Go Pro Baseball Wise: Minor League Memories

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Roadies gave them time to discuss the minor league lifestyle, stats, injuries, and pro baseball in general.


"Actually the bus rides weren't that bad. We ended up a lot closer with our teammates because those rides gave us time to get acquainted and discuss professional baseball together."
— Wally Backman,
former ML player, 14 seasons

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Now I Know How Casey Felt
Memories of a Minor League Season

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THREE: Oh, those minor league bus rides! (July 7-July 18)

WEDNESDAY, JULY 7

This was their first of three road trips into Northern Washington. This was the dreaded thirteen-hour ride so famous in the minor leagues. Although they barely had time to shower, find something to eat, and toss their gear in the usual heap, all was well with the Medford A's. They were still high from the sweep when they boarded the bus at 1:30 A.M. A few fans had lingered in the parking lot to give them a happy send off.

They would play three games with the Walla Walla Padres then go up to the Canadian border to the quaint town of Bellingham to face the Bellingham Mariners for three more.

"Get serious, Doc. An inflatable rubber raft in the aisle of the bus? How are we supposed to get to the can?"

"That's your problem. Climb over the seats for all I care." But he was actually situated at the very back end of the bus and only a couple of them had to climb over him. And they did.

Near the front, Strom and Bathe squirmed trying to get comfortable, but laughter overtook them and they gave up. Phil, always the con-man, goaded gullible Bob into a game of baseball trivia. "Remember the first letter of the last name of the last guy has to be the first letter of the first name of the next one. Got it? I'll start," Strom graciously volunteered. "Tommy John."

"Jay Johnstone," Bathe replied after a long pause.

"Easy. Jamie Quirk. SEE ya! Phil grinned. "Wanna go again?"

"Boy, you dog…you led me right into that one. Sure, let's do it again. But we can't use the same names over again."

Another pause. "Buckey Dent," Bathe said confidently.

The response was immediate. "Dan Quisenberry. SEE ya!"

"Forget it. I'm gonna have a dip and get some sleep," Bathe groaned as he reached for his round can and his pillow in one vast maneuver.

Meanwhile Jim Eppard took his pillow and cleared enough room on the racks to stretch out and sleep. Ed Myers began a letter to his parents. Dave Peterson began his daily letter to his girl. Several others settled back with their headphones in place. The poker crowd stirred briefly then thought better of it. Dennis Rogers sat in his usual seat up front shuffling papers and completing his nightly reports for the organization.

"Are we there yet?" one player asked when the bus slowed down for a stop light somewhere between here and there.

"No. Go back to sleep."

Johnnie LeMaster, former ML player, 12 seasons: "When I was in rookie ball in Great Falls, Montana, we took a trip to Ogden, Utah, which was about a 16-hour bus ride. The place where they put us up was like a dormitory…one huge room with thirty-five beds. Before the night was over, there were pillow fights, bottles breaking off walls and all kinds of nonsense like that. Nobody could get any sleep. Then, in the morning the manager had to wake everybody up. It didn't go well, so he just started fining us for not being outa bed. He didn't know that we didn't get to sleep till the sun started coming up. Whew! He was mad! Another time we took this trip, just as soon as we got there and got off the bus we had to play a doubleheader. I still remember that as one of the hardest things I'd done in my life. We got off the bus tired and sluggish and needed a nap. But we played baseball because that what the minor leagues are all about."

The bus finally pulled into the hotel at Walla Walla just before two in the afternoon. They hurriedly grabbed a bite at the little coffee shop down the street from the hotel, then slept for a couple of hours before going to the park at six.

Borleski Field, home of the Padres, won the prize as the poorest park in the entire Northwest League. For starters, it was a football field converted temporarily for the baseball season. Most of the seats were wooden benches along the first base line, plus a set of portable seats behind the home dugout along the third base line. There were no seats behind the plate, which drove the scouts crazy because that hampered their pitcher evaluations.

Believe it or not, the freeway was only a few yards above and behind the plate. Youngsters sat up there to chase foul balls hit. They retrieved the balls and threw them back onto the field. Their perch looked dangerously close to traffic but nobody paid much attention. Guess they considered watching the game for free as their "pay."

The lighting was also very poor, and the scoreboard makeshift….unless we wanted to know what down or what quarter it was.

But the worst thing, at least for the home team, was the complete lack of fan support. During our first game there I heard several people comment about the great turnout. The attendance was recorded at 229.

Before the game some of the pitchers played a game of flip in the outfield.

"Sometimes it's really tough. I mean, you can be throwing a real good game but still look bad because they don't get timely hits to score runners. #[email protected]%&^%!! It really stinks to give up two runs and lose."

"Yeah. And I hear 'em snickering that they'll have to score 20 runs when so and so is pitching. I get so mad."

The Medford lineup was rearranged for this game. Thoma returned to short and Graham was moved to second, where he'd stay. Jeff Kaiser started the game, had picked three runners off first base in the first five innings, but left after six, behind 2-1. In the top of the ninth the Padres led 4-3 when Pat O'Hara slammed a two run homer to left. It turned out to be his second game-winning homerun in as many days. Closer Ed Myers chalked up his first win of the season. Final score: Medford 5 - Walla Walla 4.

The Padre players shook their heads in disbelief as they headed off to the showers. The A's, on the other hand, practically danced all the way to their bus. Their record was now ten and three.

"Come on guys, hustle. I'm starving," was the general drift of the conversations. Unfortunately they were about to face a big surprise. The coffee shop by the motel was closed. Every other place they tried to call from one of the rooms was closed. So, their quest for food finally led one group to what they described as "the only place open at that hour." It was a disco called The Red Apple, and the sign out front said, "Live: Delores at the Piano Bar."

Later, back at the motel, "How's the shoulder?" Peterson asked.

"I felt like it was gonna be a struggle from the first pitch. During the warm ups it felt fine and strong, and that was such a relief. But throwing hard in the game, it felt tender right away. I could tell I was favoring it. Think Rogers noticed?"

"Hard to tell."

"Yeah. Tonight the mound was a lonely place for me. 'Concentrate' I kept telling myself. I focused on my mechanics with every pitch. It was a tough night. And then to come off with a no decision."

"What the hey? You held them to two runs in five innings. Nothing wrong with that."

"We'll see," Kaiser yawned. "Now all I have to worry about is what Rogers saw and what he'll put in the report to Oakland tonight."

THURSDAY, JULY 8…FRIDAY, JULY 9

They learned their lesson. Right after breakfast Thursday they raided the little supermarket across the street and took bags of food to their rooms to avoid a repeat of last night's frustration.

These two days passed slowly. They were restless. They were anxious to get back to Medford. Friday was the worst because they had to return room keys in the morning and were reduced to two rooms crammed with all their gear. The highlight for most of them was watching the afternoon soaps.

Thursday was a disappointing loss, 11-9. Friday all their pent-up energy exploded and Medford trounced the Padres 11-2. After the game, they stopped for burgers then hit the road again. Destination: Bellingham on the west coast just south of the Canadian border. ETA: 8:30 AM.

SATURDAY, JULY 10

The Bellingham Mariners played at Joe Martin Field. The field was large and well maintained, but the stands were small. There was concrete seating behind the plate with portable metal bleachers along both foul lines.The field is one part of a larger complex. All dressing rooms were across the street in the football area. It all looked pretty new and quite nice.

"It's the middle of July and it's cold up here," Vince Bailey shrugged. "I'm going inside to get some sleeves." A few others followed.

"California athletes can't take a little cold weather," the Michigan Connection laughed.

Rogers wanted a quick meeting and called the team to the left field corner. He began with the news that catcher Charlie O'Brien and pitcher Steve Ontiveros would be leaving the team. "We have enough pitching to complete this trip," he assured them, and Oakland is already looking for another catcher for us. Meantime, O'Hara can certainly handle the job. Okay," he said clapping his hands, "let's go out there and win a game tonight." Then he headed back to the dugout to get his bat and hit a few grounders to the infielders.

"Well, maybe one of us will be called next," Dennis Gonsalves said to his roomie, Glenn Godwin. "I know I'd sure like to skip a couple of leagues and try my hand with the big boys."

"Me too," Godwin agreed. "But I have the feeling Rogers likes me and thinks I can help this team win again, so I may be stuck here. The only thing that'll get me there ahead of you is this," he held out his left hand and petted it with his right.

"No doubt. You southpaws always get a longer look. Let's go run."

Brian Graham and Charlie O'Brien walked slowly back to the dugout to get their gloves. "Charlie, when you leaving?" Graham asked.

"Rogers told me they want me to play here today and tomorrow, then fly to Modesto. Tough break for Tettleton, getting an injury that bad. Guess I'll be their everyday catcher. I really need those at bats."

"Is this what they mean about being in the right place at the right time? Or that it's better to be lucky than good?" Graham teased.

"Yeah, that's baseball," O'Brien sighed and took off running.

Brian Graham walked over to the Bellingham dugout in search of his former teammate at UCLA, pitcher Jeff McDonald. They had a brief reunion then agreed to eat together after the game.

Unfortunately for the Bellingham Mariners, they were only an hour from their major league parent, the Seattle Mariners. So most of the baseball fans in the area supported the Seattle team and neglected this one. Due to the lack of fans in the stands, the only noise generated in this game came from the Medford bats. Rojas and O'Hara did most of the damage. O'Hara, extremely hot lately, went 7-7 before striking out in his last at bat. Final score: Medford 9 - Bellingham 3.

Once their bus pulled up at the motel Rogers stood up, made his announcement, "Bus leaves for the park at one tomorrow. Early curfew."

SUNDAY, JULY 11

Jim Feeley invited Jeff Kaiser to go to Mass with him. "I looked in the phone book and there's a Catholic Church about ten blocks or so down that street," he estimated.

"Sure, I'll go. But let's eat first. I'm on empty," Kaiser responded.

"Anyplace in this town to play pool? Can't find a pool room in the yellow pages of this darned phone book," Strom grumbled. "I'm in the mood to shoot pool and sip suds tonight. A night off is just what this puppy needs."

"Sounds fine to me," Bathe added, "as long as you don't whine too loud when I kick your butt."

Meanwhile, Myers, Gorman and Eppard headed off in a different direction looking for a good breakfast and a paper.

Before anybody had time to get bored, it was time to suit up and head for the park. They all appeared at the bus wearing heavy jackets. It was a cold and dark afternoon.

It looked like Medford players were eager to pocket the win and get on to the business of enjoying a night off. They quickly scored three in the first, then four in the third, sending 17-year-old starter, Terry Taylor, to an early shower. Relief pitcher Scott Barnhouse was a completely different story. He shut Medford down for 4.1 powerful innings in which he gave up only two hits. O'Hara got another homer to bring his total to four with 18 RBIs in one week. Bathe and Strom each doubled. But Mike Gorman was the real hero for Medford. He pitched a three-hit complete game. Final score: Medford 7 - Bellingham 1.

The attendance was announced at 152. I think that included all the players, umpires, and me. It was dismal.

MONDAY, JULY 12

In the restaurant in the morning, "Man! This food is starting to get on my nerves. Nothing on this menu looks good. Doesn't matter what I order any more. It all tastes the same!"

"Well, I'm running on fumes and will be eating light."

"Light? What's that mean, you on a diet or something?

"Nope. But I been out of meal money for two days, so I'm stretching it till we get home tomorrow. Brought extra money of my own, but really don't want to waste it all on food. Besides, I take lots of vitamins."

"Brilliant. Meanwhile I've got to eat something. French dip ought to do the trick."

"What the hey. I'll have one of those myself."

In another booth in the back corner, "I'll have a burger and a coke, how about you?"

"Good enough. I keep thinking about tomorrow. A real day off thanks to the major league All-Star game. I've been waiting for this. I'm gonna sleep, cook, and eat all day long."

"Don't get too excited with all that eating. It's probably gonna take us half the day just to get back to Medford."

This game offered another unique experience for everyone involved. In the absence of one umpire due to illness, one player from each team worked the baselines and the regular ump was behind the plate. The players on each team requested it be the other way around so each player could be behind the plate when his own team batted, but the umpire flatly said, "NO!"

Medford won the game with the aid of a Phil Strom grand slam. Ed Myers pitched three perfect innings in relief to insure a second victory for Jeff Kaiser. Final score: Medford 5 - Bellingham 4.

They were so ready to get on that bus, get home to Medford, and have their day off that I don't think they would have cared if the bus hadn't stopped for them to get food. But it did, and they ate.

The trip to Southern Oregon was a four-letter word: L-O-N-G.

Several guys in the rear of the bus were involved in a discussion about getting scouted and signed. "Well, what'd you expect? Of course there's a lot of California players here. The scouts know we're good so they give us a long look. Probably better than other places, I'd guess. I think I was lucky to live there in my amateur days," John Vela said forcefully.

"I feel sorry for all those poor scouts stuck with the rest of the country," another spoke up as the conversation was getting a little heated.

Jeff Kaiser listened to this as long as he could, then added his two cents. "There's only a handful of us who aren't from California and you guys are always so quick to point it out to us, like you have something on us and you're rubbing it in." He turned in his seat to look behind him to face Vela straight on, "We know we're a minority here, so to speak, and we also know that we haven't started out here the way we'd hoped. But you just wait. There's a lot of baseball left in this season."

"Yeah," Dave Peterson interjected, "I'll admit that when I came here I was a little intimidated about competing with all you guys from California. I mean, I grew up hearing about how you can play ball year round and you're usually the highest draft picks and all that. One big plus for me is that now I finally realize I am just as good as you and I can compete for a job in the lineup. I won't let you guys intimidate me because once a player is intimidated he can't succeed."

"We know you guys didn't personally try to intimidate us or put us down or anything. That's not what we're saying at all," Kaiser added. "It's just the 'California athlete' image that was a threat, know what I mean?"

"Yeah, that's it," Peterson agreed. "We grew up thinking you guys were some kind of supermen or something. But now we're finding out that we can hold our own with you in pro ball. It's a good feeling."

Eric Barry got out of his seat and sauntered to the rear to join in. "You're right, except for one thing. The 'California athlete' image you talked probably helps us in the organization just because they may think we're better, too. Give that some thought."

Wayne Gross, former ML player: "If you want to get drafted, the best way to do it is to play on decent ballclubs where you'll be seen. Obviously a person playing in Southern California has a better chance to be seen than a person in…say…Iowa, I would think. It's not your fault. As a kid you can't choose where your parents live. But in the college situation, if you can get into a good college with a good baseball program, then you're in a better situation to be seen. Again, though, the whole key is to perform. If you're a great ballplayer, if you have the tools, you're gonna get the shot. If I were born in Iowa or somewhere like it, I probably wouldn't be in the major leagues today because I wouldn't have had the exposure. One game got me signed. That was when Cal Poly played USC and there were twenty scouts there. I hit two homers, a double, and made three great plays. It was the best game I had in my whole life."

Darrell Evans, former major league player: "It's impossible to compare somebody from Maine and somebody from Alaska and somebody from California because of different weather and the different programs. But that's just the outside of the player. I don't think the inside's any different."

Joe Maddon, former manager, Salem Angels; bench coach, Anaheim Angels: "When you come from a small college on the East Coast and read about Arizona State and UCLA and Southern California teams, you just don't know if you can play with these people. I was extremely nervous and then realized that I could play with them, no problem. Plus I played well. That's when I suddenly realized that all the stuff I'd heard about the superiority of the California athlete was a myth. Now, as a coach, when I'm involved with young athletes from the East, I remember my old feelings and we talk about their feelings about this. When we talk I point out that he has so much more room for improvement than the kids from the West Coast because he hasn't played as many games. It's not that he has less talent, but he's had less chance to play and develop."

Dallas Green, former ML player; former major league manager, GM, Cubs: "Certainly a kid who's had more playing time, like the youngsters from California, has had more time to develop his skills. There's definitely something to that. But, on the other hand, if he's got bad habits, they're gonna be that much harder to break. There's two ways to look at it. We can't go by where a kid's from."

TUESDAY, JULY 13

The first of only two days off they'll get all season in honor of the Major League All-Star Game.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 14

Rogers told them they'd earned a day without BP and they didn't have to report to the park until 4:30. As they suited up the chattering began.

"So, the Mariners are in town for a few games. I can handle that," Bathe stretched.

"Yeah, it's Beat the Bell out of Bellingham Night or something like that, and we know who's gonna ring who's bell, right?"

"Whew, my uniform stinks again! What the heck's going on here?"

Another answered, "My uniform's been less than clean for so long I'm getting used to it. It's disgusting."

When they learned the trainer had been washing in shampoo because he kept forgetting to buy detergent, a verbal uproar followed. It was generally agreed that the guy was nothing more than a goof-off but Dennis Rogers asked them to treat him with respect, and they did. From that day till the end of the season, Mikki Jackson took on the job of washing uniforms and charged the players the same fee the trainer was getting.

Miles Field was crammed with excited and noisy fans who had come out to welcome the team home. It was "Beat the Bell out of Bellingham Night," and all tickets were half price. The fans were eager to see their A's win another high scoring game.

Instead they got a pitching duel between Eric Barry (going for number 5) and Randy Newman. Both teams played flawless baseball. Tony Laurenzi scored the only run of the game. There was no big inning, and it was the shortest game of the season. Nobody went home disappointed. Final score: Medford 1 - Bellingham 0.

THURSDAY, JULY 15…FRIDAY, JULY 16

When the players got to the park and all were suited up, one of them pointed to the flagpole and shouted, "What the heck's that?" Naturally everyone stopped to look. There was a pair of faded boxer shorts blowing in the wind directly below the flag.

Jim Feeley recognized his underwear and stammered, "Aw-w-w-w, c'mon now, you guys, how'd you get those up there? And how are you gonna get 'em down before Rogers sees it and get me in trouble?"

"Can't stop to get 'em now, gotta take BP," Graham snickered, and walked toward the batting cage. Feeley's shorts fluttered out there till about twenty minutes before game time. By the time they were lowered down the pole the entire team was laughing, even Feeley.

During infield, Thoma and Graham were talking quietly. "Did you tell them about your ankle?" Thoma asked.

"Yeah. I came in early and had Doc wrap it. He said he won't say anything to Dennis, but I don't trust him. Anyway, doesn't matter because I'm playing tonight no matter what. Pain is easy. Sittin' on the bench isn't." Graham hustled his heart out and the only evidence of an injury were the tape lines visible under his sock.

"It killed me to miss that road trip," Thoma recalled. "Hope this doesn't get in your way."

"Can't let that happen, not in this league," Graham answered as he fielded the grounder hit to him.

When they were finished, Graham walked over to Thoma and asked him about the three lines he always marks at short with his cleats. "What's that mean?"

"I do that before every game I play because it's the theme of my life. Just like Gayle Sayers in his book
I'm Third. It means God's first, friends and family are second, and I'm third. I also have that same symbol on the gold chain around my neck, see," and he pulled it out.

There's a lot more to Ray Thoma than most people realized. He more or less "adopted" a little boy named Michael he met at one of the games when he asked Ray for an autograph. Michael had bone cancer. Ray gave him and his mom tickets to all the home games and saved all sorts of memorabilia from the road trips for him. Soon the entire Michigan Connection was involved in helping them, too. Michael had surgery near the end of our season and died soon after. It broke Thoma's heart.

Dave Glick began the season at second base but was soon replaced by Graham. He almost missed the bus on the last road trip and the guys thought Rogers sat him down as a warning. One player said he'd overheard Rogers on the phone saying that Glick lived in the fast lane and that's not appropriate in this league.

"From what I've seen, Glick has quicker feet and softer hands. Sure, Graham hustles all the time, but he's so intense that he's stiff and slow. Glick's agile out there."

"Oh well, my job's playing baseball and Dennis' job is to manage. I'll let him handle it."

Dallas Green, former ML player; former Manager, GM, Cubs: "So many kids are playing the game of baseball that have fairly decent talent. So what you have to say is, 'Okay. This guy and this guy are equal, but this guy has more heart, more guts, and handles adversities better. He comes through problem times better. He is always where he's supposed to be. He does what we ask him to do. So, as a consequence, I'll take him.'"

Dick Wiencek, former Scouting Director, Oakland A's: "We get to know our boys at different levels in the organization and find out fairly quick if a guy really wants to be a ballplayer or not. If he doesn't, then we don't want him around. There's one thing our scouts and instructors can't do. They can't scout desire. But, just as bad as not enough desire is too much of it because a player can choke on it. Then you become too much of a perfectionist and you're never satisfied with anything you do. It's hard to tell a boy like that, 'Don't try to be President of the United States…don't try to bat a thousand.' It's tough to have to have that talk with a player because his desire and willingness to work is just the kind of boy we're looking for."

"$%[email protected]&^%&%$!!" Pat O'Hara grumbled. I'm down to my last good bat. When are they supposed to get here?"

"Told you guys you should've been pitchers," Kaiser teased.

"Yeah, but you left-handed-pitchers have so many other things to worry about," a group of voices retorted.

It was a joke on this team, and around baseball in general, that all southpaws have a personality of their own and are usually, shall we say, unique. Kaiser didn't fit that mold but he sure took a beating about it.

"Doc, when will the new bats get here?"

"No idea. Just tape the ones you have and share," he yelled back.

"Well, nobody better use MY bat," one voice in the rear snickered.

Looking back, Thursday's game was the best game against Medford the entire season. The Bellingham starter, Jeff McDonald, combined with reliever Scott Barnhouse to pitch a one-hit shutout. They gave the Mariner defense an easy evening as they got fourteen outs themselves with the magic "K." This was Medford's first loss at Miles Field. Final score: Bellingham 4 - Medford 0.

Friday was entirely different. The headline on the sport page of the "Bellingham Herald" read, "A's relish a GOOD Day." The game was played in front of 2,000 cheering fans on 25¢-beer night. Medford's new catcher Jim Good, a released player called back to replace Charlie O'Brien, led the team the entire night. He got a two run homer then scored the winning run. The team gathered a total of eleven hits. Mike Gorman pitched seven shutout innings before giving up two in the eighth in his complete game victory. Final score: Medford 5 - Bellingham 2.

SATURDAY, JULY 17…SUNDAY, JULY 18

"Whew, it's a hot one today." Rogers smiled as he passed a couple of the players who got to the park early. "You can say that again!" they responded went directly into the clubhouse. That two game series against the Bend Phillies was hot in more ways than one.

Jeff Kaiser and Ed Myers were already suited up and on the field when Rogers arrived. "I just needed to talk to a pitcher about this, you know," Kaiser was saying. "So I finally told Dennis about the shoulder after the win at Bellingham. I waited that long because I wanted to have a good outing that he could reflect on as we talked. Know what I mean?"

Myers nodded without saying anything.

"Dennis said he thought it had something to do with mechanics. Said he'd noted some changes since I arrived. I told him about the shoulder and the pains and my complete frustration, then explained the exercises I've been doing for it, and we talked a long time."

Myers nodded again.

"Well, I sat up a couple of hours by myself last night just thinking about what I'm doing wrong," Kaiser continued. "Finally I told myself, 'Hey, it's early in the season. You're a tenth round draft pick and they're not going to give up on you. This is no time to panic.'"

"Right. You can't let that stuff get to ya. I remember when the Arkansas Razorbacks offered me the scholarship. It was like a dream. What a great feelin'. Well, lo and behold, two weeks later I broke my pitchin' arm and sat the whole season."

"That's the worst."

"But get this. It was the second time. I guess packin' that heavy cast strengthened the arm 'cause my velocity improved about four miles an hour the first time and about five more after the second break. Truth."

"I feel better already. Dennis said to keep doing what got me here and not to modify anything to accommodate the shoulder. If I miss a start, maybe the rest would be the best thing for it. He said that's one way to take the negative and turn it into a positive. But that's pressure. I mean, things are so individual here and I just want to keep my head straight and progress."

"That's what I'm fixin' to do," Myers said.

"My basic philosophy about pitching is that if I can come off the mound feeling that I threw the ball the way I wanted to, then the other results in the box score won't be such a worry to me. If I can accomplish what I want to out there, then I'm satisfied. Dennis said that should carry me through."

"We all feel that way, Kaise," Myers agreed.

"I know I'm not an overpowering pitcher. I spot my fastball and get my breaking pitches over. Always try not to overthrow. But that last outing, well, it all went down the drain."

"Kaise, remember how Dennis says to stay in the present?" Jeff said nothing. They just looked at each other. "Race you," he said, and they took off running their sprints.

Frank Robinson, member, Hall of Fame: "Whenever a young player is struggling with injury or whatever, he should always tell his coach and work with him. The main thing is to take their advice and go out there and try what they suggest. If something doesn't feel good right away, give it a chance. They can learn so much by watching, listening, and asking questions."

Back in the clubhouse, they found Jackson sorting laundry while moving to the beat on his boom box. Over by his locker Graham sat on a chair rubbing his ankle. "Damn that Doc. He said he'd be here to get ice on this foot so I can get my cleat on before BP."

"You playing today after you limped around on that thing all last night and today?" asked Bathe with a puzzled look on his face.

"I'd better be playing tonight!" he answered in an angry voice. "I didn't work all my life to get drafted just to come here to sit on the bench!"

Rogers walked by to post the lineup card at the edge of the dugout. "Graham, you're out tonight. Let's give that ankle a rest." He nodded without looking up. Eventually he got his ankle and foot iced and tried to take BP with him until Rogers motioned for him to go into the dugout and sit down.

In the final minutes before the game Thoma and Graham were out by the bullpen talking privately. "…and he wants me to sit out tonight and rest it. I worry about sitting out. I've never sat on the bench and I never want to," he confided. "How'd you make it when you were out?"

Thoma put his arm around his back and said, "It was the toughest thing I've ever had to do. I've never been hurt one day in my life before. When he said I couldn't make the road trip it drove me crazy, let me tell you. I couldn't even make myself listen to the game on the radio. That was the first time in my life I didn't travel with my team."

Brian shook his head, "At least the team was outa town for you. I gotta sit there with the pitchers and watch. It's tough. It'll be easier sitting with them because they know they're not gonna be in the game and they'll help me stay as loose as I can, you know."

"Right now this seems like a crisis in your career. But it's only a game or two and you'll be right back out there. You'll see. Besides, maybe something unforeseen will happen and you'll have to pinch hit. Of course, with that ankle, you'll have to get a homer because there's no way you're gonna beat out a base hit on that!"

"Thanks. All this builds up inside me and I can't really talk to anybody because nobody cares. When you're hurt and can't do anything about it, you feel lonesome."

"Sure," Thoma said as they shook hands and he headed to the dugout.

The game was one of "those" games that you think you'll never forget. It was Jeff Kaiser's fifth start, and he'd be the first to tell you he was awful! He couldn't get the third out in the first inning. Feeley pitched three in relief, leaving at the end of four with the score Bend 7 - Medford 0. Jackson gave up four more in the fifth. Medford crept back into the game one hit at a time, and by the ninth the score was Bend 11 - Medford 9. Gonsalves came in for the final two innings.

The crowd kept Medford's momentum going. They were not going to let the team lose this game. They had hot bats to match the Phillie hitters, and they tied the game in the ninth with Vince Bailey's fourth hit. The park was electric. With two down and Dave Peterson on second, Rogers called for Brian Graham, who had been up and down in the dugout, fidgeting and pacing all night long. Rogers called Elton Hooker back and had Graham pinch hit for him.

Graham hit the first pitch sharply through the hole. Peterson scored from second. The crowd went crazy. But it wasn't over yet. There was a controversy on the field because Peterson was called out at the plate. Both benches cleared as Pete explained he'd been blocked by the Phillie third baseman. Finally an obstruction call was made. The run counted. Final score: Medford 12 - Bend 11.

The clubhouse was nuts! They were all so thrilled with the come from behind victory. Gonsalves got his second win and Kaiser lucked out with a no decision. But they were too busy congratulating themselves to worry about details like that.

When the players finally drifted out of the clubhouse in their street clothes about an hour later they were greeted by a group of a few hundred cheering fans that refused to leave.

When things were quiet again Brian Graham still sat by his locker in his uniform. He was deep in thought.

Sunday Dennis Rogers, roving pitching instructor Jim Perry (brother of Hall of Famer, Gaylord Perry), and Mike Sgobba, Eric Barry's former coach at Cal State-Fullerton, all worked with Barry to make some changes in his mechanics that they said would help him in the long run. They explained to him that he had a reputation in the league as one of the best if not THE best pitcher. Rogers reminded him not to let that go to his head. He went along with them while they were in town, but reverted to his old habits when they left.

"I've won five in a row with no losses, and three of those were complete games. And I'll get another one tonight. So why fix what ain't broken?" he grumbled. "But they're gonna be watching me like hawks in tonight's game, so I've got to try the things they want."

"They just want you to learn while you're here like the rest of us. I mean, with your record, how are you gonna learn the agony of defeat?" Thoma teased.

The fans got to the park for Sunday's game still buzzing about Saturday's excitement. Eric Barry did get his sixth win in front of a capacity crowd. Medford only got five hits but made them count by blending them with six Phillie errors. Barry,
very ERA conscious, wasn't a bit happy about giving up two unearned runs in the second inning, despite giving up just one more hit for the remaining seven. Final score: Medford 4 - Bend 2.

The blackboard read: "Two games tomorrow. Early curfew."
 
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