Health, not brains, is difference for Brewers BTC

The Inside Stuff

June 29, 1992|By Bill Tanton

The Milwaukee Brewers club that makes its first appearance at Camden Yards tonight is a perfect illustration of the uncertainty of sports.

The Brewers hierarchy has a new look -- Sal Bando is the general manager, Phil Garner the manager -- not necessarily because the people in those positions are any better or any smarter than their predecessors (Harry Dalton and Tom Trebelhorn, respectively).

But the new Brewers braintrust does appear to be luckier. At least their players are staying healthier than the old regime's players did.

Milwaukee had more bad luck and injuries over the last four years than any club in the majors. Baseball Weekly Almanac calculated that during that period the Brewers lost almost 2,400 player days through injury. That adds up to 15 individual seasons.

Dalton's departure -- he's now senior vice president for special projects -- was hastened when he signed pitcher Ted Higuera to a four-year contract worth $13.4 million and Higuera tore a rotator cuff and pitched in only seven games.

It didn't help Dalton, of course, that he signed Franklin Stubbs for $2.1 million last year and Stubbs hit .213. This year the seldom-used Stubbs is batting .207.

Things were so bad with the Brewers last year that even the team's popular radio voice, Bob Uecker, was disabled. Uecker had surgery in July for two aneurysms. Uecker is back now and will be here for this three-game series.

Today Higuera is still recovering, working out at the club's minor-league complex in Arizona.

As a club spokesman says: "We're taking our time with Teddy. He still has two years left on his contract and we'd like to get something out of it."

Milwaukee has one of the most intriguing players in the majors in catcher Dave Nilsson. He's from Australia, believe it or not. Last year Nilsson hit .366 at Denver.

One of Nilsson's big boosters is Larry Haney, the onetime Orioles catcher and Milwaukee coach who is now a scout for the Brewers.

"Nilsson is going to be outstanding," says Haney. "He's only a kid -- 21 years old. He's a good hitter and he handles pitchers well. I think he has a chance to become the best catcher in the league."

"Nilsson has to be a pretty good catcher to do what he's doing," says the Orioles' regular PA announcer, Rex Barney. "He's got B.J. Surhoff playing first base and DH. Surhoff is a pretty good catcher himself."

Barney, after surgery on his right leg, was released from the hospital over the weekend and paid his first visit to the Orioles clubhouse yesterday. He'll return to the mike for Wednesday's 12:15 p.m. game with the Brewers.

* Quint Kessenich called from Tokyo to report that the most sensational structure built in Baltimore in many years has its fans even in the Orient.

Kessenich, an assistant lacrosse coach at Boys' Latin, is in Japan for two weeks holding clinics along with his former Johns Hopkins coach, Don Zimmerman, now Dave Cottle's No. 1 aide at Loyola College.

"I was talking with this Japanese businessman, Miyoshi Muriaaki, who works for General Motors over here," Kessenich said, "and as I tried to talk lacrosse he kept saying, 'Camden Yards. Camden Yards. I come to your city and see Camden Yards.' "

Kessenich reports that 32 colleges in Japan now have men's lacrosse teams.

* Lacrosse is also a new sport at a location right here at home, in East Baltimore, at ex-Colt Joe Ehrmann's ministry on North Chester Street, The Door. The volunteer coaches are the Kelly brothers, Frank, who played at Cornell, and Bryan, who was on North Carolina's 1991 NCAA championship team. They are sons of former State Sen. Frank Kelly.

The neophytes at The Door at first thought they were being handed hockey equipment. They were that unfamiliar with lacrosse. But as Frank Kelly Jr. puts it now after a few months of working with the kids:

"It's fulfilling to be involved in a ministry like The Door. You come here thinking you want to give. You end up realizing you get a lot more out of it than you're giving."

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