Anderson never cries uncle when it's time to play in pain

April 03, 1997|By Ken Rosenthal

So now we can identify the accomplice, the man who, when everyone thought Brady Anderson was cracked in the head as well as his rib, thought it only natural that our hero wanted to play.

Cal Ripken?

No, Uncle Kevin.

"I came home [Monday], and my uncle had left a message on my answering machine," Anderson said. "He was like, 'I read in the paper that you're going to play through it.' He said, 'Attaboy, I didn't think a cracked rib would keep you out.' "

Those weren't quite the sentiments of Orioles manager Davey Johnson, who wanted Anderson to open the season on the disabled list so he would miss five games rather than risk missing 15.

But Johnson should know better than to argue with Brady Anderson, M.D. Appendicitis barely slowed him last season. A cracked rib couldn't stop him yesterday.

All Anderson did was reach base four times in five plate appearances, score the go-ahead run and drive home the insurance run in the Orioles' 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Uncle Kevin was cheering from Burbank, Calif.

"He should play," Kevin said. "That's what he does. He's a player."

Kevin is 13 years older than Brady, but they grew up almost like brothers. Brady's parents were divorced. He often would stay with his grandmother when his father, Jerry, went to work. And Kevin was still living home then.

It was a family of athletes. Jerry ran track at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Kevin, his younger brother by 16 years, played on several world-class fast-pitch softball teams.

And then came Brady.

"We were awfully rough with him when he was a kid, awfully rough," Kevin said yesterday. "It was all in good fun. But he learned to play hurt."

Brady nodded.

"It's a family tradition to beat up on the weak and young," he said.

Or, as Jerry put it, "My brother did it to me. And I did it to Brady."

And you thought Anderson was motivated only by the home run race, which had an alarming look -- Griffey 2, Belle 1, Anderson 0 -- entering yesterday.

"I'm already down?" he asked, laughing.

He hit a long drive foul in his first-at bat, but his three singles were more standard leadoff fare -- one opposite field, one infield, one broken bat. He also got hit on his left hand by a pitch in the first inning.

"A perfect day," Johnson said later, and not just because Jimmy Key pitched six strong innings and Ripken agreed to a contract extension before going 3-for-4 with a home run and two doubles.

Say it ain't so, Bobby Bo.

Anderson volunteered to DH.

For now, he doesn't want to risk running into a wall and aggravating his injury. Of course, that didn't prevent him from sliding into first on his infield hit.

Naturally, Anderson helped the pitcher up, rather than the other way around. He didn't even wear the flak jacket provided by the Ravens (the first good thing they've done in a month). Opening Day was hectic. Dude ran out of time.

So, did he play in pain?

Mind over matter, Anderson said.

"I felt like I normally do," he explained. "It's strange in a way, how you can deal with pain. You can almost eliminate it just by not worrying about it.

"It actually hurts more if I go home and not do anything than it would swinging a bat. It's something you learn to do. You focus on something else, and it's almost like the pain disappears."

Just as it was when he was a kid, playing with Uncle Kevin.

"Brady was 5 or 6 years old, and Kevin had a big, hard rubber Voit football," Jerry recalled. "He would send him on a pass pattern to my mom's rose bushes, then rifle the thing as hard as he could, to see if he could knock him into the bushes."

Jerry chuckled, recalling that the ploy sometimes worked.

But Brady disputed his father's account.

"That's a little bit of a fabrication," he said. "C'mon, I like making great catches. But I didn't like diving into rose bushes."

Lest anyone get the wrong impression, Jerry wasn't the second coming of The Great Santini. In fact, he ordered Brady to stop playing Pop Warner football after he twice left games in ambulances after suffering neck injuries.

But when the family played together?

Brady was granted no quarter.

"He never won a game until he really won," Jerry said. "We wouldn't let him just win. And he loved it. He was constantly after Kevin and myself to go play with him."

So, when the message from Kevin came Monday, Brady felt more comfortable with his desire to play, knowing it had been endorsed by a kindred spirit.

"It kind of reassured me in a way," he said. "I saved it so I could listen to it. It kind of made me laugh. Finally, someone was thinking exactly like I did.

"I guess it wasn't surprising because it was my uncle. He probably broke a couple of my ribs when I was younger, and made me play through it."

Kevin didn't deny it.

"Just for practice," he said, "in case this came up later."

Pub Date: 4/03/97

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