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As luck would have it, Gonzalez is the prize

T.J. SIMERS

July 03, 2007|T.J. SIMERS

There's $10,870,852 up for grabs in the pick six at Hollywood Park on Monday, the biggest pool for such a thing in this country's history, and I'm sitting three for three with a pair of longshot winners already to my credit.

I might never work again, giving me the chance to feel what it's like to be the Grocery Store Bagger or the folks selling tickets to Kings games.

It's all about the mojo now, arriving at Dodger Stadium petrified that I might bump into Frank's Old Lady and she might decide it's time to get chummy and give me the kiss of death.

I'm three for three, and I know one thing, this is no time to shake Bret Tomko's hand.

The first person I see is Brad Penny, but I'm going for millions today, so who wants to settle for just a Penny?

I go to Luis Gonzalez for two reasons. No. 1, he is the slowest guy on the team, so he can't run from me. And No. 2, he's so darn lucky.

I talk to Gonzalez, feigning interest in what he has to say, because when I win the pick six, they're going to have to put someone else on Page 2. You're rooting for me now, aren't you?

Gonzalez turns 40 in September. He got the has-been treatment in Arizona. There's no good reason for him to excel any longer, but he has, so it must be luck.

The Dodgers are lucky to have him, that's for sure, so right now I'm standing in the luckiest place I know -- as long as Tomko doesn't walk by.

"Guys like you motivate me," Gonzalez says, and I'm thinking maybe he has me mixed up with Dwyre -- because if that old man can keep working, so can Gonzalez.

"When I came to town you asked, 'Do you really think you can hit 20 home runs?' saying it like you didn't think I could," Gonzalez says. "I love that. I love it when people doubt my abilities."

If he gets 21, I want that ball to see if it's juiced.

"I'll tell you what bothers me about that," says Gonzalez, who hit 57 home runs in 2001, and last year had the owner of the Diamondbacks say his name and steroids in the same sentence. "When he said that, they didn't want me to do it, but I called a press conference. Were they living under a rock? In this country when you say, 'No comment,' you're considered guilty.

"No," he says, he's never used steroids. "I've got nothing to hide. Every year someone has a breakout season. Shawn Green hit 49 home runs the same year. I still go to parks and people yell steroids at me, but you line up all those guys next to me, and anyone who says I'm like one of those guys -- needs a drug test."

And so it goes, traces of gray in his beard while obviously coloring his hair, but proving as a nice old man to be a steal for the Dodgers. Take away Russell Martin, and the Dodgers sink, but then comes Gonzalez -- as solid on the field as off.

He's flirting with .300 as a hitter, believes he can post 3,000 hits in his career while still needing more than 500, and is always looking for another hill to climb. At least that's how it looks when he tries running the bases.

The other day the shortstop stopped to tie his shoes and pull out a piece of gum before throwing him out by three feet. "I was closer than that," he says.

I joke about all three outfielders colliding, which I figure is his only chance to hit a triple. He goes to Tampa Bay, hits a triple and then sends word back, "I took that as a challenge."

That's right, he's one of those guys, explaining why he struggled on his first trip back to Arizona. "I was trying to hit an eight-run home run to show them," he says, and when things go well for Gonzo, he's approachable, and when things go badly, he's just as approachable.

"I'm not going to play forever and don't want to leave having people say that guy was a jerk," he says. "I was brought up to appreciate everything I have and to give back."

If my horses win the next two races instead of finishing third, I'm on my way to giving it all back too. Look at what all that money has done to the Kobester.

But we'll never know, because I don't even have to turn around. I just know Tomko is standing there.

A NUMBER of unhappy people called The Times because handicapper Bob Mieszerski's Hollywood Park selections were missing.

As a public service, of course, they were left out of the newspaper to save everyone -- Misery going 1 for 6 in the pick six.

HERE'S WHERE we are today in sports if you checked out ESPN.com's headlines:

* Police: Tank Johnson wasn't drunk when arrested

* Arrington out of hospital two weeks after accident

* Former Olympic sprinter confesses to NYC rapes

* Benoit's personal doctor faces federal drug charges

* Iverson says assault lawsuit meant to fleece him

* A-Rod's wife wearing (obscene) T-shirt

* Raiders lose their 20-year lawsuit against the NFL

What would we do without our fun and games, and the chance to escape our own troubled lives?

THE WOMAN who accompanied Tony Grant while he sang the national anthem at Monday night's Dodgers game kept her hat on during his performance.

TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Sharon Berke:

\o7 "I was at the Dodger game (Saturday) night. I did not remove my Dodger cap during the anthem. My husband mouthed off, criticizing me. Showing my age, I defended myself with\f7 Amy Vanderbilt's\o7 Rules of Etiquette. This resulted in an argument lasting through the second inning. This morning he showed me your column and resumed the argument. I researched the issue and to my surprise the rules have changed. The rule, which allowed hats to remain on, was made out of concern for women having to remove hat pins along with their hats. I stand corrected by you AND my husband. Hats off to you!"

\f7 I think you will find as a rule, husbands are usually correct.

--

\o7T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

\f7

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