PALM SPRINGS — Yutaka Enatsu?
"I thought he worked at Benihana," Reggie Jackson said, unable to resist the line.
That was before the start of Tuesday's game between the Angels and Milwaukee Brewers, at a time when it appeared that California Manager Gene Mauch might deprive Enatsu of a lifelong dream.
The 37-year-old left-hander is one of the greatest pitchers in the history of Japanese baseball. He won 216 games and saved 196 during a 17-year career in the Far East. Now he is attempting to make it in the American League East as a Brewer relief pitcher.
His story has been chronicled. So has his goal of facing and striking out Jackson, his idol.
Milwaukee Manager George Bamberger hoped to facilitate it by starting him against the Angels Tuesday. More than 50 members of the Japanese media--most of whom Enatsu is not speaking to--descended on Angels Stadium here.
Mauch, however, did not have the left-handed hitting Jackson in the lineup.
"I've got more to think about than show biz," the Little General said sternly.
"What do I care about Yutaka Enatsu? I've got a couple guys I want to find out about.
"I mean, his lifelong ambition doesn't mean as much to me as Mike Brown and Darrell Miller and Rufino Linares do."
Of Jackson's absence, Bamberger said: "Gene's got to manage his club the way he sees fit."
The Milwaukee manager started another lefty, Ted Higuera, but summoned Enatsu to pitch the fourth. The Angels got a leadoff double by Doug DeCinces, but Linares, Miller and Brown failed to score him.
Then, in the fifth, Enatsu yielded a leadoff double to Bobby Grich and an RBI single to Bob Boone.
Then Mauch, displaying a flair for international relations, brought on Jackson to pinch hit for Brian Downing. Mauch winked later and said: "I got a call from Ronnie."
The crowd cheered. A fan stood and yelled, "Hey, Reggie, Enatsu wants you ."
Already batting .340, Jackson lined the third pitch to center field for a single, setting up the second and final run off Enatsu, who only worked the two innings.
Jackson later singled off Pete Ladd, raising his average to .365 in the 4-2 Angel win.
After the game, he sent an autographed bat to Enatsu in the Brewer clubhouse, then went on Japanese television.
He told the TV crew: "We've had an envoy in Japan working on a trade deficit that's now up to $11 billion a month and I thought I'd see what I could do for international sociology.
"I was looking forward to facing one of the greatest Japanese pitchers ever."
Jackson later said that Bamberger had asked him in Sun City, where the Brewers train, if he would do Enatsu a favor by playing in the Palm Springs game. He said he had been surprised that he wasn't in the lineup, but relieved as well, since he didn't need "another mountain to climb."
"Then I saw the Little General start to look for me in the fifth inning, and I could relate to the challenge," Jackson said. "I didn't want to be used. I didn't want to strike out."
Jackson said he was complimented by Enatsu's dream, but implied that he didn't think Enatsu threw hard enough to survive in the majors.
The left-hander has now given up 15 hits and 6 earned runs in 11 innings. The Brewers are expected to make their final squad cut today. Enatsu's position is said to be tenuous.
The pitcher boarded the team bus for the trip back to Arizona without providing his thoughts on the confrontation with Jackson.
Said Jackson: "Maybe he'll face me again--that is, if he stays in the big cities like Boston and New York. He's not going to find me in Des Moines or Indianapolis."
Ken Forsch tested his ailing elbow by pitching the equivalent of three innings in a simulated game. Forsch has appeared in only four exhibition innings and may face the prospect of opening the season on the disabled list if he's unable to work against the Dodgers in the weekend Freeway series.
"The elbow was a little tight but I didn't have any sharp pain," Forsch said of the simulated game. "I'll know by the way it reacts tomorrow if I was stretching it or not."
Tommy John continued his effective spring work with four shutout innings Tuesday. John said the Angels have to be at a point where they are ready to determine his status, but again there was nothing definitive from management--only this from Mauch:
"I have great admiration for Tommy John.
"Every time out there he's probably felt as if he's fighting for his professional life. Of course there has to be something special about you or you don't win 256 games."