Go Pro Baseball Wise: Minor League Memories

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Winning is a team victory, but improving skills and advancing through the minor leagues to the major leagues is the individual goal of every professional baseball player.


"I was riding high with good stats and I'd been able to avoid injury. But then I broke my ankle and thought my career in professional baseball was over."
— Bobby Bonilla,
former ML player, 16 seasons
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Now I Know How Casey Felt
Memories of a Minor League Season

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SIX: Speaking of peaks and valleys… (August 14-September 2)

SATURDAY, AUGUST 14

Rogers gave them respite from BP and said they didn't even have to get to the park until five. Many showed up early anyway. They were gathered in the clubhouse listening to Eric Barry's report of the Tacoma experience. "…see, they figured those fans came to see Rickey Henderson steal. They didn't want to wear him out at an exhibition game, so their manager Ed Nottle came over to me and told me to throw four balls to him. Then he'd steal second on the first pitch to the next batter. Then they could take him out of the game and everybody would be happy. After that the pitching coach, Dave Heaverlo, told me to get out there and throw strikes. The whole thing was set up to please the fans."

Outside, "I'd sure like to know who else Oakland considers prospects around here besides those two."

"If we get invited to Instruction League, that's a good sign. Have you heard anything yet?"

"Nope."

"Well, we've got two weeks left to make things happen. Let's go."

"How many more games do we have to win to take the pennant?" Bathe asked Peterson as they ran sprints in the outfield.

"I heard we only need to take two more and it's ours," Pete smiled.

"Sounds right. That explains why Mr. Wiencek and the brass are hanging around again."

"Bob, have you been invited to Instruction League?"

"Yeah. You?"

"Haven't heard anything yet but I'm real hopeful. That's one reason why I feel so pressured to have a good game or two while those guys are here. I want them to see for themselves what I can do."

"Well, my theory is that if I don't go to I. league and I don't get released over the winter, then I'll probably play baseball next year," Bailey said to Rojas.

"You don't think you're a prospect but you'd give baseball another year anyway? What for?" Rojas asked. "How long would you keep that up?"

"I don't know. I don't have a timetable or anything. Do you?"

"Not sure. I have a wife and a kid back in the Dominican, well, actually they live in New York now, but either way, I'm limited."

"I think I'll hang in if I can move up. Maybe my big break will finally come," Bailey grinned.

The three game series at Miles Field against the Ems got off to a good start with an exciting ballgame. The Ems scored three off Mike Gorman in the first inning. Then the lead changed hands all night and was locked at 5-5 after nine. It wasn't decided until the bottom of the 13th when Bob Bathe hit his fourth homerun. Gorman left after pitching 5.2 innings with ten strikeouts. Ed Myers took the win for his fourth. Final score: Medford 6 - Eugene 5.

Frank Robinson, member, Hall of Fame: "I don't think a player can set a definite time schedule for himself. But what he can do is look at the situation realistically and ask himself things like 'Am I moving up?' 'Am I still giving a hundred percent every day? 'Are other players in my position passing me?' And if not, well, he'll know what he has to do."

Harmon Killebrew, member, Hall of Fame: "A lot of youngsters come in after being drafted with the negative attitude that we're trying to weed them out when it's actually the other way around. They eliminate themselves. A player should try to progress the best he can and if he doesn't se anything happening with his career in a couple of years, he should take his lunch pail and go somewhere else."

Eddie Mathews, member, Hall of Fame: "I think the life expectancy of ballplayers has increased the last few years, especially in the pitching department. If a kid is 22, playing his second or third year in A-Ball, then it's time to stop and think about it. But if a kid starts at that age and we can get him to the big leagues by the time he's 25 or 26, we're still going to get a good seven or eight years from him, or more, depending on the individual."

Dick Williams, former ML player, 13 seasons; former ML Manager, Padres: "We used to say well, we'll give it five or six years, and if we can't make it, we'll quit. But today, if you don't think you can make it in a relatively short period of time, I wouldn't even attempt it. There's no money in minor league baseball. It's really nothing but heartache because you keep hoping something good will happen."

Billy Williams, member, Hall of Fame: "He'll know after he's played two or three years of baseball. He'll know if he should continue on and maybe become an outstanding player in the major leagues. A lot of times the coaching staff will help him by releasing him. And the quicker the better so that individual can get out of baseball and get into something else."

SUNDAY, AUGUST 15

The day started out warm, but got bitterly cold by game time. "Burr! It's as cold as Port Charles!"

The pitchers from both teams ran sprints together along the outfield fence. "What? No way!" one of them exclaimed.

"I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it myself," another added. "I hate it when I miss an episode where something actually happens."

"You should've listened to me. I told you she'd do that," another said in an "I told you so" manner.

Tim Hume, younger brother of former Reds pitcher Tom Hume recalled: "We all like the soaps, so there's always somebody to fill in if we miss something. Just about all the guys in the whole league, not just our team, watch the same ones. We talk about them at dinner and on the bus and try to guess what's gonna happen. It's one of the things we have every day beside baseball. Know what I mean? No matter what town we're in, the soaps go with us. My brother says getting addicted to soaps is all part of professional baseball."

As the Medford players got ready to step in the cage to take their swings the trainer yelled, "Alright you guys, remember the brass is here so wear those batting helmets during BP."

"Good. That's over and we can get on with our lives."

"What?"

"Doc got his power trip over with early today." They laughed.

The fans certainly got their money's worth in this game. Jeff Kaiser started and had high hopes for a second complete game in a row. Unfortunately, it didn't happen like that. The first three innings were the calm before the storm. Eugene was ahead 1-0. Then everything fell apart. The Ems scored twice in the top of the fourth. Medford came back with six in the bottom thanks to a Jim Good grand slam. To cut to the chase, thirty runs, twenty-five hits, and seven errors later the dust settled. Kaiser left after five, and Vela came in for the win. He finally got his first pro decision. It wasn't all good news for Medford. Tony Laurenzi took the collar and had to settle for a 26-game hitting streak to tie the league record. Dave Glick jammed his thumb and broke some bones in his throwing hand diving for an infield grounder. Jeff Kaiser once again worried about his ERA. Final score: Medford 17 - Eugene 13.

MONDAY, AUGUST 16

Monday Jackson and Vela got to the park around noon to do the laundry. They hung around till game time listening to music and discussing "world affairs."

By four o'clock the clubhouse was filled with players suiting up. The primary subject of their chatter was winning the game to take the pennant. "Let's get this thing over with tonight. Let's see what the brass have to say about our success."

"One bad thing about it, though. It's Doc's birthday."

"Hey, I got an idea from Sparkie Lyle's book." Ed Myers winked. "You know how he's been hintin' and hintin' that we get him a cake. Well, I'm fixin' to give him a cake decorated just for him."

Those who read the book smiled, never believing that Myers would have to nerve to follow through with his plan, especially with the brass around.

During BP Mathews wandered around talking to different players. He called Dave Peterson over and worked with him on his swing for quite awhile, then watched while Pete took his pitches in the cage. He took notes, tucked the clipboard under his arm, shook Pete's hand, and walked away. He went directly over to Dick Wiencek sitting in the front row in the stands. "That boy's a prospect. I want him in Instruction League."

At the other side of the cage, "Rojas, you hear anything about Hook's hand? Geez, we look like we've been in a war. Both Glick and Hook took a beating," Jim Good asked.

"Hook broke bones in his hand. He's wearin' a soft cast. I'd rather have been picked off instead of taking that slide back to the bag. Looks like it could cost him the rest of the season." Rojas wasn't happy about that at all.

"Glick just has a splint on his right hand."

"Wait till Rogers comes back and finds two of them wrapped up. It'll make him crazy!"

"The hell with Dennis Rogers. This season is supposed to showcase us not him. He thinks it's all about him. We have to look good out there, pick up our feet…don't be cocky, be classy…and all his guff. 'If you look good, I look good' ought to be his theme. He's not fooling anybody." Jim Good was mad.

"Yeah. Hook was just startin' to cook and make some impressions on people. You sure he won't be ready for the playoffs?"

"Dunno. He's so mad at himself for slidin' with his hand out like that. So he's not talking. He's giving up, I think. Too bad."

The park filled up fast. The fans knew this could be the game when they'd clinch the pennant. Naturally it was Eric Barry's turn in the rotation. After a tight game featuring Eppard's first pro homer, Medford went to the ninth inning behind by two runs.

"The ninth is mine" echoed everywhere. With one out, Rojas and Laurenzi on base, Strom's pinch hit double down the right field line drove them both across to tie. Then Strom scored the winning run on Thoma's double. Final score: Medford 5 - Eugene 4.

Pandemonium reigned in Miles Field. The fans refused to leave. They stood their ground and cheered. The dugout was alive with players exchanging high fives. The entire team was summoned to the radio booth and each player was given a brief personal interview. It began with Jim Eppard. He led the league with his .389 average, but the attention was given to his first homer. One by one they all followed.

By the time they got into the clubhouse to shower and change, cases of champagne were stacked in the corner and corks were being popped. Within minutes they were all dripping with bubbly. Not bad as long as it didn't get in their eyes.

"Hey, isn't this the champagne we saw on sale at K-Mart for a buck fifty a bottle?"

"Wouldn't be surprised."

"Lookie here, Doc," somebody pointed to a sheetcake on the table.

"Like it?" Ed Myers grinned to his teammates. "A perfect bare-assed print. I told ya I'd do it."

Just as they finished admiring Ed's handiwork, the trainer walked over and scooped a big strip of frosting on his finger and put it in his mouth. He didn't offer to share, and it's just as well because they didn't look too eager to have any.

Within a half an hour they left the clubhouse in a complete shambles stinking and dripping with champagne. They felt "the honor" of cleaning up their mess was a fitting birthday present for Doc.

As they headed to a local dinner house for their celebration, Jim Good stopped at the faucet and took a big drink. "Ah-h-h-h," he wiped off his chin with the back of his hand, "that takes care of the chasers for the rest of the night."

"Three for three tonight. You're looking better and better," Rogers shook his hand and kept on walking.

"So who won the bucks on my homerun pool?" Epp asked Goodie.

"Dunno who picked today's date. Doesn't matter anyway," Good slapped him on the back, "because none of these cheap bastards ever gave me any money."

Jim Eppard laughed. "I'll keep the homerun anyway," he said quietly.

At the restaurant they were no longer in little cliques. They were a team. Their 40-13 record won their division championship with seventeen games left to play.

Most of them had been on winning teams before. They didn't know that the final two weeks of the season would be the hardest. Some expected to relax. Wrong. There were still pressures facing them. Dennis Rogers had just begun his end of the season evaluations. Some players felt they had done better than expected in this league. But others still worried about impressing people in the organization. Still others were mad because they felt they didn't get an opportunity to play enough to show what they can do. They all felt one big game would cinch it for them.

Dennis Rogers told them they had to keep the momentum going while the Northern Division of the league, Bellingham, Walla Walla, and Salem fought it out in their division.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 17…WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 18

Naturally the clubhouse was lined with sports pages opened to pages about themselves and the pennant they sought in the NWL. The place still smelled of champagne. They were officially dubbed "The Mighty Medford A's" by the press.

"Sure wish we didn't have to take that six day trip back to Bellingham and Walla Walla after these two games with Salem," Bob Bathe groaned. "That ride just about kills me. I get so car sick on the bus. Think it's a reaction to my allergy pills."

"Trust me, nobody wants to take that trip again, especially now that we've won our division," Jim Good laughed.

Bob Bathe fought his allergies the entire season. The guy said he'd tried several different brands but they all made him sleepy. Finally he settled on one and fought off the side effects because without them he couldn't breathe. It had been his curse all his life. He'd dreamed of a baseball career most of his life and wasn't about to let a little thing like an allergy get in his way.

Bob enjoyed life as a pro ballplayer. He roomed with Phil Strom and Jim Good. They were a "gang of three." Always together. They loved to play pool and did it every chance they got. He was the soft spoken one, and often the goat in Strom's jokes or pranks. "You dog" was all he ever said to Phil. He was never offended because he knew it was always in good fun.

Midway through the season he showed up at the park for workouts in a shiny Z-28 sports convertible, white with blue markings. It was sleek and looked just like him. Nobody could understand why he bought it while he was still in rookie ball, but he was happy as a clam.

At six-foot-two, two hundred pounds of solid muscle, he worked out and took great pride in his buffed appearance. Though a first baseman when he was scouted and drafted, Oakland wanted him to play third at Medford so Jim Eppard could play first. He was a little intimidated by that at first, but he overcame it and spent the remainder of his playing days at third base. Bob was later traded to the Cubs organization and made it all the way to their AAA club in Iowa.

"Hey, Brian, why'd you leave so fast last night? You missed the champagne. Come to think of it, I didn't see you at the party either," Jackson asked.

"I know. I just needed time to think. I didn't contribute to the pennant so I didn't deserve to celebrate. Just leave me alone and I'll be okay." He knew he had not yet lived up to the high expectations he had for himself and this was something he'd never experienced before.

"Did you see the article about Dennis Rogers? Says he expects us to easily win fifty before the season's over. All we have to do is get ten out of our last seventeen."

"No sweat."

"There's a catch. If we get fifty wins, he gets free rent. That means Doc will, too, because they live together."

"We had something to do with it. Let's strike unless they pay our rents, too," Thoma couldn't resist putting in his two cents.

"Now that's the best idea you've had yet, Ray. Why don't you go tell Dennis?" Good laughed, as if it were a dare.

"Well, what if we win 49 games?"

"Serve him right," Good muttered as he walked away.

"Works for me," Glick chuckled.

The "A's Train" kept moving full speed ahead in the two game series against the Bellingham Mariners. Rogers juggled the lineup to rest his key players for the playoffs. They added victories 41 and 42. Tuesday they won handily, 15-5. Wednesday they had to work a little harder, but they got a come from behind win in the bottom of the ninth to take it 4-2.

At the end of the game Rogers asked for a few quiet minutes in the clubhouse before they left. "This trip will be our longest of the season. It starts at Salem, but that's good because we'll get out of there first. I want you to remember who you are and be classy. You've earned the respect of the league, but you won't get it if you're cocky. When we get to Chemeketa I want you to forget about the place and concentrate on the game."

THURSDAY, AUGUST 19

Those six days with illness and baseball interrupted only by long rides on the bus were some of the toughest of their season.

The bus trip to Salem was the usual easy four hour ride.

"Glad Rogers took me out of the lineup yesterday," Bathe began. "I went to the doctor for my cough. He said it's bronchitis and gave me some pills for it, but they make me so sleepy I'm not gonna take 'em on game days. Geez, don't tell Dennis 'cause he says we're supposed to get all that from Doc. HA! If we depended on that guy we'd all be dead!"

"That's for sure," another player whispered.

"By the way, could I have one of your pills? My throat's been sore since yesterday morning."

Dave Peterson and Ray Thoma were discussing the playoffs. "I hope Walla Walla makes it," Peterson said. "They've got better pitching and I heard that if we play them the whole series will be in Medford because they're gonna change their field back for football next week. They have to finish the season on the road, even the playoffs."

"I don't care which one makes it as long as it isn't the Angels. We have two games left up there and I don't want to go back to Chemeketa. Period."

Rogers told them he wanted them to look sharp during the pregame workouts. They did. They were loose. They hit a lot of long balls out of the cage. They looked like they were ready to take on the world…and win. Rogers even had them stay out there beyond their allotted time just to prove a point.

Rather than post the lineup card, Rogers walked up to the players sitting in a long line in the dugout area. "Thoma, you rest tonight. Graham at short. Dye at second. Bathe, you able to play?"

"Sure," Bathe answered. "I'm alright. Ah-chooooo!"

Mark Dye was sent to this team from somewhere to take Glick's spot. Rumor had it he was connected to the Oakland brass in some way or the other. Too bad for him because it was too late in the season for him to be one of the guys, and so was left pretty much out of the loop.

The game was the worst, at least from Medford's point of view. Over 1,700 Salem fans filled the stands and sat on the grass along the foul lines. They loudly supported their Angels and loudly hissed, cursed and booed the Medford A's. Angel pitcher Kirk McCaskill showed his stuff big time. He went 6.2 innings and held Medford to five hits. That was good baseball. The five errors Medford made was bad baseball. It cost them the win. Final score: Salem 8 - Medford 3.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 20

Rogers called another team meeting at the field. This time he wanted to discuss "last night's incident." Apparently Barry's green duffel bag full of his gear was ripped off right under his nose while he sat on the sidelines charting the game. Nobody saw anything suspicious. They all felt a fan just casually walked off with it. Funny about that. Every time he told anybody about his bag, the value of the contents increased.

Rogers also discussed the bronchitis epidemic that seemed to be spreading among the players. Bathe was on medication, Eppard was ill at the motel, and several others had serious sore throats. "I'm a great believer in adjustments," he said. "I'll be resting as many of you as I can so we'll be ready for the playoffs. If you think you can't play, tell me. Don't go out there and make yourself worse. I think we can adjust to this and beat it. Now go out there and give them another sharp infield like you did last night." He clapped his hands loudly.

The game was hard fought. Salem got one in the first. Medford came back with three in the third. Laurenzi homered in the fifth making it 5-1. After seven the score was 8-2. The Angels waged a good battle and were threatening in the ninth when they drove Barry from the mound. He couldn't get the third out. Myers came in and got it via the strikeout. Barry got his eleventh win against two losses. He was hopping mad that he wasn't allowed to stay in and get another complete game. Myers got his tenth save. Final score: Medford 8- Salem 6.

Back at the motel Rogers advised them to make it an early night because the bus would leave for Bellingham at nine sharp.

In one of the rooms, "Happy twenty first birthday to you, Pete," the Michigan Connection smiled. "We had a friend smuggle in a case of Coors from California. And she baked a cake for you, too."

Pete was surprised and a little embarrassed by the attention. "Coors and cake? What the heck? Most of us don't feel too good anyway, so how could it get any worse?"

In another room, "Geez, you should have seen it," Myers tried to tell Epp who was still half asleep. "They had a little league night. So they threw some old team bats on the field for the kids to take home. The guy yelled, 'On your mark. Get set. GO!' Now get this. As a joke some of the smallest ones ran over to our bat rack and grabbed all the new bats they could carry. Graham and them chased 'em down to get their bats back. Anyway, then the announcer in the booth said over the loud speaker, 'Well, that's one way to beat 'em.' Their fans cheered like crazy."

Eppard yawned, still half asleep. He asked what time the bus would leave in the morning, then continued snoring.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 21

They boarded the bus at 8:45 for the six hour ride to Bellingham. However, with all the road construction and detours, it took almost eight but felt like ten. It was a drag! Coughing and requests for the vitamin C pills were the main activity. The playoffs were twelve days away.

"What we need is some action," Thoma winked and pointed to Doc who was snoring with his book on his chest and his hat pulled down over his face.

Jeff Kaiser got some shaving cream out of his duffel bag and smeared it on the bill of the cap while Ray carefully wrapped his shoelaces around an open book of matches, tied them together, lit one match and ran back to his seat.

In a matter of seconds, "FIRE! FIRE!" Doc screamed. THUD! He fell in the aisle of the bus. As he reached to grab his cap he smeared shaving cream all over himself.

When they got to the motel, several players decided not to suit up and go to the park. They were miserable. Those who did play only went through the motions of playing baseball because most of them weren't feeling a hundred percent either.

At the park while working on the handle of his bat Graham asked, "Did you guys hear the news? The Mariners are only sending two guys to Instruction League. Jeff McDonald and Terry Taylor."

"Just two? Both pitchers?"

"Yeah. Jeff McDonald told me. They found out last week."

"Well, I'm not gonna worry about it," Thoma jumped up, grabbed his glove, and ran out to the field.

Instruction League was the farthest thing from Jeff Kaiser's mind. He was getting himself ready for his thirteenth start of the season. He had six wins, one loss, and five no-decisions behind him. He knew his record could have been better, especially his ERA, but he was sure he'd made a positive impression on Dennis Rogers and the brass from Oakland. Before he went out to the mound in the first inning, he reminded himself to stay focused and stay in the present.

According to the Bellingham Herald the next day, Mariner Manager Jeff Scott said, "It was a lousy ballgame all the way around." It was by far the coldest and most windy night for a ballgame all season. Both teams made mental and physical mistakes. Jeff Kaiser pitched into the sixth inning. Dennis Gonsalves relieved through the eighth, then Ed Myers closed. The game was constantly interrupted by arguments and ejections. Finally, after nearly four grueling hours, Medford was behind 9-8 in the top of the ninth when Jim Good hit a two-run homer. Myers handled the Mariners in a one-two-three bottom of the ninth. Final score: Medford 10 - Bellingham 9.

On the bus heading back to the motel the conversations were lively. "I hate the way that ump behind the plate took his own sweet time calling the pitch on a full count." Goodie started.

"Yeah. It looked to me like he was waiting to see what we were gonna do. If we started for first, he called it a strike. If we waited at the plate, he called it a ball. Guess he just wanted to show us he had the power."

"We've had this conversation before, Bathe joined them. What gets me is that when those rookie umps screw up, their mistakes appear on our stats."

"Take it easy. All the umps in this league are rookies, too, and they can get released just like we can."

"Oh, well, that makes me feel so much better."

"Anybody hear about the Bellingham bus?" Graham shouted. "McDonald said the damn thing is old and rickety. It's broken down three times already and they've actually had to get out and push it."

"Outrageous!"

SUNDAY, AUGUST 22

This day was sunny and bright. Perfect for an afternoon game. Rogers didn't let anyone remain back at the motel. He said sitting at the park soaking sun would be good for all of them.

"Ah-h-h-h, if you think this sun's good, you should try the beach at San Diego. One week left and I can't wait to get down there to check things out," Bathe chattered as he fidgeted with his batting glove.

Jim Good held up his taped index finger. "Man, I didn't think I hurt it this bad in that collision at the plate, but it started throbbing in the middle of the night. Drove me nuts! Dennis sent me to their trainer to look at it and he thinks it's a bone chip. Anyway, Dennis told me not to take any chances, so I guess I'm down until the playoffs."

There were several conversations about the changes in Brian Graham over the last few weeks. Nobody knew why he suddenly lightened up and had a better attitude on the field during games. Nobody cared why. What counted was his new relaxed manner. Later one of the players said they hadn't realized how much pressure his moods and tantrums created on the bench until they were gone.

Feeley wanted to know if anybody wanted to go to Baseball Chapel with him. "No can do. They don't have it here. Remember?"

The team looked like it went through the motions without any enthusiasm at the game. They were only able to garner four hits. The Mariners played well. Sounds of sneezing, coughing, and short tempers wafted from the Medford dugout. Final score: Bellingham 6 - Medford 1. Attendance: 148.

Dennis Rogers confined them to the bus when they got back to the motel. He reminded them to stay focused. "Remember, early curfew. Bus leaves for Walla Walla at eight sharp." He exited the bus and walked to his room without looking back.

For you moms who may worry about your sons missing church, Baseball Chapel was a relatively new addition to pro baseball at all levels. Every organization had the choice of whether or not to participate. Chapel offers nonsectarian services at the ballpark before Sunday games for players unable to make it to church. It's a short service usually followed by a guest speaker discussing a topic relevant to professional sports. The players who attended said they found it relaxing and meaningful.

Joe Girardi, ML player, 15 seasons: "Baseball Chapel always meant a lot to me. We have a lot of things in our lives besides baseball. To be a successful athlete, you need to have all the areas in order. God, family, baseball, and so on. When I started with the Cubs in 1989 I came up from AA as a starter when Damon Berryhill was injured. I started out strong, and then I struggled. But when I went to Chapel meetings and they had other players or sports figures speaking, it seemed that no matter what they talked about, it always related to me. Everyone else who went said the same thing. We always felt refreshed after Chapel."

MONDAY, AUGUST 23

Another long day on the bus. More bouts with road construction, delays, and detours hindered their progress and stretched the six-hour ride into eight. At one spot the bus sat for forty minutes on a road with new asphalt waiting for clearance to pass. It was hot. Some got nauseated from the smell of the asphalt. Others coughed. And all tempers were on short fuses. Nobody was mad at anybody but they were all mad at "things."

When they finally got to the motel, Rogers went into the office and came out with a clipboard and a batch of keys.

He gave it all to Doc. When Doc started yelling off names that he'd assigned as roommates, the fireworks began.

"This is a farce! What do you mean we have assigned roommates at this late date?"

Doc asserted his power and kept tossing keys to them. Rogers slipped away quietly and headed for his own room.

"This stinks! We're big boys now and know who we want for roommates. We don't need your help with it," another grumbled.

Doc kept calling names and tossing keys.

"Why don't you yell louder, Doc, and maybe the people here will think we're escapees from the prison over there."

"Hey," he shouted. "Don't bellyache to me. I'm just doing what Dennis told me to. So take it up with him!"

"Great! I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I'm gonna sleep where I want and there's nothing anybody can do about it!"

The circle around Doc shrunk as things got more heated.

"You know, Doc, most of us are as old as you are and some of us have graduated from college, and YOU are presuming to tell us you've assigned roommates?"

"LOOK," he shouted loud enough that they all stopped short, "I'm doing what I'm told to do and I don't have to take any crap from anybody in my job. I'm the trainer and that commands respect, get it?"

"Crap! If it's not one thing it's another. Doc, we don't NEED to be treated like this."

Suddenly Eric Barry took over. "Guys, he's right. He's the trainer and we have to show him respect, no matter what he does." With his back to Doc he winked. "So let's get our keys and cool it."

They took the keys then worked out their arrangements on their own. Nothing else was said.

Things were much more relaxed at the park. Richard Oye, the Walla Walla batboy who had adopted Luis Rojas earlier in the season, hit pepper to a small group of players. Across the field the pitchers were playing flip. Others played catch.

By game time there were seven hundred fans in the park. Medford knew everybody was there to see them.

The Walla Walla Padres approached this game tied with the Salem Angels for first place in the Northern Division of the NWL. Medford had a twenty game lead in the Southern Division.

By the time the game started they were more relaxed. Their game was sloppy again. Vela started. After giving up six runs on four hits and eight walks, three wild pitches, four fielding errors and a passed ball, he left in the seventh. Myers came in to save the day. Medford entered the top of the ninth behind 6-5. The loudest noise in the park was Mikki Jackson yelling, "C'mon E-D!" as he did every time Ed pitched. Well, they did it again. They scored two in the ninth and held on in the bottom to win. Myers' record was now 6-2 with 10 saves. Final score: Medford 7 - Walla Walla 6.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 24

This was a weird day. For most of them it began in the coffee shop. "Sure. I knew the minute Eddie took the mound the game was in our pockets. He's the Bruce Sutter of the Northwest League, right?" Strom chattered.

"Right," Eppard added. "Knowing he's there gives me a lot of confidence."

Outside, "Look, Johnnie," Barry pointed his finger in Vela's face, "You're not the only one feeling pressure right now. Some guys aren't playing. Some are struggling. Time's getting short and we're all feeling lots of emotions. But I can't get hung up on that because it brings me down from where I want to be. Listening to anyone else's gripes interferes with me trying to be up and confident. I know you want to talk to someone. I know Rogers won't listen. But it can't be me. Understand?" Barry swatted Vela on the fanny and walked away.

"Goodie, how's the hand? Didn't seem to interfere with your mechanics when you got that pinch hit in the ninth to start our ball rolling," Glick teased.

"I'm not ready to catch yet, but swinging the bat wasn't too bad. Look like you were able to swing the bat yourself now that the cast is off."

"Sure," Glick answered. "I'd play with a cast on both legs and a blindfold just to get the chance to show Oakland something. But we both know the only reason Rogers had me at second was to put Graham in right to give Laurenzi the night off for the playoff games," he shrugged.

Later, when everyone was suited up waiting to board the bus for the park, the trainer walked out with his arm around Brian Graham's shoulder and it looked like they were having a confidential talk. As they walked by the pool Doc checked out the girls as they checked out Brian. Doc acted like he thought they were responding to him when they were responding to Brian. Once they were out of earshot, "Did you see that?" Raucous laughter followed.

At the park Barry inhaled sunflower seeds and spit out the shells out like bullets as he waited for the game to start. He was eager to get his twelfth win and tie the league record. The first three innings were pretty much routine. But in the fourth as the A's took a four-run lead, Mikki Jackson had some sort of seizure in the bullpen way out on the right field line.

Doc ran out there followed closely by padre trainer Bill Taylor, the only trainer in the league with a degree in Sports Medicine. Taylor stayed with Jackson until he was taken away by ambulance. Taylor told Rogers Jackson would get a more thorough examination in the hospital and they'd soon know what was going on with him. Rogers said nothing to his team because he wanted to wait for medical information. Besides, they had a game to win.

The team took Jackson's situation hard. The impact on them was dramatic. Barry didn't pitch up to his standards. Thoma missed two easy grounders at short. Bathe got tangled up in a loose gate while trying to catch a pop foul at third. The dugout was full of whispers. The rumor spread like lightning that Mikki had a stroke. Players in the dugout were trying to cheer for those in the field. By the time the long half inning was over the Padres were ahead 5-4. The Medford offense remained powerless in the fifth and sixth.

"Have they heard anything yet?" John Vela, Jackson's roommate and closest friend on the team paced and paced. Finally he hustled out to the bullpen and gathered up Mikki's green bag and other gear. He needed to do something for his friend and that was all he could think of.

"Look! There he is!" Mikki Jackson slowly walked in from the right field line. He walked alone, under his own power. The game continued, but each player shook his hand as the opportunity presented itself.

"What happened, man?"

"They said I had back spasms because I'm so worn out. They're gonna run more blood tests when we get home," he explained.

"Geez, man, Doc said you had a stroke. Scared us good."

Rogers suddenly clapped his hands and told Mikki he was glad to see him. "But now we have a game to win," and he clapped his hands hard.

Jackson thought his season was over as far as pitching was concerned, but he stayed with the team until the very last game and cheered from the dugout.

They got back to business in the seventh and scored six times. Barry gave up one more run in the eighth. Medford got two more in the ninth. Ed Myers pitched the final inning. Final score: Medford 12 - Walla Walla 6.

They showered and changed at the park, then began their final all night bus trip. First a stop for take out fast food, then onward to Medford. Estimated time of arrival, eight in the morning.

"I been waiting for this one…the last long roadie." Myers stretched. "I'm supposed to pick up my plane ticket home when we get back to Medford. Did you get yours yet?"

"No. I still have to make that phone call," Peterson answered.

Jeff Kaiser walked down the aisle toward them. "Is Doc still in the can?"

"What?"

"Quick, give me your belt," he said to Myers. "Pete, Ray, give me yours, too." He quickly buckled all three belts together, strung them through the door latch to lock him in there. Doc was a pretty rotund guy and had no room to move in there. He ranted, raved, and threatened revenge for fifty miles. They finally decided to let him out just to shut him up.

A few seats away, "What blows my mind," Graham said to Laurenzi, "is that the coaches went through this as players and now they're going through it again. Shit. If I ever end up coaching I don't plan on starting at this level and doing these damn bus rides again. No sir. Not me."

"Oh right. Brian the Great Graham will start his coaching career in the majors." Laurenzi shrugged and looked out the window.

Dallas Green, former ML pitcher; former manager, GM Cubs: "We managers certainly understand what these young players are going through because we went through the same things ourselves. I signed in June, 1955, after my junior year in college. I was sent to Reidsville, North Carolina, which was B-Ball. They don't have that any more. It was two steps higher than rookie ball and I was totally unprepared for that. Oh, I had a great arm and could throw like the devil, but I wasn't competitive enough. So the organization wisely sent me to D-Ball which is like rookie ball today. I put in my time there and worked my way up. The rookies today have a tendency to forget that we've been through what they're going through. I've had all the frustrations, all the trials and tribulations, all the hurts and emotions that they're going through."

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 25

"The way I see it," Tom Colburn said as they suited up in the clubhouse, "if we knock off Salem in both games, and the Padres get hot for two or three in a row, they could take it, and we won't have to go back to Chemeketa for the first playoff games."

"Yeah. That's the way I want it to go down," Strom agreed.

A few minutes later both teams were informed there would be no BP or infield because somebody accidentally left the sprinklers on over night and the mound and plate areas needed work before the game. The players sat around comparing plans for things they wanted to do when they got home. By game time they had themselves all worked up to make the plan to avoid Chemeketa come true.

"It all begins tonight. Let's take Salem."

Jeff Kaiser was on the mound for Medford, and he was eager to face the Angels. He wanted to lower his ERA. Most of all he wanted to help his team win the game.

It was a good ballgame. Salem's pitcher Tony Mack held them hitless for six innings. Kaiser gave up one run in the second. Bob Bathe got his seventh homer in the seventh. It broke up a no hit shutout and began a Medford rally which got them four runs. Kaiser lasted 7.1 innings and insisted he felt strong when Rogers pulled him. "I want you strong for the playoffs. You've done your job for tonight," he said as he took the ball.

The 2400+ fans gave him a standing ovation as he left the field. He's scattered eight hits and allowed only one run. Dennis Gonsalves finished the seventh, then Ed Myers did the eighth and ninth. Final score: Medford 4 - Salem 1.

After the game, Rogers was quick to inform the press how pleased he was with the game. "It was the best all around game they've played in a long time, despite all the injuries and illnesses."

THURSDAY, AUGUST 26

When they got to the park, Rogers called a team meeting before they suited up. He told them he'd be making appointments with each player to go over the season evaluation, his final recommendations to Oakland. They thought of it as a final report card, and they all wanted good grades.

For the next week and a half he talked with each one privately. He went over many aspects of their playing and their season. He also let them know who was invited to Instruction League. Apparently Eric Barry, Ed Myers, and Jim Eppard were the first to find out they'd be going. As the days and the interviews rolled by, they all knew the entire list: Mike Gorman, Ray Them, Brian Graham, Jim Bailey, Pat O'Hara, Bob Bathe, Tony Laurenzi, and Jeff Kaiser. Impressive.

The Michigan Connection shook hands. They had all made it. They did keep up with the California athletes and actually surpassed many of them.

"Talk about mixed emotions." Jeff Kaiser later recalled, "That invitation was an admission the organization liked us and they wanted to invest more money in our development. On the other hand, it also meant we'd only have a few days off at the end of the season and then another eight week season of baseball."

"Reflecting back," he continued, " I. League was actually a sort of working vacation. I think Oakland had the largest group in Arizona. Besides players from all six minor league teams, there were coaches, infield instructors, outfield instructors, running instructors, the big brass, and Billy Martin himself even made an appearance.

"They put us in the same complex used by the major league team during spring training. First class all the way. But we didn't fully appreciate it until we went back for our first spring training in March and found ourselves in a different setting. The organization had players from each league stay at different motels. The higher the league, the better the place.

"They turned us into nine-to-fivers down there, and it wasn't so bad. From nine till noon we went through drills and more drills according to position, then with batting instructors. At noon they served soup and fresh fruit at the field. We rested till one, then played a game. The teams we played were the Mariners, Astros, Dodgers, Cubs, Brewers, and Angels. They had a training table at a nearby restaurant for dinner. We had our nights and every Sunday off.

"One of the things that stands out in my mind about it was the grand entrance made by Billy Martin and all the rumors that he'd been fired that day. Things were moving along as usual during our morning drills when a person in a black ten-gallon hat appeared through a gate in left field. An entourage followed him. They walked slowly toward the plate. The closer he got the whispers began. 'There's Billy and his cronies.'

"Another thing was how we kidded Ray Thoma about all the attention he got from Harmon Killebrew and Davey Lopes. Lopes worked with Ray on base running and base stealing. He taught him how to watch the pitcher's feet and when to take off. I admired Lopes. He was there to help us, but he also worked hard. While we broke for lunch he ran laps along the outfield fence. He did it every day.

"Dave Heaverlo, Oakland's AAA pitching coach at Tacoma, Art Fowler, and a couple of other guys worked with us on pitching. Lee Walls worked with the outfielders. He took to Pete right away and gave him lots of time. Pete really liked and admired him.

"Oh, and one more thing. During our game with the Angels on October 14, Bob Didier was one of their coaches. We quickly learned the guy is intense. I mean IN-TENSE! One guy's wife clapped when he got a hit. The others there whispered that she should be quiet. We had already noticed that the handful of people in the stands whispered to each other…at a baseball game. Guys in the clubhouse wanted to laugh but we knew to keep it down. I mean, I've made more noise than that in the library!

"Spring training wasn't much different as far as the daily schedule went. We were divided according to the teams Oakland thought we would end up on for the season, and we worked hard to make that team. Although we had lots of time to relax every night, it was mentally and physically more tiring. For the first time we competed against each other for jobs. Some of the Medford players were released out of spring training."

Back to the season. In the clubhouse Barry showed off the new watch he got for being named the Minor League Player of the Month.

Before BP Doc threw out a new batch of bats. "This is your last order, so make 'em last! He shouted.

"Yes sir!" Graham saluted sarcastically daring Doc to respond, but he scowled and said nothing.

During BP Dennis Rogers walked over to Joe Maddon by the batting cage. They had a long conversation while watching the players take their cuts.

Medford entered this game with a record of 47-15, with only three losses at home. Mike Gorman made it interesting by giving Salem one earned run in the first. Then he held them scoreless till the eighth, when he left after the first out. Bob Kipper, the Angels number one pick, wasn't as lucky. He got knocked out in the second. Homers from Peterson, Rojas, and Graham kept Medford in the lead all night. The Angels rallied for three in the eighth and two more in the ninth, but they still fell two runs short. Gorman got his tenth win and Myers got save number twelve. Final score: Medford 8 - Salem 6.

Things were lively in Medford's clubhouse after the game. "Ah-h-h, I hate the thought of that ride to Bend tomorrow, even if it is the last one of the regular season," Godwin groaned.

"I hate it because it's the last one," Strom took over. "I can't wait to get home to Mom's cooking, the beach, and watching some late night TV."

"Go on now, you two," Gonsalves answered. "You're never satisfied. After a week of that you'll start complaining that you miss baseball and all those great bus rides." He winked, then pulled off his game socks and threw them at Strom.

Strom caught them in flight. "WHEW!" He held his nose and continued, "These things have enough action in 'em you could use 'em for bait next time you go fishing."

"Great idea. Give 'em back. I'm going fishing on my first day home." Gonsalves gestured like he was holding a fishing pole reeling in a big one.

"God, I'm so baseballed out. All my friends back home are heading back to college this week," another groaned.

"Wanna change places with them?"

"NO WAY What time's the bus leaving in the morning?"

"Eleven."

FRIDAY, AUGUST 27…SATURDAY, AUGUST 28

Medford needed these two games in Bend like a flood needs rain. Most of them slept or quietly reflected on their season during the ride. They considered this series the final hoop they had to jump through in order to finally get to the playoffs and get back home. The only noise on the entire ride was from the back of the bus as the hustlers hustled each other in another of their never ending poker games.

After the regular workouts things were lively in the Medford dugout. "And what makes you think baseball owes you anything? It's a job and we're getting paid. If the brass thinks we're good enough, we'll get promoted to a higher league. If not, we'll get released," Thoma explained.

"Right man. We knew that coming in. We knew we'd be their property and they'd make all the decisions for us. So what's your problem?"

"It's this," another answered emphatically. "Nobody promised us anything more than a chance, an opportunity to make it to the show. We've all had that. I know some have had more exposure than others. Maybe it's not what we think of as fair. But it's business. But I never thought Rogers would treat us like he did. It seems like it's not who you know but who you blow that counts." He snickered and turned his back on them.

"You're pretty cynical if you ask me. Nobody promised you a rose garden. And you get a second chance to do something 'cause you're going to I. League. So if that's your attitude, why don't you throw in the towel right now and get out of here," another player got in his face and practically shouted.

Another laughed and ended it with, "Now I know why they call the dugout the whine cellar."

It was obvious they were tired. Some felt cheated but a reality check would reveal that many of them cheated themselves. They didn't follow Rogers' instructions or advice. They lived in the fast lane by keeping late hours. They didn't eat properly or get enough rest. They spent too much time with groupies. They didn't focus on their baseball careers. When the end of the season rolled around they eagerly sought scapegoats.

They did agree that if they learned anything this season, they learned that the only control they had over their own destiny in pro baseball was to go to the park every day prepared to play, then go out on the field and do their jobs.

Dave Heaverlo, former ML pitcher, 7 seasons; former minor league pitching coach: "One of the worst parts of this career is watching decisions about YOUR career being made by people who couldn't manage a 7-11 store."

From the first pitch Friday the game was a spectacle. The Bend Phillies were high, coming off a 20-15 victory over the Padres the night before. Their fans hoped they'd be able to do the same thing to Medford in this game.

Godwin started, but was pulled in the fourth behind 10 - 0. He glared at Rogers when he approached the mound to take the ball. If looks could kill….well…you know what I mean.

"I hate Dennis Rogers. This is the second time he's left me out there to rot," Godwin muttered as he threw his glove on the ground when he entered the dugout. He mumbled and made snide remarks for the rest of the game.

It got worse. We entered the seventh behind 15-0. Bathe homered to make the score 15-1.

When Jim Feeley came in to pitch in the eighth, every player on the team held his breath. It was only his fifth appearance of the entire season. He suffered from every nagging baseball injury he could think of during the year. Now he was gonna hold the Phillies so the team could score sixteen runs in the ninth for another miraculous come from behind win. At least that was his plan.

During his warm up pitches on the mound he threw the ball twenty feet high and ten feet wide of the plate. He hit the first batter he faced. The Phillie fans got loud and nasty. They thought he'd done it deliberately. Feeley tried to mentally regroup. Rogers went out and calmed him down. The frustration on Feeley's face flashed like a neon sign.

After he hit the second batter and threw a wild fastball high over the head of the third, Rogers ran to the mound and brought Feeley back with him. As they got to the dugout the fans screamed obscenities and drenched the roof of the dugout with beer. Finally, four security people stood around the top of the dugout so the game could continue.

Ed Myers went out and struck out the side. Medford rallied in the ninth but the hill was too steep. Final score: Bend 16 - Medford 2.

Saturday the day dragged for them. They were restless, bored, and eager to get on the bus back to Medford. Finally at the park, they were loose during workouts. Since this was Bend's final home game of the season, they had a pre game awards ceremony. Most Valuable Pitcher was Steve Witt, brother of ML pitcher Mike Witt. Most Valuable Player was slugging outfielder Chris James.

Medford players noticed that most teams in the league did this. Medford didn't. Oh well.

The crowd was smaller and more civil than the previous night. It didn't matter. The Phillies beat Medford again. At least it wasn't another blowout. Final score: Bend 6 - Medford 3.

On the bus back to Medford, Kaiser said to Thoma and Peterson, "Rogers told me this afternoon that he wants me to pitch in the third playoff game."

"There's only three games and he wants you to pitch the clincher. Congratulations, Jeff," Pete said with a big smile on his face and an extended hand to shake.

Thoma followed with another handshake. "Great news, Kaise. How's it gonna go? Barry, Gorman, then you?"

"Yeah. Dennis said he liked the stamina and character I showed in dealing with the shoulder and the bad starts and all. I felt like it was a sincere pat on the back."

"Definitely," Pete agreed. "I knew he liked you. And now they all know you can pitch."

"Slow down," Thoma interjected with a sober look on his face. "It's a two out of three series, and maybe there won't BE a third game. We're gonna take it in two." He grinned.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 29

They arrived at the park early because Dennis told them there would be a team meeting before they suited up. "We've had a hard time with illness and injury. But that's no excuse for those two losses in Bend. I want you to give some hard thought and re-focus on why you're in Medford in the first place. So get your shit in gear. Don't think about what you're gonna do when you get home. Stay in the present. Stay focused on your goal. There's only a few days left."

"Only a few more days to get his fiftieth win and free rent is what he really means," someone mumbled.

Jeff Kaiser, Jim Feeley, and Elton Hooker joined the Phillies in their Baseball Chapel service.

"Feels so good to play these last games of the season in our own yard in front of our own fans," Barry stretched, then continued suiting up for his final start. "It's just the boost we need. We really have been dragging our tails lately, you know."

"There he goes again. His mouth always moves faster than a speeding bullet when he's nervous. He doesn't care about OUR win as a team, just his thirteenth win to set a new NWL record."

"Yeah. It's all about him."

"Hey, no sweat man," Jackson said as he patted Barry on the back. "You just gotta remember these Phillies have a unique team. They got at least two pitchers who could throw no-hitters and at least four infielders who can throw the whole game."

"You know, it really is good to be back here in Medford to finish it," Kaiser said to Jim Eppard. "I mean he told us our schedule would take its toll on us in a variety of ways. We've been through a lot together and we're all looking forward to surviving the playoffs and getting away from baseball, at least for a little while."

"You're right about that," Epp agreed.

"Didn't you have your evaluation this morning? "

"Tomorrow."

"Oh."

Before workouts began Brian Graham sat on the left field grass alone. Cross-legged, his elbows on his knees, and his face in his hands. He muttered to himself.

When Thoma and Pete saw this they walked out to him.

"You okay?"

"Yeah," Graham answered, then smiled. "I've had a little flu bug and Dennis told me to go home and rest. But there are so few games left. I've got to play because time's running out and I've fallen real short and feel like I've let everyone down, know what I mean?"

"Don't start in on yourself again. You can't help it if you're sick. Besides, I thought you put all that stuff behind you." Thoma sounded impatient but sympathetic. "Even Mickey Mantle didn't have Mickey Mantle games every day, so give yourself a break already."

By game time there were only about eight hundred fans in the stands, but they sounded like the usual full house. They went home knowing the Medford A's were back! They played great defense with nine double plays. Barry went the distance to get his victory and the record despite giving up six runs. The offense turned eight hits and ten walks into eight runs. Final score: Medford 8 - Bend 6.

The clubhouse was livlier than it had been in a long time. It was all nonsense but it sounded good because players were feeling more like themselves again.

MONDAY, AUGUST 30

Mike Gorman was told he'd only be allowed to pitch six tonight because Dennis wanted to save his arm for the playoffs. He had a chance to get his eleventh win and he planned to make the most of it.

"Who won the game last night, Angels or Padres?"

"Nobody. It was rained out."

"Damn. They're still tied and that puts the pressure on us again. The Padres will be here tomorrow and if we beat 'em we knock 'em out then we'll have to go to Chemeketa to start the playoffs."

"Let's throw those games."

"Nah. Rogers would know and have the whole lot of us released."

At the other end of the clubhouse, "So how'd your evaluation go, Epp?" Pete asked. "About what I expected. Oakland likes my .375 average, but they want me to work out and hit for power. Oakland likes it that I only struck out six times all season, but they want me to hit more homeruns. Oakland likes my fielding but wants me to be more aggressive defensively."

"So, other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how'd you like the play?" They both laughed and headed for the field.

Joe Maddon, former manager, Salem; bench coach Anaheim Angels: "The end of the season evaluations are very important to the player and to the organizations, so I do them very carefully and very thoroughly. It's a form of grading that we basically break down into columns, using three main categories: Hitting, Fielding Ability, and Running Speed. For hitting we look at the present, and we project him into the future on such points as aggressiveness, ability to make contact, power potential. We look at Fielding Ability and Running Speed both present and future, too. Average is 4.3 seconds from the right side of the plate and 4.2 from the left. All that goes on one side of the paper.

"Then what I do is take the future marks, add them up and divide by five to get my grade number. Once I get that number, then I have ten points to play with depending on gut feelings. For instance, a player can get upgraded if he hustles or downgraded for lack of hustle.

"In a second column I put whether he's a line drive hitter, alley hitter, or pull hitter. Does he have a hitch in his swing. What kind of bat speed does he have. Arm strength, accuracy and release. Fielding quickness, agility, range. All that gets graded.

"Then below that comes physical description. What is his body like. What are his strong points and weak points. Can he get stronger. Will he get heavier with maturity. Does he need to lose weight. Does he need more upper body work or whatever. An example of that would be a '….well-proportioned frame or has potential for body to develop further. Takes good care of his body and eats properly.' Is he susceptible to leg pulls and that type of thing. May have back problems eventually. All of that comes into consideration.

"Then I move to the next column: strong points. Whatever I've written in numbers in the categories above I have to verbalize here. For example, '…..these are his strong points: Above average hitter, average line drive contact, potential above average power, above average speed and base stealing and run scoring ability. Speed gives him above average defensive range, average arm makes him eligible to play left or center field. Weak points: Doesn't get a good jump on the ball right now but may have problems with his eyes, throwing accuracy necessary to play right field is questionable at this time.

"Then I go down to the summation. His grade came out 5.0. That means he an average major league prospect. Has potential to play every day in the major leagues as a center fielder. Will be an above average performer because of speed and his ability to put the ball in play. Weak points to overcome. Defensively his range is below average but suggest he have his eyes checked.

"Verbalization is especially important because if we get two players with the same numbers we can look down at the strong and weak points and see how each fits what we're looking for.

"At the end of each report I always put what I feel about their attitude: how it affects them positively and negatively; if they're the type that drag;, if they get down very easily; if they set a good example for the rest of their teammates; or if they're in a situation where they're not considered good prospects. A poor attitude can quickly lose grade points, even for a high prospect."


After discussing this same thing with a few other managers in the league, I concluded that what Joe Maddon explained is the standard way of evaluating players.

A few minutes before the game started, Rogers pulled Eppard aside. "Graham and Laurenzi were both sent home with the flu. So I want you in right field tonight. Go borrow a glove and play a little catch to get used to the feel of it. It's been a long time since you've played out there."

Mike Gorman made his six innings count. He gave up only four hits, no runs, and struck out ten. Gonsalves went the long relief route and gave up four runs. Myers held on for the save. Final score: Medford 5 - Bend 4.

They had won game number fifty. Free rent for Dennis Rogers and Doc.

"It was my best outing of the season," Gorman told the radio announcer in his post-game interview. "Goodie and I talked strategy between innings. I had command of all my pitches. It was just one of those nights."

TUESDAY, AUGUST 31

When they got to the park the Padres were already there, just hanging around in uniform. They looked tired and haggard. Every road trip they took involved long rides on the bus. Unfortunately for Medford, Salem beat them in a doubleheader yesterday. So the only way they could get to the playoffs was if they could sweep Medford at Miles Field coupled with Salem losing their final three. Not likely.

The realization that they'd most likely have to go back to Chemeketa for the first playoff games made them more determined. They called it "intense." They were impatient to get these three with Walla Walla under their belts to end the season and get to Chemeketa and get it over with.

"Are you ready to go tonight?" Myers asked Kaiser. "Sure. Lots on my mind. Barry's final outing was successful. Mike was outstanding. I want mine to be memorable as well. I'll be going up against Jimmy Jones, their number one pick. They expect him to show us up again."

"Ah, you act like you're fixin' to go out there and show 'em. Good luck. Oh yeah, you didn't eat those peas, did ya?" Ed grinned.

"Nope."

Rogers had juggled the lineup again to rest his regulars.

"Man, what's up with Graham? If Glick's playing this many days in a row, Brian must be dead!"

Phil Strom sang the National Anthem before the game. He sounded great but forgot to take his cap off. They razzed him good for that blunder.

Jeff Kaiser got his wish and pitched one of his best games of the season. He was told he'd only go six innings, but Rogers left him for eight. He walked two batters early, then stayed ahead of the hitters the rest of the night. The offense backed him up with ten hits. Eighteen year old Jimmy Jones pitched a complete game for the Padres and showed a lot of poise. Final score: Medford 6 - Walla Walla 2.

In a post-game interview Tom Colburn said he would drive to Salem to take Barry and Myers up there the day before the playoffs start so they could rest. The team would go up Friday morning to play Friday night.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1

Glenn Godwin was scheduled to start this game and he was determined that "this week of the pitcher" would include him. Players arrived at the park dressed much nicer than usual. A team party was planned for after the game at a nearby dinner house. They expected a nice meal, a few drinks, and some ceremonies hosted by Oakland.

While the Padres went through the motions of their workouts they looked really tired. Glenn Godwin sat alone, deep in thought. He knew this was his final outing of the season and he had not been invited to Instruction League. He knew he needed a good game more than ever. The thought that this could even be his last pro game was looming.

As it turned out, he was the star of the game. He went eight innings, gave up four hits, and recorded nine strikeouts. He finally listened to Dennis Rogers and stopped doing that silly smile that made batters so angry.

Everybody played. Most got hits. Final score: Medford 13 - Walla Walla 2.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 2

At last…the final day of the regular season. Before the first pitch, the Medford players were introduced just as they were in the first game. They lined up along the third base line. This time their cleats didn't hurt.

The character of the team really showed in this game. They took the field with gusto and demonstrated the same flare they'd shown all season. They were behind 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth. O'Hara, Glick, and Laurenzi each walked to load the bases. Luis Rojas slowly stepped up to the plate, waited for his pitch, and hit a grand slam! The padres were unable to catch up in the ninth. Final score: Medford 6- Padres 5.

Just like that Rojas did it. If there were any doubts, that clinched it. Now they knew they would get off that bus at Chemeketa Friday afternoon with their adrenaline flowing. There was no way Salem would beat them.
 
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