F. Robinson: '66 Series was better

Ken rosenthal

October 29, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

MINNEAPOLIS -- World Series leftovers:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so don't rush to declare this the greatest Series of all time. The best since 1975, absolutely. But they've played 88 of these things. Let's hold off on the snap judgments, OK?

"I don't rank it as high as people are trying to make it out to be," said Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson, who played in five Series ('61, '66, '69, '70 and '71).

"They're trying to make it the greatest World Series ever. I think that's a lot of wishful thinking. If you want to say the greatest ever, go back to '66 -- four games we beat the Dodgers, and they scored only two runs. What do you call great?"

Robinson is obviously biased, but that's the whole point. For Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, the greatest Series was '57, when he worked for the Milwaukee Braves. It was Hemond's only world championship in 40 years in baseball.

"You're upset when you're not in it," Hemond said. "Starting out, you're angry. It takes you a while to get into the Series before you really enjoy it for what it represents.

"A lot of times you're a better judge of a morning spring-training game than of a World Series game. But that last ballgame, with the score 0-0 deep in the game, you say, 'Oh my gosh, this is special.' "

Hemond didn't see every inning. He and his wife Margo spent part of Game 4 in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium visiting the widow of longtime Braves executive John Mullen,the inspiration for the "JWM" on the Braves uniform sleeve.

Here's the real surprise: Hemond also caught only the final four innings of Game 7. At least he had a good excuse. His hometown of Central Falls, R.I., named its new ballpark after him Sunday night.

It's called "Roland Hemond Park."

At . . . at . . . at . . .

* Hey Bobby Cox, just one question:

Charlie Leibrandt?

* The Orioles have lacked a quality veteran starter since trading Mike Boddicker in July 1988. Jack Morris is testament to the value of an experienced workhorse, but unfortunately, there isn't anyone else like him.

"You have to look at the individual," Robinson said. "I don't think we can say -- and this will be the trend -- that ballclubs should sign one veteran pitcher to put them over the hump. Jack Morris has always been a bulldog. [Game 7] was one of the guttiest performances I've ever seen."

Fair enough, but it's high time the Orioles recognized their glaring need for a gritty veteran starter, the better to influence promising young pitchers like Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald.

"We felt confident enough in our young starters," Twins general manager Andy MacPhail said, referring to Kevin Tapani and Scott Erickson. "But we wanted to put a veteran-type guy in there to take the pressure off, push them back a notch."

Worked pretty well, don't you think?

* The Braves' 3-4-5 hitters -- Ron Gant, Dave Justice and Sid Bream -- were 2-for-24 the final two games. No doubt Lonnie Smith's base-running gaffe was critical, but let's not forget Atlanta still had second-and-third with none out and the 3-4-5 hitters batting in the eighth Sunday night.

Morris got Gant to hit a soft tapper to first baseman Kent Hrbek on which the runners could not advance. Then, after an intentional walk to Justice, he got ahead of Bream with two fastballs. Bream hit a forkball into your basic first-to-home-to-first double play.

* Is Morris going to Disney World?

"I don't know," he said. "I'd rather go to Montana."

* It's free-agent time. The Braves must decide whether to re-sign righthanded closer Alejandro Pena, and the Twins face difficult questions regarding leftfielder Dan Gladden and catcher Brian Harper.

Pena, 32, might actually be expendable. The Atlanta bullpen already includes two young hard throwers, lefthander Mike Stanton, 24, and righthander Mark Wohlers, 21. And two other relievers, Juan Berenguer and Marvin Freeman, sat out the postseason with injuries.

Gladden, 34, was 4-for-26 in the Series before going 3-for-5 in Game 7, including the hustling double that started the game-winning rally. It might not be enough. His regular-season on-base percentage in the leadoff spot was only .307.

Harper, 32, batted .311 during the season and .381 in the Series, yet reportedly is not one of manager Tom Kelly's favorites. One, he throws out only 18 percent of runners attempting to steal. Two, he's deeply religious in a clubhouse once fractured by the born-again Gary Gaetti.

Well, Harper sure looked good nailing pinch-runner Brian Mitchell on an attempted steal of second in the 11th inning of Game 6. And he sure looked tough holding onto the ball in that mammoth plate collision with Smith in Game 4.

* No teams from New York or L.A.?

And people actually watched on TV?

Wonders never cease.

* Hard to believe that a year ago Twins second baseman Chuck Knoblauch logged more than 14,000 bus miles playing for Double A Orlando in the Southern League.

Knoblauch, 23, had 15 postseason hits to break the rookie record of 11 shared by Fred Lynn of the '75 Boston Red Sox and Jimmy Sebring of the '03 Pittsburgh Pirates.

He couldn't help but recall the long bus rides while the Series was still in Atlanta. The club often would pass the Braves' home park heading north. Its longest trip was 14 1/2 hours to Memphis.

"By the time you'd get to a place, you'd be so delirious you wouldn't have any idea what was going on for a couple of hours," Knoblauch said.

Fortunately the 5-foot-9 Knoblauch always sat next to another diminutive Southern League rookie -- his future Twins teammate, the 5-7 Jarvis Brown.

"We're good friends," Brown said. "But those bus rides were so long, we'd become enemies."

* One final thought:

Wish it wasn't over.

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