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THE INSIDE TRACK | NOTES ON A SCORECARD / ALLAN MALAMUD

It's the Hustle in His Bustle That Pleases Hudler Most

May 30, 1996|ALLAN MALAMUD

Before Tuesday night's game, the Angels' Rex Hustle, a.k.a. Hudler, seemed most proud not of his .357 batting average, nine homers in 28 games, or recent five-hit performance, but, rather, his clocking from the batter's box to first base. . . .

"Mine has been the fastest on the team," Hudler said. "It's been as low as 3.7. Not bad for a guy 35 years old, huh? I try to run my fastest even on routine ground balls." . . .

Switch to one out in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 0-0 tie, the New York Yankees' Kenny Rogers having given up only one hit. . . .

Hudler hits what appears to be a routine grounder, but, as usual, busts his butt going down the line and shortstop Andy Fox rushes his throw. . . .

Replays show that Hudler should have been called out, but the umpire ruled that the throw pulled first baseman Tino Martinez off the bag. . . .

Hudler then goes to third on Rudy Velarde's double and eventually scores the only run of the night when Rogers walks Chili Davis with the bases loaded. . . .

No wonder Hudler has become one of Disney's most popular employees. . . .

"I love the game of baseball," he said. "I play it with passion and emotion. I drive to the ballpark and see guys working on telephone poles. I realize that I've got no problems, even if I went 0 for 4 the night before. I'm thankful to be here." . . .

The road to Anaheim Stadium was a long and winding one for him. . . .

He signed a letter of intent to play wide receiver for Notre Dame after catching as many as 22 passes in one game for Bullard High in Fresno, but chose baseball after being picked by the Yankees in the first round of the 1978 free-agent draft. . . .

In the next 10 years, he played a total of 43 major league games. . . .

He spent at least parts of 11 seasons in the minors and another in Japan before signing with the Angels in 1994. . . .

"I'm an old model with no mileage," he says. . . .

He gives much of the credit for his success this season to hitting coach Rod Carew. . . .

"Rod has made a big difference," he said. "When you listen to a seven-time batting champion for three years, you are bound to learn something." . . .

Hudler enjoys talking about just about everything except retirement, but wants to become a radio and TV baseball commentator eventually. . . .

His old manager with the St. Louis Cardinals, Joe Torre, was the best analyst I had ever heard during a stint in the Angel broadcasting booth during the late 1980s. . . .

I learned something new about the game from Torre nearly every time he was on the air. . . .

"I enjoyed broadcasting a lot, but it was a job," said Torre, who has the Yankees in American League East contention during his first year as their manager. "I liked being able to sleep at night without second-guessing myself. But I missed the competition involved in managing, the feeling that a win gives you." . . .

He was asked which would be a greater feat, hitting .400 or breaking Roger Maris' home run record. . . .

"Hitting .400 because four or five guys are going to hit more than 61 homers this season," he said. "Well, let's say more than one. What's going to stop them? The parks are smaller, the strike zone is smaller, pitchers can't pitch inside, and there is a dilution of talent because of expansion. All those things spell home runs." . . .

Torre says his pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre, has been instrumental in the comeback of Dwight Gooden. . . .

"Mel has made Doc's windup more compact," Torre said. "Doc was getting two strikes on a batter and then raring back and putting too much muscle into his delivery." . . .

Torre has noticed another change in Gooden. . . .

"He has that fire in his eyes again," the manager said. "At the start of the season, Mel and I had more confidence in him than he had." . . .

*

It is nice to see Charlie Whittingham, 83, back among the top 10 in the Hollywood Park trainers' standings. . . .

Perhaps the most exciting track and field event on the local calendar this year is the California state high school meet Friday and Saturday at Cerritos College. . . .

Seattle no longer appears to be such a formidable opponent for Chicago in the NBA finals--if the SuperSonics get that far. . . .

I wonder if the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies are among the foreign teams interested in Magic Johnson.

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