Route 22 East Monroeville, PA 15146 856-1545 t! ACURA OF SOUTH HILLS Route 19 South McMurray, PA 15317 800-922-3391 941-8600 BIANCHI ACURA 10785 Perry Highway Route 19 North Wexford, PA 15090 800-722-2872 935-8100 CHECKERED FLAG ACURA Route 30 East Greensburg, PA3S601 800-322-3325 834-1 U50:.

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