CHICAGO — They can hardly offer the definitive explanation of the subject, but if you want to know why the National League is called the senior circuit and why the senior circuit always wins the All-Star game, consider the cases of Jerry Reuss and Greg Minton.
Reuss spent the first 2 1/2 months of the 1987 season pitching his way off two National League rosters, finishing tours with Los Angeles and Cincinnati with an 0-5 record and a 6.11 earned-run average. As White Sox Manager Jim Fregosi not-so-delicately put it, "Reuss co1970037870League."
Minton, meanwhile, barely got the chance to get anybody of consequence out with the San Francisco Giants this season. "The only time I pitched was in the second, third or fourth innings, when we were up by 10 or down by 10," Minton said.
In the National League, they were unwanted. But in the American League, where both found refuge in Anaheim, they are undefeated. Reuss and Minton kept that record intact Friday night at Comiskey Park, where they combined to pitch the Angels past the White Sox, 3-1, extending the Angels' winning streak to a season-high five games.
Reuss (2-0) allowed 6 hits and 1 run through 8 innings, giving him an American League ERA of 0.52 after 2 starts. Minton came in to record the final two outs, giving him 3 American League saves to go with his 1-0 record as an Angel.
How much impact have they made since switching leagues?
Well, Reuss started the Angels' winning streak with an 8-0 shutout in his American League debut Sunday. And in three of the ensuing four victories, Minton has been credited with the save.
What that says about the comparative strength of the two leagues is fodder for the pro-National League argument, although that's an argument Reuss did not care to enter.
"How do you measure that?" Reuss asked. "I imagine there's some significance (attached to his 1987 record), but I've only pitched against two teams in the American League. That's not enough to form any kind of opinion."
Minton prefers to discuss the inherent value to a change of scenery. When asked about having been a "National League refugee," Minton grinned and said: "I think I like 'grizzled old veteran' better."
Minton said he "didn't get any chances in San Francisco. The only save I got came in a game we won in the 13th inning. Somebody had to pitch and I was the only guy left.
"The biggest thing was getting out of San Francisco. I admit, a lot of it was my fault. I was completely out of shape in 1986, but I ran five to eight miles every day during the off-season and got in shape. But in San Francisco, they still had it in their mind that I couldn't do the job.
"The Angels, for some reason, still think I can pitch. And when someone believes in you, that's 90% of the game."
Both pitchers also discussed the value of being new to this league.
Reuss: "Gene Mauch says the change of leagues is the big thing, the hitters not knowing what pitch I'll throw. That may have something to do with it.
"But you also have to consider the grass fields I'm now pitching on (Reuss gets most of his outs on ground balls) and the fact that my arm is getting stronger after arthroscopic surgery late last July. Gradually, I've noticed an improvement.
"In spring training with the Dodgers, my fastball was clocked at 82 to 84 m.p.h. That's not good enough to win in the big leagues. But now, I've gotten my fastball back up to 90, 91."
Minton: "Coming here, it's kind of like being in my rookie year. I threw a sinker to (Carlton) Fisk tonight, and immediately, (Angel catcher Bob) Boone calls time out and tells me, 'He's a good low-ball hitter.' So I just did what Boone told me to do.
"I don't know the hitters here yet. But they don't know me, either."
Another factor comes into play here: Pitching against the White Sox.
Chicago is last in the American League in team batting (.236) and runs scored and next-to-last in home runs. The lineup drawn by Fregosi Friday included five hitters batting less than .240--with one, second baseman Donnie Hill, at .190.
Reuss walked the first batter he faced, then retired the next 10. The only run he allowed came in the fourth inning, when Reuss walked Gary Redus, who took second on an infield out and scored on Chicago's first hit--a single to right-center by Greg Walker.
The Angels had taken a quick lead with two runs in the top of the first on RBI singles by Mark Ryal and Bob Boone. They added a third run in the seventh when Mark McLemore singled, stole second and scored on a single by Jack Howell.
Altogether, the Angels managed eight hits against White Sox starter Jose DeLeon (5-7), but a little was enough for Reuss and Minton.
Reuss saw significance in the fact that he had to pitch with only a minimal margin for error.
"Tonight, I had to pitch," Reuss said. "I had eight runs to work with last time. This time, as soon as a runner got on base, I was facing the tying run. I had to battle."