Fats Drobnak sizes up the Orioles

May 27, 1994|By Milton Bates

RAN into my old chum, the equine connoisseur Fats Drobnak, in Fells Point the other day.

Where you headed, Fats?

"On my way to the Yard to see them O's. Got a freebie from Stash. I grab a water taxi and ride over. Beats the hassle of parkin', and cheaper."

Agreed. The season's almost two months old. Any opinion of the Birds' performance thus far?

"Out of the gate pretty brisk, but front runners can fade in the stretch. Who knows better'n me?"

Hmmm, trouble with the steeds again?

"Oh contour. Been runnin' pretty good for me lately."

Then why the pessimism? Clearly, the off-season acquisitions by Angelos are helping the cause.

"You got me wrong. Bullpen scares ya, and the AL East is plenty tough, but gen'rally I'm likin' what I see. Specially the new guys. But a ball season's like the Belmont; can't really clock it till the home stretch, and they ain't but a coupla fur

longs out right now."

Any favorites among the newcomers?

"No contest. Sabo."

You shock me. He's helped the least to date, and then he went on the disabled list."

"He'll be back. Guy like that ain't lookin' to ride the bench. I figure he coulda grew up in Hollantown or Canton. Might've gone to St. Casimir's from the look of him."

As I understand it, his birthplace was Detroit, but I take your point. Blue collar, good work ethic, right?

"Let's put it this way: Seems to know he's lucky to be takin' down all that green just to play a game. Plenty others, they act like they're entitled somehow, which they ain't."

Oh, no. Are you going to regale me again with tales of the past?

"Why not? Palmeiro, I like him, too. Swingin' a real big bat and gonna be for a long time. But me and Leo, he's good at 'rithmetic, we figgered it out. If he stays healthy and don't miss no game, he pockets about 10 G's per every at-bat. More, if he's out any."

That is quite a sum.

"Right. Now take my all-time main man,

Al Simmons. Played left for Connie Mack way back and killed the Yankees. I loved that. From Milwaukee, he was. Ole Bucketfoot, he poked across 165 in 1930, hit .364 in the Series, which they won, an' if he got 10 grand for the whole season it would of been a lot. Connie, he was Hall of Fame cheap. Had very deep pockets and very short arms."

165 RBI's? Most impressive. Undoubtedly led the majors that year by a wide margin.

"Hell, no, wasn't even close. Hack Wilson, he was with the Cubs, drove in 190 and a good half the time he'd be nursin' a helluva hangover. Tell me what those numbers'd be worth today?"

Please, Fats, enough nostalgia. Talk to me about Sid Fernandez.

"What's to talk? Prolly the key to the year, him and Smith. Looks like a legit pitcher to me, not just a thrower like a coupla the young ones."

But people say he's overweight. Might not that be a problem come July? Of course, with your girth that query may not get an objective response.

"Don't start up, huh? Plenty round ones do just fine. Look at Venezuela. 'Sides,

Sid's belly ain't gettin' in the way of his arm, is it?"

I suppose not. You mentioned Lee Smith. A fabulous start, but I've never seen a man take so much time to reach the mound.

"That's 'cause you never seen Satchel Paige. I'd catch him now and then at Bugle Field against the Bawlmer Eelight J'ints, and you could eat whole a hot dog between the dugout and the first pitch. World class slow, but he'd hustle that ball up there like a shot."

I appreciate your insights, old friend. By the way, I have an extra ducat for Saturday. Can you use it?

"No money involved?"

Certainly not. It's a good location, too. Out in left field about two sections to the . . .

"Don't bother; I'll take it. They taught me a long time back somebody gives you a horse for a present, don't look him under the tail."

That verges on the profound. Enjoy the game, Fats, and root them home.

Milton Bates is a retired Baltimore businessman.

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