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Meacham Is Now Riding Up Elevator

September 06, 1986|STEVE LOWERY | Times Staff Writer

If you're interested in a couple of spots on the Bobby Meacham bandwagon, don't rush. There's plenty of space.

Meacham's career as the on-again, off-again shortstop for the New York Yankees is off again. Seven times since 1983 he has packed his bags for New York only to somehow find his way back to the Yankees' Triple-A team in Columbus, Ohio.

Monday marked trip No. 8 as Meacham was one of 10 players called up by the Yankees as major league teams increased their rosters to 40.

Excuse Meacham, a graduate of Mater Dei High School, if he isn't overcome with optimism. Playing for the Yankees has a way of kicking reality into a guy's face. There were plenty of reasons for Meacham to smile last season when he played 155 major league games at shortstop, the most for a Yankee since Bucky Dent played 157 in 1977.

He led the majors in sacrifice hits with 23, stole 25 bases and played consistent defense, compiling a .963 fielding percentage.

It looked like Meacham had finally found a place. That April day in 1984, when his fielding error had not only lost a game for the Yankees in the ninth but also signed his ticket back to the minors, seemed a long way away.

But this season, on June 15--Fathers' Day--Bobby Meacham once again became expendable. Hitting .222 will do that.

So back to Columbus he went, expecting to work on some of the rudiments and eventually find his back to the left side of the Yankee infield.

This time, however, the folks in Columbus wanted Meacham to play second base. "That was really tough. I had play everyday of my career at shortstop," he said. "Then to be put in a new postion just like that, it was tough."

It showed. In 46 games, Meacham batted just .140 and made 12 errors.

The Yankees say that the move is to help Meacham's career.

"He definitely figures in our plans here," said Lou Piniella, Yankee manager. "The more positions Bobby can play can only help him."

Since being called up, Meacham's has played but a half inning at shortstop against the Oakland A's.

He has a one-year contract and says he still wants to play for the Yankees.

"I know things can change here quickly," Meacham said. "If you're not going good, you're going to be replaced.

"But you know, it doesn't really bug me to play under these conditions. I don't mind playing under a microscope."

If his desire to play for the Yankees hasn't changed, a little bit of Bobby Meacham has. It would have been hard to find a more happy fellow last season. And yet, when he talks about his future, every hope is dotted with confusion.

After the bad throw against Texas in 1984, Meacham said he always knew he would make it back.

"The Lord gave me too much talent to waste," he said.

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