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Replacement Show Goes On : Baseball: Dodgers enter the great unknown today against Yankees in exhibition opener.

March 02, 1995|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VERO BEACH, Fla. — The two buses will pull onto Don Drysdale Drive at 8 a.m. today. Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda and his coaching staff will board Bus No. 1. The 30 players, many of whom never have worn a Dodger uniform, will be loaded onto Bus No. 2.

Together, they will embark upon a 112-mile journey down I-95 to Ft. Lauderdale Stadium, and enter into the great unknown.

"I don't think any of us know what to expect," said infielder Edwin Alicea, willing to cross the picket line while his brother, Boston Red Sox infielder Luis Alicea, refuses. "Some people say we should be scared. I'm not scared. I just want to play baseball.

"Ten years from now, who knows, maybe I can say, 'Hey, I was there. I played in a replacement game. I made history.' "

This will be a spring training trip that none have ever experienced. There will be one uniformed policeman on each bus. A police escort will await on the outer limits of Ft. Lauderdale. And security guards will escort the team into the clubhouse.

Originally scheduled as merely the opening game of the Grapefruit League, this game suddenly has turned into a possible marquee match-up for the Teamsters Union: New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Dodgers.

If there was ever a spring-training game the teamsters would picket or a game that would be saturated with protesters, it would be this one. It features the nation's two biggest markets and baseball's two most prestigious organizations. Who cares if the pitching match-up is Rafael Montalvo vs. the Yankees' Frank Eufenia, neither of whom has pitched in the big leagues since 1986?

"People are talking a lot about it," Montalvo said, "but I'm not afraid. If we go down there, and we have to stay on the bus, we'll stay on the bus. If it's real bad and we have to go home, we'll go home.

"I've been through some scary situations in Mexico, but I don't think the people in this country will throw rocks or bottles. Police will be there to protect us, anyway."

The Dodgers officially formulated their spring training team Wednesday night, when more than 40 players volunteered to become strikebreakers. The Dodgers presented new proposals for their replacement players, and many found it difficult to resist.

The Dodgers guaranteed that every minor leaguer chosen for the replacement team would receive a minimum of $3,000 a month for Class-A players, $5,000 a month for double A and $7,000 a month for triple A. They also will receive a $5,000 signing bonus and $3,000 in major league meal money.

So it was little wonder that the Dodger offices were jammed all day with volunteers, including many who previously had no interest in becoming replacement players.

"I just couldn't turn it down, not after they guaranteed my salary," said pitcher Wayne Edwards, 30, one of many who changed his mind. "I'm not going to keep waiting for the strike to end. I'm sick of waiting. I think we all are."

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