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MIKE PENNER

Moon Man Blasts Off to Retirement

October 07, 1990|MIKE PENNER

The sun also rises over the suburbs of Gilbert, Ariz., and with it, so does the Moon Man.

But the days are freer now. No more daily five-mile runs just to keep his 39-year-old body fit enough to keep dragging it to the mound. No more clenched teeth while gritting through the agony of another curveball. No more painkillers or doctor appointments or sifting through the classified ads in search of a new right elbow.

Greg Minton keeps a different kind of schedule now. The opposition still includes bass and deer, only these aren't named Kevin and Rob.

"I'm already signed up in two bass tournaments," Minton says with enthusiasm Saturday afternoon. "I've got four hunts lined up--deer, elk, boar and turkey. I'm already shooting my bow."

Bow?

"I don't believe in guns," Minton says. "To me, standing 250 yards away and pulling a trigger ain't fair. But if some animal is going to let me get within 25 yards, well, I've got my arrows."

He also has his woods and his irons. They will work overtime, too, since Minton has booked himself into 14 golf tournaments this fall.

That's Minton. Even in retirement, he has to stay busy, which is the main reason he's in retirement. To Minton, his 1990 output for the Angels--15 1/3 innings, 1-1 record, no saves--was tantamount to stealing money.

"I'm used to pitching three, four days in a row," he says. "I'm used to leading the team in appearances. If I can't do that, I don't want to be out there. I don't want to be the 10th man on the pitching staff."

This summer, Minton was the missing man on the Angel pitching staff. His right elbow, cursed by a frayed ligament, gave out months before he did. This summer, Minton led the Angels only in time spent on the disabled list.

"I still think I can get people out," Minton says. "Opposing teams hit under .200 against me, but I just couldn't do it as consistently as I wanted to.

"Even my agent was telling me, 'Greg, please reconsider. I can get you work. You can still help some team.' But that isn't the point. This year, I'd throw and then I need three or four days off."

Or three or four weeks off.

Minton called it quits last Sunday after a big league career of 13 seasons, the last 3 1/2 with the Angels. He saved 150 games, including a high of 30 with San Francisco in 1982, and set a major league record by pitching 269 1/3 consecutive innings (1978-1982) without allowing a home run. With the Angels, he put together another homerless streak of 105 2/3 innings, which stands as the franchise record.

When it came to serving up the long ball, Minton was the Once In A Blue Moon Man.

Minton is a firm believer in reincarnation. After living and dying in San Francisco, he claims he was born again in Anaheim, which might be a first.

Minton was a bitter, bloated man near the end with the Giants. Divorce cast him into a deep depression and he coped by trying to eat to forget. His weight soared to 248 pounds. His earned-run average went along for the ride. Minton became the scourge of San Francisco, booed every time he moved from his chair in the Giant bullpen.

"I was run out of San Francisco," Minton says. "The Giants buried me. I was real down on the game of baseball. After two years of non-stop booing, I didn't want any part of it. I gave up on baseball."

Through a crash-and-burn calories off-season program, Minton lost 51 pounds between the 1986 and 1987 seasons. No matter. On May 28, 1987, he lost his job, with the Giants tendering him his release.

Desperate for saves, the Angels looked into Minton.

Little did they know that they soon would be doing the saving.

"When I met with Mike Port and all the hierarchy to talk about retiring, I told them, 'I really appreciate you signing me and letting me enjoy playing baseball again,' " Minton says. "If not for them, I'd have never coached Little League, I'd have never coached Bobby Sox. The Angels made the game fun for me again."

With the Angels, Minton never pulled any of the wild stunts that earned his reputation as a lunar loony. For instance, he never once stole the team bus to go shopping for boots or went inner tubing down the Salt River in the nude.

"You didn't see the real Moon Man in Anaheim," Minton says with a laugh. No, just a Half Moon. "Old age makes you less feisty, I guess," he says.

Still, Minton was an oasis amid the arid and prickly conditions often found in the Angel clubhouse. On a team laden with players who either hated talking to the press (Mike Witt) or refused altogether (George Hendrick), Minton could always be found waxing about his old heavyweight days ("The Giants put up a new scoreboard and called it Jumbo Tron--they named it after me") or a new effective pitch ("My Vaseline fastball").

For the past week, many note pads and tape recorders around Orange County have been in mourning.

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