MOOSE : Angels Reach Into Farm System for More Hitting Help

Times Staff Writer

The Angels' new hitting instructor and third base coach spent the last 28 years in the minor leagues. No regrets. No apologies.

Baseball was Lawrence George (Moose) Stubing's ticket out of the Bronx, his escape from a probable hard life with few rewards.

Now, after spending the last eight years as a manager in the Angel farm system, he has been promoted to his first full major league season as part of the new emphasis on internal development.

The club is also hopeful that such pivotal players as shortstop Dick Schofield, center fielder Gary Pettis and right fielder Mike Brown will duplicate the offensive success they enjoyed under Stubing in the minors.

"It's a thrill of a lifetime for me to be here, but I'm willing to put this job on the line," said Stubing, 47.

"If Gary Pettis and Dick Schofield don't produce, I haven't done what I was hired to do."

Pettis hit .227 as a rookie last season. Schofield hit .193. Stubing's goal is to help Pettis reach .285 and Schofield .250.

"At those levels, they're on their way to making $1 million a year because they can both make all the plays," Stubing said. "They're the two most exciting kids I've had. I'm saying you'll see that this year."

The 6-2, 255-pound Stubing, hitless in his only five major league at-bats, is no stranger to pressure and challenge.

He has been one of the nation's top college basketball referees since 1967, and has worked six NCAA playoffs and six NITs.

He began officiating El Paso high school games in 1960, doing 60 a winter--often three and four a day--to supplement his minor league income and stay in shape.

Stubing poked a finger at his growing girth, laughed and said, "I usually lose weight during the basketball season. This must be the big league meal money."

Working in the Southwest Conference, the Western Athletic Conference and the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn., Stubing officiated 54 games this basketball season.

He commuted between Mesa and weekend officiating assignments on three occasions since his mid-February arrival in Arizona, the Angels having agreed to allow Stubbing to keep commitments made before his varsity appointment. His last game was 10 days ago in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament. He was invited to work the NCAA tournament again but declined because he will be coaching third base during the exhibition season.

"I've saved a lot of marriages," Stubing said of his officiating. "I've sent a lot of people home angrier at me than at their wife or husband.

"The game has literally become a war because of the pressure on the coaches and the fact that the human body has become too big for the court.

"Hell, I've had death threats and needed police escorts to my car. I've had bottles and cups thrown at me and had to fight my way off the court.

"It's just that emotional for some people, but when a good referee loses sight of the fact that the game still belongs to the kids, it's time to get out. It's been a great outlet for me and made me a better person. I don't lose my patience with players and umpires because I know what pressure they're under.

"The last two years (managing Edmonton of the triple-A Pacific Coast League) I wasn't ejected once. I'll go to bat for my players but I never say 'I' or 'you' to an umpire. All I say to them is that somebody missed that play."

There are intriguing possibilities, of course. One would have Stubing using a whistle to stop runners at third base, citing those who don't for traveling. Stubing, who coached third base as a minor league manager, laughed.

"I've always been able to separate the two," he said. "As a third base coach you're making decisions to help yourself and the team. As an official you're making decisions aimed at seeing that the game is played the way it should be.

"I enjoy putting that zebra shirt on but I enjoy putting on a baseball jersey more."

The uniform he is now wearing became available because:

--Preston Gomez, former third base coach, decided that after more than 40 years on the field, he wanted a less demanding position. Gomez, 61, now does special assignments for General Manager Mike Port.

--Manager Gene Mauch decided that Ron Fairly's attempt at being both batting coach and broadcaster was not going to work.

Fairly said that he and Mauch discussed the problem last year, when Mauch was the club's personnel director. Then, when the decision became official, Fairly said he responded by saying, "Thank you."

"A hitting instructor should be with the team at all times," Fairly said. "It's not fair to the players to give them advice before a game, then not be in the dugout to give them reinforcement during the game. I mean, I can't be two places at once.

"It just makes good sense to me to bring Moose up and let him work with the kids he's helped before," Fairly said. "If he feels he needs my help, I'll do anything I can."

The Angels almost always went elsewhere for players, coaches and managers. Now the organization has begun to reward its own. The appointment of Stubing was accompanied by the promotion of two other minor league managers.

Winston Llenas is moving from double-A Waterbury to triple-A Edmonton. Joe Maddon went from Class A Peoria to double-A Midland.

Port said it was part of the attempt to create a new stability.

Mauch said: "I only knew Moose from what I had heard of his success as a manager and the success players like Pettis, Brown, Schofield and (Daryl) Sconiers had under him.

"Then he spent part of September with us last year and I was impressed with his knowledge and feel for the game. I really began to feel secure about it, to say to myself, 'Hey, this is going to work,' last November when we brought Schofield to the (Arizona) Instructional League and I saw the way Moose talked and worked, his willingness to go on and on until he got it right.

"I'm not the type to stay out of any part of it altogether, but Moose will have the authority he needs."

The initial appointment included only the job of hitting instructor. The Angels intended to hire a third base coach experienced at the major league level. The position is known to have been offered Marcel Lachemann, brother of former Seattle and Milwaukee Manager Rene Lachemann, who opted for the same position under ex-Angel manager John McNamara at Boston. The club ultimately gave both assignments to Stubing.

"We didn't really know how Moose would feel about coaching third," Mauch said, "but when he said he'd like to, it was fine with me."

The two have already spent part of each day working on communication between them. Stubing has also begun to read the club's scouting reports on the throwing strength of opposing players. Both manager and coach said they are looking for ways to help a primarily slow, veteran club be more daring on the bases.

"I'm going to be aggressive and I'm going to make mistakes," Stubing said, "but I'm going to find out this spring how they run."

The Stubing odyssey began at Evander Childs High School in the Bronx. He played baseball, football and basketball, and also only played at studying.

"I could have taken the basket-weaving route and played football at a Southern college but I wasn't a bright student and I didn't hit the books," he said. "What smarts I have come from the street. My goal was to try to get through the day.

"I might have survived if I had stayed in the Bronx, but I'd probably have been digging ditches, running elevators or driving a truck. I'd have never gotten out and learned what a great world it is.

"Most of the guys I grew up with still don't know what living is. I mean, you're talking about a city block with two and three thousand people on it and nobody knows their neighbor."

The New York accent has stayed with Stubing, but he could be an advisor to Rand-McNally. The road out started at a 1956 Bronx tryout camp, where the power hitting first baseman was signed by Pittsburgh. He received $400 for clothes and equipment, a $150 a month contract and a ticket to Brunswick, Ga. This was heaven, but it would get even better.

He played at Selma, St. Cloud, Springfield, Rio Grande Valley, Tacoma, El Paso, Jacksonville, Little Rock and back to El Paso, which became his home and where he ultimately spent eight-straight seasons, the last six as a coach under Rocky Bridges, Chuck Tanner, Del Rice and Norm Sherry.

He would ultimately manage for the Angels at Quad Cities, Salinas, El Paso, Spokane and Edmonton, winning five pennants while watching the Angels either trade or frustrate the cream of the farm system by signing or trading for a series of celebrity players.

Estelle Stubing accompanied her husband on his long route, finding a succession of jobs teaching nursing, which she now does at the community college in El Paso where their son, Scott, 19, is a student. A daughter, Stacey, 18, is a Texas A&M; freshman.

The Stubings were married while still in high school, compounding the economic burden Moose carried on his broad shoulders. He received that nickname from a St. Cloud sportswriter who watched his reckless running demolish a string of catchers and wrote that he was like a runaway moose.

"Basically," Stubing said, "all I could do was hit a little. I couldn't really run or field. I had some good years but I always seemed to have some good players ahead of me. In the Giants' organization there were guys like Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda."

He played in the Pirate, Giant, Cardinal and Angel organizations, hitting 192 home runs. He fashioned his best numbers at El Paso in 1964, hitting 36 homers and driving in 136 runs. All that did was get him traded to the Cardinals and promoted to triple-A Jacksonville. He retired in 1966 and bought into an El Paso beer distributorship, then was lured back in '67 when the Angels offered him a position as player-coach at El Paso.

The hope that burns eternal was rewarded in August of that year. Manager Bill Rigney required a pinch hitter as the Angels made a rare pennant bid. Stubing got the call on Aug. 17. He and the Angels were finished by Aug. 30.

"In my marvelous way," he said, "I struck out four times and grounded out once. I was up twice with a chance to drive in the winning run. If I had produced . . . who knows? I had the chance and didn't. No one is to blame but myself."

Now he has another chance. He is working primarily with Pettis, Schofield (who at times last year called Stubing in an attempt to unravel his hitting slump by long distance) and Bob Boone, who batted .202. The Angels, he said, can't afford to give away those three outs every three innings.

"I've listened to a lot of outstanding hitters over the years but I don't try to put every player into the same mold and I don't try to overteach," he said. "Every hitter needs help at some time or another and I'm here if they want to use me. I'm thrilled to death about it. I also don't think I could have a better guy to learn from than Gene Mauch."

Stubing is not the only excited Angel. There's Mike Brown, for example. Brown hit .354 and .343 for him at Edmonton and will now get first crack at replacing Fred Lynn in right field.

"All of the young players feel Moose will help because he knows us so well," Brown said. "He's positive and supportive. He can get on you if you're not trying, but he never shows you up in front of the team.

"He had the confidence in me to put me out there and let me battle through my slumps. People said I couldn't relax, but Moose helped me learn how. He convinced me that there would be hitless nights and that I just had to accept them. I'm super glad knowing he's going to be here."

Others may be, too. Mike Port thought about that, smiled and said, "We're actually making this move at the behest of the nation's college basketball coaches."

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