Maxwell Smart made his return to Anaheim Stadium Monday night. Would you believe it, Maxwell Smart?
Would you believe Bullwinkle the Moose?
Sorry about that chief, but it was really the one and only DeWayne Buice, the wise-cracking relief pitcher late of the California Angels now plying his shtick for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Unfortunately for him, his pitching skills have never quite matched his comedic talents, particularly his imitations of Maxwell Smart, the bumbling Secret Agent 86 played by actor Don Adams in the 1960s television series "Get Smart."
Buice's Max was a favorite when he was with the Angels and has become his most requested routine among the Blue Jays in the month he's been with the club.
"That and Ricky Ricardo's laugh," Buice said with a laugh, his own, that is.
Bullwinkle, the cartoon character, is another Buice specialty.
Through three seasons in the Angels' organization, Buice kept the team in stitches with his routines. He also proved to be a dependable reliever, especially during in 1987. He had 17 saves and, because of a rash of injuries to the Angel bullpen, got a chance to shine after spending a decade toiling in the minor leagues.
But in 1988, Buice was ineffective and spent time on the disabled list. He appeared in only 32 games and had a 2-4 record with a 5.88 earned-run average.
Over the winter, Buice got himself healthy playing in Venezuela. When he returned to his Costa Mesa home, Buice learned the Angels hadn't invited him to spring training.
"I knew I was going to be taken off the (40-man spring training) roster and for good reason," Buice said. "I threw . . . last year. But off the roster entirely? I knew I was in peak health."
But the Angels didn't seem to notice. Buice was sent packing to Toronto in a trade for minor league pitcher Cliff Young. The Blue Jays assigned Buice to the team's triple-A affiliate at Syracuse. He was called up May 15, but has spent time on the disabled list with a pulled groin muscle, limiting his action to nine innings in five games. He has a 0-0 record with zero saves and an 8.00 ERA. He did not pitch in the Blue Jays' 8-1 victory over the Angels Monday.
Still, Buice's enthusiasm hasn't diminished in the least. And Monday's return to Anaheim had Buice in a semi-serious mood.
"I just want to prove them wrong," Buice said. "To prove to the people here (the Angels) and to the man in the office at the end of the hall (Angel General Manager Mike Port)."
If nothing else, Buice gets high marks for perseverance.
Certainly his sense of humor helped him through the tough times in the minor leagues, in such towns as Midland, Tex., and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. He spent 10 years in all before finally making the big leagues as a 29-year-old rookie.
He said he wasn't about to pack it in just because the Angels lost interest in him.
"No," he said. "That's not my attitude, you know that. I wasn't going back to Mexico. The only time I'm going back there is on vacation to Cancun."
But Syracuse in the spring?
"The greenhouse effect isn't working up there," Buice said. "It was cold and wet. It snowed the first two days of the season."
But Buice said he loves the Blue Jays' new ballpark, the SkyDome.
"The ball doesn't fly there, at least not to center field," said Buice.