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ALLAN MALAMUD

Notes on a Scorecard

August 14, 1995|ALLAN MALAMUD

Sunday was Maury Wills' sixth birthday . . . .

It was on Aug. 13, 1989 that he stopped drinking alcohol and taking drugs. . . .

He observed six years of sobriety by attending his daily 12-step program session. . . .

On his way there, he heard about Mickey Mantle's death. . . .

"But for the grace of God, that could have been me," Wills said at Dodger Stadium. . . .

"I was fortunate to be able to get help before it was too late," Wills said. "Mickey wasn't so fortunate. It's a shame." . . .

Wills belongs in the Hall of Fame with Mantle. . . .

The shortstop helped lead the Dodgers to three World Series and four National League championships, and was voted NL most valuable player in 1962 when he stole 104 bases to break Ty Cobb's 47-year-old major league record. . . .

Unlike Mantle, he didn't abuse his body during most of his 14-year career that ended in 1972. . . .

"I didn't like beer and didn't drink much of the other stuff, either, until right near the end of my playing days," he said. . . .

"But then I wanted more and more. It got progressively worse. In 1981, when I was managing Seattle, I started with drugs. That broke the camel's back. I was powerless. I had no choice." . . .

His managerial career lasted only 83 games. His record was 26-56. . . .

*

Then came the toughest times, the lonely and losing battles against his addictions. . . .

Finally, on Aug. 13, 1989, he sought help. . . .

As part of his recovery program, he is doing charitable work in Southern California. . . .

"Two-thirds of my time is spent in community service," he said, mentioning the Long Beach Children's Clinic, SAFE, MADD and a designated drivers' program. "It's my way of giving back something to the people." . . .

At 62, a year younger than Mantle was when he died, Wills attends 12-step meetings every morning at 6:45. . . .

He says he would like to return to baseball as a teacher. . . .

"Jeff Torborg is my guy," he said about the former Dodger catcher and Cleveland, Chicago White Sox and New York Met manager. "When he gets another job, I'll go with him." . . .

While visiting Manager Tom Lasorda and several players Sunday, Wills looked young, well and not much heavier than during his playing days. . . .

He couldn't help but think back to a spring day in Florida in 1963. . . .

The Dodgers were about to play the Yankees in an exhibition game and a photographer wanted Wills, the National League MVP, to pose with his American League counterpart, Mantle. . . .

Wills politely declined the invitation. . . .

"I was intimidated," he said. "I really was. I couldn't believe somebody wanted me to pose with Mickey Mantle." . . .

*

Eric (Klutch) Karros is having the same kind of year that brought recently retired Kirk Gibson the 1988 National League MVP award. . . .

Karros is delivering the important hits that Gibson did when he led the Dodgers to the pennant--balloting is completed before the postseason--and compiling better statistics. . . .

In 150 games, Gibson hit .290 with 25 home runs and 76 runs batted in. . . .

In 99 games, Karros is batting .310 with 23 home runs and 75 RBIs. . . .

All Karros did Saturday night and Sunday morning during the improbable 11-10 victory over Pittsburgh in 11 innings was collect an RBI single in the seventh, a game-tying double with two out in the ninth, and a game-tying single with two out in the 10th. . . .

Oh yes, he was also the first Dodger in the dugout to notice that Pirate catcher Angelo Encarnacion illegally used his mask in the 11th. . . .

"I screamed, trying to get the ump's attention and then Tommy [Lasorda] ran out," Karros said about the argument that was won by the manager and gave the Dodgers the victory. . . .

Karros says one of the reasons he's coming through in the clutch so often this year is simply that he's getting more opportunities. . . .

He was grateful to have some chances again Sunday and in the "Mask" game after the disappointment that was "The Umpire Strikes Back" on Thursday.

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