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Flannery, Who Often Gets Hit Big, Comes Up With the Big Hit

Times Staff Writer

The Alan Wiggins watch, two months old and counting, is just about played out. In a matter of hours, days, no more than a week, the Padres will have lost some of their glitter--and surely their flash.

With Wiggins, who stole a club-record 70 bases and scored a club-record 106 runs in 1984, the Padres often made something out of nothing in winning the National League pennant last season.

Without Wiggins, who has been all but air-mailed to the Baltimore Orioles, the Padres will just have to make do.

At the moment, they’re doing very well, thank you, with a two-headed creature called “Flanster” playing second base. It’s made up of equal parts Tim Flannery and Jerry Royster, journeymen who were asked by Manager Dick Williams to fill in the blanks but have been doing far more than occupying a vacant lot.

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Last Friday night, for instance, Royster hit the first grand slam of his career to lift the Padres to a win over the San Francisco Giants.

Then Wednesday night at Jack Murphy Stadium, Flannery took Orel Hershiser deep for a three-run home run that started the Padres to a 10-4 win over the Dodgers.

Flannery also was hit by a pitch and broke up a double play in the decisive four-run Padre seventh against Dodger reliever Steve Howe.

Flannery’s show of power was unexpected. The rest was not. It was his first home run of the season and the sixth of his big-league career, which began in San Diego and now has him as the only Padre left who was here before the 80s.

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But getting hit by a pitch? Now, that’s something Flannery has made a career of, even though he insists he was doing everything within his power to elude Howe’s pitch in the seventh.

“It hit me right in the knuckles,” Flannery said. “If I hadn’t tried to move, it would have gotten me right in the (area of the belt buckle).”

Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, who protested vehemently, along with Howe and catcher Mike Scioscia, disagreed. Lasorda thought Flannery was just trying to bunt and got hit in the hand. Plate umpire Greg Bonin said Flannery was trying to pull his bat back when he was hit.

In any event, it was the seventh time Flannery has been hit by a pitch this season. Three weeks ago, he was hit in the back of the helmet by Philadelphia’s John Denny. That started a brawl.

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Two years ago, he caught a fastball from Cincinnati’s Mario Soto right across the letters. That broke three ribs.

Flannery insists he’s not suicidal. Nor even devious.

“I know Lasorda thinks I always get in front of pitches,” he said, “but I don’t.” It’s a knack, he said, that he apparently acquired in high school.

“We used to practice taking tennis balls off the back,” Flannery said. “I don’t lean into pitches. I just freeze. I can’t get out of the way.

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“I guess it’s a bad habit I got from the tennis balls.”

There’s nothing habitual about Flannery’s home runs, but there was nothing cheap, either, about the 3-and-1 fastball he hit over the left-field fence against Hershiser to break a 2-2 tie in the second.

“That was a decent bit of hitting,” Hershiser said. “That ball was down and away.”

Hershiser paused and smiled. “Check his bat,” he said.

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Flannery sprinted around the bases, though he remembered to touch each one.

“I always sprint on mine,” he said, “so the pitcher doesn’t know who hit it.

“I’m glad to hear Hershiser said the pitch was away. That’s what I said when I got to the bench, but everybody started laughing.

“I’m good for one, maybe two home runs a year,” Flannery said. “That’s it. I’m tapped out now. That’s got to be it for me.”

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Hardly. The fun may be just beginning for Flannery and Royster, who showed up at the Padres’ Camera Day recently with Royster wearing Flannery’s uniform and Flannery wearing Royster’s.

Call Flannery at home, and you’ll get this message: “Hi, This is Jerry Royster. Tim’s not in right now. A right-hander is pitching today.”

Call Royster at home, and you’ll hear: “Hi, This is Tim Flannery. Jerry’s not home right now. A left-hander is pitching today.”

Royster is hitting .275 and has 15 RBIs. Flannery’s numbers are .266 and 17.

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“We’ve had some fun with it,” Flannery said. “It’s tough to fill in. But we’ve been utility players for years. We decided that instead of one going after it, that maybe if we’d combine all our numbers, we’d come up with some pretty good numbers.”

That they have. And on special nights like Wednesday, Flannery can look up and see the umpire twirling his index finger around, signifying a home run.

“Usually the only time I see that, " he said with a laugh, “is when someone orders another round at a bar.”


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