As Jerry Reuss discovered Sunday afternoon, good things come to those who wait . . . and play for three teams in in three months . . . and switch leagues . . . and pitch against the Kansas City Royals, who are liable to get shut out anywhere by anyone at any time.
Reuss, the 38-year-old ex-Dodger and, more recently, ex-Red, hadn't won a game since May 2, 1986, going 0-11 with a 7.35 ERA during that stretch. He wasn't good enough for the Dodgers, who released him in April, and he wasn't good enough for the Reds, who waived him last week, but he was good enough to pitch the Angels past the Royals, 8-0, blanking them on eight harmless singles.
This, on its own, would appear a monumental achievement, and the Anaheim Stadium crowd of 47,797 responded accordingly with several standing ovations. Angel owner Gene Autry shook Reuss' hand. Angel Manager Gene Mauch said he imagined "nobody in baseball feels better today than Jerry Reuss."
And Reuss, who kept the ball he used to strike out Bo Jackson for the final out, said things such as, "I'm as happy as I can be," and "I don't have words to explain the multitude of emotions I'm experiencing now."
Reuss also said he had spent many sleepless nights "wondering if I'd ever get another chance after Cincinnati, how many next times will there be, can I still do it, is it ever going to come around.
"Less than a week ago, I didn't know if I'd ever pitch again. Talk about going from a valley to a peak. Nine innings and a shutout. It's good to see a peak again after all the valleys in Cincinnati."
But while shutouts and victories may be long-lost concepts for Reuss, the Royals did little more Sunday than accept the defeat and maybe shrug. Kansas City has seen this many times before. The Royals have been shut out a major league-high 11 times this year--three times by Angel pitching--and have a propensity for withering at the sight of a pitcher they've never faced before.
The first time they saw Milwaukee's Chuck Crim, they lost, 14-3. Same with Seattle's Lee Guettermann (a 7-2 defeat), Milwaukee's Len Barker (4-2), the Yankees' Charlie Hudson (5-0) and the Angels' Willie Fraser (4-0).
Mauch is a proponent of the new league factor, which holds that a washed-up pitcher in one league can move to another and fool new hitters for a while. It was one of the reasons the Angels first signed former San Francisco Giant Greg Minton, and then Reuss, to help repair their broken pitching staff during the past month.
But Sunday, Mauch chose to downplay such theories.
"I know I've said that," Mauch acknowledged with a nod, "but when you make the number of quality pitches (Reuss) did, it doesn't matter what league you're in or who you're pitching against."
Said Reuss: "There were a lot of factors today. The eight runs might have been the biggest. Then there was the defense, the crowd, (catcher) Bob Boone was a factor, and maybe the newness was a factor. But you can't put any amount of emphasis on one of them without considering the others."
Minton, however, had much to say for the effect leaving one league for another has on a pitcher. He is, after all, living proof--a 1-0 record with no earned runs in 8 innings following his release by the Giants.
"When you go from one team to another in the National League, the hitters--quote, unquote--think you're not good enough," Minton said. "And it carries over.
"Over here, it feels like you've just been called up to the big leagues. For me, it was like a whole fresh begining. After all that cold weather in San Francisco, it sure feels like sunshine coming here."
A seven-run third inning brought the sun out for Reuss. And for that, Reuss can thank a different Angel, Kansas City shortstop Angel Salazar, whose two-out error proved the catalyst for seven unearned runs.
Had Salazar held onto Mark McLemore's line drive, Royal starter Bob Stoddard (0-1) would have completed a 1-2-3 inning.
Instead, Salazar prolonged the inning for Devon White to lash a run-scoring double, for Wally Joyner to hit a two-run home run, for Dick Schofield to single home two more runs and for Gary Pettis to double in another.
"We had an awful nice inning after three outs," Mauch said.
In the sixth inning, Boone delivered his first home run since last August and Reuss, with an eight-run lead, was on his way to his first victory since last May.
"It's been a long, long time since I went into the seventh with 8-0 lead," Reuss said. Or taken any kind of lead into the seventh, for that matter.
For Reuss, the shutout was his first since Aug. 11, 1985. The complete game was his first since Sept. 21, 1985.
"I probably enjoy this as much as any game I've ever pitched, although from a little different perspective," Reuss said. "I pitched in an All-Star Game, a World Series, I pitched a no-hitter. But this has its place with the rest of those."
Reuss was asked what type of reaction he expected from his former Dodger and Red teammates once they heard Sunday's news.