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Playing Short, Eckstein Makes an Impact

October 05, 2002|Bill Shaikin; Larry Stewart | From Staff Reports

With this prime-time series introducing the Angels to the rest of the country, America has a new hero. He's David Eckstein, the Angels' 5-foot-6 shortstop, the new role model for all those kids tired of hearing how they are too little to earn a scholarship--let alone earn a living--by playing sports.

Eckstein, the leadoff hitter on a playoff team, led the American League in sacrifice bunts, times hit by pitch --he had one of each in Game 3--and grand slams. He gets more fan mail than any of his, er, bigger teammates, and he is relentlessly besieged for autographs, home and away.

In rhyme, his teammates joke with him about his popularity. "People can look you in the eye, that's the reason why," they tell him.

Eckstein, listed at 5-8, calls all the attention "humbling" but says he considers it "a compliment" if a kid considers him a role model. And, when he was a kid, which short player did he--pardon the pun--look up to?

"I never felt like that," he said. "My favorite player was Dale Murphy, and he's 6-4."


The Angels decided not to use rookie John Lackey as a fourth starter during this series. If the Angels beat the Yankees, they could used Lackey or veteran Aaron Sele as a fourth starter in the league championship series.

Sele sat out five weeks while rehabilitating a partially torn rotator cuff, but he returned to start the final day of the regular season and impressed the coaching staff by shutting out the Seattle Mariners for four innings. Sele appeared to tire in the fifth.

The Angels left him off the roster for this series, but he has continued to work out and could be added to the roster for the next series. Pitching coach Bud Black said Sele is capable of throwing five or six innings, more than enough with a six-man bullpen and a playoff schedule of no more than three consecutive games without a day off.


Peter Ueberroth, the former baseball commissioner and Los Angeles Olympic chief, attended Friday's game. Ueberroth confirmed that his investment partnership is interested in buying the Angels from Disney but declined further comment.

Ueberroth's group was outbid by Disney when the Autry family sold the team in 1995.


The Cleveland Indians are leaning toward retaining interim Manager Joel Skinner on a full-time basis, but they would like to interview Black before making a decision. Cleveland General Manager Mark Shapiro said he would not seek permission to talk to any candidates working for playoff teams until their season ends.

"I've got a long-term working relationship and friendship with Bud, and I respect him as a baseball man and as a person," Shapiro said. "If he were ever available to talk to, he would certainly be a candidate for us."

Black, a former Cleveland pitcher, worked for the Indians after his retirement in several capacities, including advance scouting, player evaluation and minor league coach.

Bill Shaikin


Reggie Jackson, who played for the Yankees for five years and the Angels for five years, was in attendance Friday night. So who was he pulling for?

"Since the Yankees sign my paycheck, the Yankees," he said. "But I'm really happy about the Angels' success."

Jackson has been a special advisor for the Yankees since 1993. "I help players who have problems, both on or off the field," he said.

Jackson, who has homes in Orange County and Pebble Beach, said he usually only comes to Angel games when they play the Yankees.


Someone else at Game 3 was Jack Nicholson, who had a seat right behind home plate.

The Laker regular said this was the first time he has been to an Angel game in Anaheim. So who was Nicholson pulling for?

"The Yankees," he said.

Larry Stewart

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