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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Dodgers Finding Selves, Under Logic of Gibson

June 10, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

Kirk Gibson believes in emphasizing the positive. He talks it. He writes it. As you might have seen Sunday morning at the Crystal Cathedral, he even preaches it.

I guess the Dodgers don't watch the Hour of Power. Within a few hours, they melted down for the second time within four days. Embarrassed by his own pitching, Pedro Astacio tried to take it out on Bill Russell.

When our paths crossed Monday morning, I wondered if Gibson still saw the Dodgers' heads as half full. In town to promote his book, "The Bottom of the Ninth," Gibson had no more trouble with that question than a Dennis Eckersley backdoor slider.

First of all, he pointed out, it's only the bottom of the fourth as far as this season is concerned. There's four months of baseball left.

Second, he said, he would be more worried about the Dodgers if they were losing regularly and not fighting among themselves.

"Obviously, the players are frustrated," he said. "That's because they care and want to win."

As he recalls in his book, Gibson questioned the Dodgers' desire to win when he arrived in 1988. After some of them played one of those typically sophomoric baseball pranks on him in spring training, he let his teammates know in a few unprintable words that they were the only jokes in the clubhouse.

"You want to have fun?" he asked them. "Winning is fun."

With Gibson as the National League's MVP, the Dodgers had fun right through the World Series.

"We didn't have the most ability that season, but we developed character and chemistry," he said.

And this team?

"This is the time we'll find out," he said. "You don't find out during a 10-game winning streak. You find out when you're losing, the media's down on you and the fans are booing."

*

In recent months, we've seen confrontations between Astacio and Russell, Ismael Valdes and Russell, Nick Van Exel and Del Harris, Robert Horry and Danny Ainge and Jeff George and June Jones. . . .

Didn't you like it better when teams kept these things private? . . .

Fred Claire, the Dodger executive vice president who graded the team's first third of the season performance as "poor" in a closed-door meeting with players before Monday's 8-3 victory over Houston, said the organization used to be better at that. . . .

"We've been pretty good about unreported emotional outbursts," he said. . . .

A famous one that got out involved Walter Alston. . . .

"I heard he once challenged everybody on the team," Russell said. "He had the bus driver pull over, got off and told anybody who wanted to do something about it to follow him. Obviously, no one did." . . .

L.A. Sports Council President David Simon will reveal today the latest economic impact study of the Los Angeles/Orange County sports industry. . . .

"If you ask Joe Fan about the sports business in Southern California, the general answer might be that it's down because of the loss of the Raiders and Rams, the state of some of our facilities and the teams' perceived lack of success," Simon says. "I think our study runs counter to that." . . .

Harris, who usually turns the Lakers' Summer League team over to an assistant, plans to coach during the July 12-Aug. 3 miniseason at Long Beach's Pyramid so he can continue to oversee Kobe Bryant's education. . . .

Others scheduled to play in some games include the Clippers' Loy Vaught, Washington's Chris Webber, Toronto's Damon Stoudamire and San Antonio's Dominique Wilkins. . . .

Even though NBA rules prevent another prized young Laker, Travis Knight, from receiving more than a 20% raise on his $225,000 salary, the team is optimistic he'll re-sign. The Lakers will make it up to him after next season. . . .

Don't be surprised if UCLA is a future participant in the Pete Newell Challenge, a college basketball doubleheader that will debut in December in Oakland with Indiana, San Francisco, Brigham Young and California. . . .

Steve Lavin idolizes Newell, who coached the UCLA coach's father, Cap, at USF. . . .

The Bogey Bugle, the Bad Golfers Assn. newsletter, says the PGA stars who complain about conditions on their courses should have to play from the roughs at the Stanley Golf Club in the Falklands. Not all of the land mines have been removed since Great Britain warred with Argentina in the mid-'80s. . . .

Or they could have to walk down Greg Norman's stairs.

*

While wondering if Congressional still looks so treacherous to the pros, I was thinking: It's a good thing Norman can take a joke, Russell is lucky he doesn't have to worry about Dodger pitchers throwing a left, Gibson would love the Angels.

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