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ALLAN MALAMUD

Notes on a Scorecard

August 16, 1995|ALLAN MALAMUD

Chad Fonville, the Dodgers' 5-foot-6, 155-pound second baseman, says, "I might be small, but I've got a big heart." . . .

He showed it Monday night. . . .

In the top of the 10th inning, he mishandled a potential double-play ground ball that led to the unearned run that gave the Chicago Cubs a 4-3 lead over the Dodgers. . . .

He could have pouted. He could have lost concentration and confidence. Instead, he bore down. With two out in the bottom of the 10th, he lined a pitch off reliever Randy Myers' leg for a single that tied the score. . . .

It was typical Little Chad stuff. . . .

His is among the least likely success stories of the baseball season. . . .

Until 1995, his career consisted of 251 Class A games spread over three seasons. . . . He was claimed by the Montreal Expos from the San Francisco Giants' organization last December in the Rule V draft. A player who hasn't been on a 40-man major league roster after three years in the minors is eligible for the Rule V draft--and his new team(s) can't send him back down to the minors the first season unless he clears waivers. . . .

Fonville had 12 at-bats with the Expos when they put him on waivers the last day of May. . . .

It came as a surprise when the Dodgers claimed him. . . .

"It just so happened that our scouts were here working on the amateur draft," said Fred Claire, Dodger vice president. "One of the scouts, Gary LaRocque, was very familiar with Fonville and knew his high school and junior college coaches in North Carolina. . . .

"Gary saw Chad in A ball and spring training and told us that he had a terrific attitude and enough ability to contribute right away. We knew that he had great speed and could play second, short, and even the outfield. He also walked a lot and could bunt." . . .

But even Claire is surprised at how important the leadoff-batting, switch-hitting Fonville, 24, has been to the Dodgers. . . .

He replaced the injured Delino DeShields at second base and has refused to give up the job. He went into Tuesday night's game with a .289 batting average. The Dodgers had a 22-10 record in games he had started. . . .

His hustle seems contagious. . . .

"I play hard every inning," he said. "I was blessed to get the opportunity to play here and I'm trying to take advantage of it. I'm having fun winning and being involved in a pennant race." . . .

He has played shortstop most of his professional and amateur career and Ozzie Smith is his idol. . . .

"When the Cardinals played us, I had a real nice talk with Ozzie," Fonville said. "It was a thrill. He made me feel real good. He said, 'You're playing well and you're going to be here a long time.' " . . .

*

The only Rule V player who played for a division winner was Tim Layana of the Cincinnati Reds in 1990. . . .

Mickey Mantle's home runs were the longest ever hit in many ballparks, including old Bovard Field on the USC campus. He hit one in an exhibition game that traveled about 10 miles. . . .

When the once formidable Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals were in town last week, only the most knowledgeable baseball fans were familiar with half the names on their rosters. . . .

It's a good thing that the wild-card races in both leagues are interesting. The only tight divisional title race is in the National League West. . . .

San Diego, not Colorado, is shaping up as the Dodgers' toughest competition. . . .

Former USC assistant basketball coach Jack Fertig is on Jerry Tarkanian's staff at Fresno State. . . .

*

Among freshmen making early impressions during UCLA football practice are wide receivers Brad Melsby and Danny Farmer. A walk-on from Loyola High, Farmer is the son of former Bruin receiver George Farmer. . . .

I usually don't think NFL exhibition game performances are very significant, but quarterback Eric Zeier, the rookie from Georgia, sure has been impressive for the Cleveland Browns. . . .

When have you seen a football player inquire about the well-being of a civilian after he's run over him on the sidelines? Almost always, the player immediately runs back onto the field. . . .

The Indy Racing League made a wise choice when it hired Cary Agajanian as executive vice president. . . .

Belated 84th birthday greetings to the great boxing trainer, Eddie Futch. He celebrated last Wednesday by working the corner of heavyweight Shane Sutcliffe, who won a bout at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills. . . .

Mike Tyson should be able to knock out Peter McNeeley any time he wants Saturday night. The feeling here is that Tyson will want to in the first round.

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