SAN DIEGO -- The unlikeliest All-Star came through the clubhouse door wearing a coal-black warm-up suit, sideburns down to there and eight stitches on the inside of his lower lip. Did anyone ever see James Dean hitting a curveball?
"What in the world happened to you?" someone asked.
"Gee," Brady Anderson said, pulling off his warm-ups, "I'm really glad I made the All-Star team so I could talk about why my lip is all purple."
Ha. And you thought this was going to pass without incident, this little matter of the Orioles' very California kid experiencing the All-Star Game. Not that it was his fault he had this purple lip.
"But just let me warn you," he said, "that if you make me laugh too hard, my head might explode."
He takes his baseball seriously, see, but he will never be accused of taking himself too seriously. That makes him no less than a Third Worlder at the All-Star Game, which, if anything, is a place for ballplayers who take themselves very seriously.
"Back in March," someone asked yesterday, "what were the odds of you being here today, Brady?"
He smiled a purple smile. "To be honest," he said, "I don't think anyone was asking."
But there he was in the American League clubhouse at Jack Murphy Stadium, a lifetime .219 hitter before this season, rubbing his lip, listening to questions and staring at a pile of All-Star gear stuffed into a giant equipment bag at his feet.
"Guys," he said to the reporters, "do you think there is enough stuff in this bag?"
Bats. Balls. Shirts. Pants. An expensive glass paper weight. More shirts. More pants. Batting gloves.
"And shin guards that are too small, just what I always needed," he said, pulling them out of a gray sack.
The questions kick-started again. "Brady," someone asked, "how far from here did you grow up?"
He pointed over his left shoulder. "About 20 minutes in that direction from the stadium," he said. "I batted .500 in my senior year of high school, but I was a runt. Maybe 150 pounds. Irvine was the only school that offered me a scholarship."
So what has happened this year?
"I wish I could tell you. I really do."
What happened to your lip?
"You don't really want to know, do you?"
A hand came through the crowd. "Brady," said Bobby Brown, the American League president, on his congratulatory tour of the clubhouse, "I'm Bobby Brown."
Anderson looked up and grabbed Brown's hand. "Bobby, Brady," he said with an "Animal House" solemn earnestness.
Brown moved to the next locker, congratulating Mike Mussina. "By the way, Mike, I'm Stanford, '46," Brown said.
Mussina, of course, is also a Stanford grad.
"Hey," Anderson piped up, "UC-Irvine, '85."
And you thought these couple of days might pass without incident.
"You really want to know the lip thing?" Anderson said. "I bit it one night eating with [Rick] Sutcliffe. My eyes started watering and he said, 'Why are you crying?' I'd bit my lip. So I kept biting the spot and it got irritated and finally I had it removed last week. But I thought it would be gone and it still hurts like crazy. Don't make me laugh, OK?"
OK. Let's talk ball instead.
"I remember exactly what I did at the All-Star break a year ago," he said. "I came home and went to my back yard and worked in the [batting] cage. And I made a big change in my stance, started standing more upright like I am now. It was really the start of me getting going in the right direction."
Funny. There is the page in the game program that lists the All-Stars' career statistics -- through last season. Anderson's .219 is a full 25 points lower than anyone else's, and 50 to 75 points lower than most. The unlikeliest All-Star.
"So," someone said, "has all this started to sink in yet?"
Anderson smiled. "You want to know something? It's great that I will have this on my record for the rest of my life. But the truth is that while you're doing it, it doesn't seem nearly as great as while you're thinking about it. You're too busy.
"Anyway, the way I am, I'm better off if I don't think about it. I remember right after Johnny [Oates] told me the other day, I was running out to the outfield thinking, 'OK, it's great that you made it, but nothing has changed. Nothing at all.' "
A new wave of reporters gathered around. The unlikeliest All-Star burrowed deeper into his bag of goodies.
"Hey, Brady," someone said, "what happened to your lip?"