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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

This Wild Thing Makes Dodgers' Hearts Sink

April 02, 2002|T.J. Simers

When I was reading stories about Dodger pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii this spring, I couldn't understand how a guy could be so wild as to take aim at home plate and end up hitting one photographer and nearly nailing a second.

I knew the Dodgers were concerned, and I had even heard rumors organist Nancy Bea Hefley was thinking about wearing a helmet every time Ishii pitches this season in Dodger Stadium.

Then Sunday I was listening to the radio as Ishii walked five consecutive batters before being yanked, and I thought it was hopeless until I picked up the paper Monday to find his picture on page D4: The guy pitches with his eyes closed.

(I believe that's how my daughter picked out the grocery store bagger).

Anyway, my first inclination after seeing Ishii pitching with his eyes closed was to call and invite him to The Times to participate in our United Way drive. The newspaper was giving people a chance to take aim at selected goofs sitting in a dunk tank, and given Ishii's inability to throw a strike, at $10 for every three balls tossed, the United Way would have made a killing.

Then someone said Plaschke would be sitting in the dunk tank, and all I can tell you is, I wish I was on speaking terms with Kevin Brown.

*

I STILL wanted to help the Dodgers, so I called the team's receptionist to let someone know Ishii has been pitching with his eyes closed and told her I had information that could probably save the life of a fan sitting down the right-field line.

She hung up on me.

I called back, and although I realized I was fibbing, I told her I had info that could keep the Dodgers out of last place this season. She said, "OK," and then hung up on me. I should have known, if GM Dan Evans has caller I.D., she'd have it too.

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SO I went to a phone booth and called for Manager Jim Tracy, and she said he needed a rest after spring training. I asked for pitching coach Jim Colborn, and I may be wrong about this, but I think she said, "He never works."

She put me on hold, and I got a tape recording of Vin Scully giving me the Dodger highlight of last season: San Francisco's Barry Bonds hitting his 67th home run off James Baldwin in Dodger Stadium for a 2-1 Giant victory.

Now I got to thinking about all the wonderful moments in Dodger history with Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Kirk Gibson, Fernando Valenzuela, Maury Wills and F.P. Santangelo, and here I was getting Giants' highlights from a team that made a big deal about not wanting to celebrate Bonds' home run mark.

Oh well, I was hoping no one would come on the line, so I could hear Jack Clark's mighty rip off Tom Niedenfuer next.

A team spokesman, admittedly as stunned as I was to hear Bonds' homer getting such prominent play on the Dodger phone line, called later to say it was no mistake. He said it was part of the team's 40th anniversary CD, which includes both "happy and sad" moments. You have to do that, I guess, when you run out of happy moments, and there's a CD to fill.

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DODGER FANS remember Valenzuela's eyes rolling back into his head, and Luis Tiant used to turn his back on home plate. I don't recall anyone ever yelling, "duck!" however, every time they went into the windup.

The good news is that Ishii threw 82 pitches against the Mariners with his eyes closed, and 33 were for strikes. The bad news is that Evans told reporters, "I'm not worried about [Ishii] at all," and this is the pitching expert who brought Baldwin, Mike Trombley and Terry Mulholland to L.A. last year to improve the opposition's chances of scoring.

I told Tracy that Ishii was pitching with his eyes closed, and he said, "I looked beyond the eyes and saw the arm angle in that picture. It's pretty difficult when you have an arm angle like that to get the ball over the plate."

So in addition to pitching blind, Ishii has a bum arm angle, a 13.33 spring earned-run average and, as we learned last week, he can't win if he feels anxiety.

That probably rules out Nancy Bea playing "Wild Thing" every time he takes the mound, which could end up being the only highlight of the Dodger season.

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IN THE L.A. Daily News there is an advertisement with Lisa Leslie's picture promoting the Sparks' WNBA exhibition game against Phoenix. Directly below that is another ad with this question: "Will I ever get out of this dead-end job?"

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THE ANGELS should have signed Ruben Rivera for their home opener so he could have at least stolen a run for them.

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THE FANS in Atlanta were chanting, "Gary, Gary," after Sheffield homered in the fifth inning Monday, and then gave him a standing ovation as he took his place in the field in the sixth. The fans in Los Angeles did the same thing in last year's opener after his sixth-inning home run. I had no idea this guy was so popular.*

FOR THE last two months the Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica (2525 Michigan Ave.) has been presenting Viggo Mortensen's "Signlanguage," which would probably have been followed by hand gestures from Bobby Knight had I elected to attend his talk Thursday night and ask questions.

Knight will be at the gallery to sign copies of his new book, "Knight: My Story," while I'm home watching "C.S.I.," but those interested in hearing Knight will need to RSVP (310-264-4678) to attend the 7:30 p.m. event.

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TODAY'S LAST word comes in an e-mail from James W.:

"Tell the bagger they're getting $55 on ebay for the Darius Miles bobblehead dolls given out Saturday night at the Clipper game."

What do you think a date with the grocery store bagger would go for?

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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