"This is the best birthday present I've had in a while," Tom Lasorda said after Fernando Valenzuela won his 20th game Monday night in Houston.
"I told him before the game that he didn't have to buy me a shirt or a sports coat, just give me a win," said Lasorda, who turned 59 Monday. "I'm so thrilled about him winning 20. I love him very much. Every guy on our ballclub was pulling for him. He's a delight to manage and a guy who never misses a start."
The kid from Mexico has come a long way. Lasorda still remembers Valenzuela's rookie year of 1981, when his teammates took him to a stylist for a $17 haircut.
"You know what he told me afterward?" Lasorda said. "He told me that's what he used to pay for a suit ."
Add Valenzuela: In a poll of major league players, managers and executives, he was picked to win the National League Cy Young Award over Houston's Mike Scott. Gary Carter was picked as the Most Valuable Player over Houston's Glenn Davis.
In the American League, Boston's Roger Clemens was picked for both the Cy Young and MVP awards, with Don Mattingly of the Yankees the MVP runner-up.
Add Carter: Said Montreal's Tim Raines, a former teammate: "He's a hotdog, and I don't always agree with his style. But I respect him as a player and I don't think the Mets would be as dominant this year if it weren't for him."
Trivia Time: Name the Southern California Sun quarterback who led the World Football League in passing yardage in 1974, the only full season of the league. (Answer below.)
So-you-want-to-be-a-coach dept.: University of Pittsburgh football Coach Mike Gottfried recalls his debut as the Kansas coach in 1983: "We were playing Northern Illinois. We had a great offense, but we couldn't stop them. The score was 34-34 late in the game, and they tried a field goal and missed it, but we were offside. The penalty moved the ball up five yards, and they kicked it. We lose, 37-34.
"I'm running off the field and one of our fans leans out of the top row and yells, 'What are you going to do, coach, when you play a real team?' I felt bad for my players, having to listen to that loudmouth drunk, when I recognized the voice of the president of the university."
For What It's Worth: Ken O'Brien of the New York Jets set a personal record by passing for 479 yards Sunday, but he fell short of the club record. In a 1972 game against John Unitas and the Baltimore Colts, Joe Namath completed 15 of 28 passes for 496 yards and 6 touchdowns. Unitas completed 26 of 44 for 376 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Jets won, 44-34.
Always-leave-'em-laughing dept.: Dick Butkus, whose number was retired at halftime of last Saturday's Illinois-Nebraska game at Champaign, Ill., concluded his speech by saying: "Enjoy the rest of the game."
Nebraska was leading, 38-7.
Trivia Answer: Tony Adams, with 3,905 yards. The leader in touchdown passes with 31 was Jim (King) Corcoran of the Philadelphia Bell.
Former big league infielder Ron Hunt, who holds the record for being hit by pitches at 243, on his greatest thrill: "Once, when I was with the Dodgers, I fouled off 14 or 15 pitches against Nolan Ryan before he finally hit me. Then he walked the next three batters, and I scored. We won, 1-0. I think that was my greatest game."