"Hey, if there's anyone who can conform to something--retirement, for instance--it'll be me," Bevacqua said. "I'll probably make more money out of this game."
His salary last season was $140,000, far below the major league average ($371,00).
"I think I was a prospect in this game once," he said. "Yeah, once. It was in the spring of 1971. The Reds tried to make me a third baseman and got me on a weight-gain program and switched me from second to third. And I had a good spring, but didn't make the club. Sparky (Anderson, the manager) said he had to go with the guys he'd won with. I thought he was full of it, and, being my cocky self, I asked to be traded. I was. To Cleveland. They put me in Triple-A, called me up, and I've been a suspect from then on."
He has been traded six times, sold twice and released twice.
Said Tim Flannery of the Padres: "I'll miss him. To me, he's like watching a movie. Very entertaining."
His glory was that 1984 World Series against Detroit. Williams, although Bevacqua had hit only .200 during the season, made him the designated hitter for the series. There were gasps. So he batted .412 and hit the game-winning homer of the only Padre win.
"The World Series of 1984 was the ultimate," he said. " . . . It was the most fun I've ever had. I look back and it seems like it lasted three minutes. It's a shame. I wish I'd had a guy with a camera following me around. I don't even have that game (that he won) on tape."
What will he miss the most about baseball?
"The main thing I'll miss will be going up to the plate with the game on the line or hearing somebody in Dodger Stadium tell me I (stink) or someone in San Diego telling me I'm great," he said. "And I'll miss the letters you get from kids. Every time I get a letter from a kid who wants to grow up just like me, I write back as soon as possible . . . and tell him to do no such thing."
For what will he most be remembered? The time he won the major league's bubble-gum blowing contest with an 18 1/2-inch bubble?
"Bleep the bubble-gum contest," he said. "When people say that, I get peeved."
What's the craziest antic he's pulled?
"Probably hitting .412 in the World Series and lasting as long as I have," he said. "I could've made more money on myself than people could've made on the Patriots last year. They beat the spread 14 times last year--now, I'll get a call from Peter Ueberroth. Well, I heard about this in a paper, not in Las Vegas. If you put 10 bucks on the Patriots' first game and had let it ride, you would've won 180 grand. If you bet 10 bucks on my career back in '67, you'd have more money than Fernando (Isn't it Ferdinand?) Marcos by now.
"Let's face it. Who would've thought? I was a secondary-phase, 460th-round draft choice. After the draft, it took me eight minutes to find my name on the list. My signing bonus set the Reds back years. It was exactly $500. Who would've thought I'd play in the big leagues 13, 14 years?
"No one. Except me. I'm the kind of guy who pulls for Mississippi Valley State. . . . They had no clue against Duke. They just threw the ball up there and ended up scaring the hell out of Duke."
Bevacqua has scared the hell out of everyone. Once, he caught baseballs thrown off the top of the Imperial Bank Building in San Diego, 14 stories up. More than once (more like a million times), he has hung upside down from a bathroom stall to get his blood flowing better.
He is not ready to get normal, to get a real job. He has challenged the Major League Players Assn., asking it to waive the rule that keeps him from signing with the Padres until May 1.
He hasn't heard from the players association.
But even if the association wanted to make a concession, the Player Relations Committee would have to agree to it, too. That's not likely. Still, Bevacqua expects to see Donald Fehr, the director of the players association, in a player meeting later this month.
As Bevacqua keeps saying, he just wants to play ball.
"How many guys have played baseball 20 years? Hal McRae is playing ballgames with his son in Kansas City now. That's a hell of a career he's had. And that's my goal. I want to be in the same lineup as Tony."
Tony, Bevacqua's only son, is 7.
"I'm a never-say-die guy," the elder Bevacqua said. "If I were in the electric chair, I'd think it would short circuit. If I were in the gas chamber, I'd hold my breath. Hell yeah. Wouldn't you?
"I don't think it's over. I can play another two, three years. So how stupid am I? I've got a good body. I've never been injured, and I know what my job is, and I think that's important. I'm struggling to make this club, and I still look upon myself as one of the top pinch-hitters in baseball. So what's wrong with my head?"
A question people have been asking for years.
But the years are up.
Why does he put himself through this needless spring training and set himself up for the inevitable fall? It's the money, only the money.
"I'd love to be able to say: 'Bleep you!' " he said. "If I were in a financial situation where I could do that, I'd be the perfect type of guy to do that. There was this guy here who the Padres traded. A pitcher named Mark Lee. They traded him to Pittsburgh, and he was sent to the minors. He was pitching the last inning of the season. He got two outs, and he quit. He just walked off the mound.
"He's my idol."
Speaking of idols . . .
"If there's one thing in my baseball career that I reflect on, it's going back to when I was a kid. Every year, we'd play stick ball--myself and Tommy Snyder. We'd use a whiffle ball and a broom handle as a bat. And I know there were kids doing that all over the world, going through the World Series lineup and saying, 'I'm Mickey Mantle or Gil Hodges or Pee Wee Reese.'
"Well, after the 1984 World Series, I just know there was a kid playing stickball in this world who was saying 'I'm Kurt Bevacqua.'
"But come to think of it, there probably wasn't."