I didn't know whether I was looking for the Loch Ness Monster, the Abominable Snowman or an escapee from the midway at the county fair, but I had to investigate.
Having heard of strange beings at the stadium, I slipped quietly into the Padre clubhouse expecting to apprehend some character straight from the Star Wars cantina.
All seemed peaceful. Terry Kennedy was sitting in his corner reading--or dozing over--a hefty hardbound book. Steve Garvey was approaching his locker while balancing enough shoe boxes to open his own store. Tony Gwynn was hurrying to his locker, presumably to retrieve more quarters for the video games in the players' lounge next door. Broadcaster Bob Chandler was preparing ad libs.
In other words, everything seemed quite normal.
What could be amiss in such a serene setting?
Tim Flannery, at 27 the dean of the Padres, was sitting in front of his locker polishing his shoes. Aha, I thought, perhaps Mr. Flannery might shed some light on what I had heard.
"Aaaah," he said, "I think you're looking for the two-headed creature called Timry Flanster."
A two-headed creature? I looked quickly around the room. No such monster was in sight. I figured they probably kept him hidden in Kurt Bevacqua's locker.
I looked skeptically at Flannery and then retreated to the dugout, where everything also seemed normal. Rich Gossage, wearing a long-sleeved sweat shirt, was grousing about the heat. Gwynn, abandoning the video games, was asking broadcaster Jerry Coleman what he meant by a fat fly. Howard Cosell was on the DiamondVision board pontificating on the Alan Wiggins situation.
I had, indeed, found a strange creature, but Howard had only one head and he was not in San Diego.
Jerry Royster, having completed his pregame chores, was sitting on the bench. I thought I'd ask him about Timry Flanster.
"Yeah," he said, "it's easy to have a good time when you're doing well. You look around the stands and you'll see shirts with Timry Flanster and the numbers 3 and 11 on the back."
And then it occurred to me. I was not on the scent of an anthropological breakthrough. I had simply discovered two baseball players doing well and having fun.
Tim Flannery and Jerry Royster. Call 'em Timry Flanster or call 'em Jermy Roysnery. The two-headed creature, as it turned out, also had two bodies.
And those two athletes consider themselves to be as one. They are the Padres' second baseman. Not second basemen, but rather second baseman.
Flannery and Royster became the second baseman when Alan Wiggins disappeared back in April after a recurrence of his drug problems. They immediately concluded that they were not going to steal 70 bases, but figured they might help in other ways.
No one could possibly have expected that they would contribute to the extent that they have.
"Instead of talking individually," Flannery said, "we decided we'd do it together. We'd add our numbers up. When Jerry hit that grand slam in San Francisco, he said, 'That's our first home run.' That's the way we think."
Said Royster: "We didn't know if we'd ever hit a home run, "but we did want to get that zero off our board. And then Timmy went out and got our second one."
Home runs will not be their forte. Timry Flanster will not challenge Joe Morgan or Rogers Hornsby for home run production by a second baseman. Timry won't set any records, but he (they?) is getting the job done.
Indeed, if Timry Flanster was on the All-Star ballot, he would undoubtedly be among the leaders at second base. Only one second baseman in the National League, Tommy Herr, is putting better numbers on the board than the Padres' tag team. Ryne Sandberg? Royster and Flannery have combined for a higher batting average and almost twice as many runs batted in. And Sandberg is the runaway voting leader at second base.
Do you want to know how these elevated role players compare with the other regulars in the Padres' batting order? I checked after Monday night's game. Their batting average was higher than Steve Garvey, Terry Kennedy, Carmelo Martinez, Kevin McReynolds and Graig Nettles. They had driven in more runs than Tony Gwynn, Nettles or Garry Templeton. They had scored more runs than Kennedy, Martinez, Nettles or Templeton.
Obviously, Timry Flanster has had considerable impact at the top of the batting order. Wiggins, last year's leadoff man, produced 137 runs (runs and RBIs minus home runs) and this two-headed creature called Flanster has produced 69 with more than half the season to play.
It is easy to understand why they are having such a good time.
They were close chums off the field before they began to share the same position. Their friendship, and personalities, made it easier for them in what could have been a pressure-packed situation.
Exploiting the situation to the mirth of their friends, they take turns taping messages for each other's telephone answering machines.
Call Royster's house and get this message: "You have reached the Royster residence. Jerry's not in. A left-hander is pitching, so Jerry's at work. This is Tim Flannery. I'm off tonight so I'm watching his house."
Call Flannery's house and get Royster's latest creation.
"We've got to keep them fresh," Royster said. "I've got a few things in mind."
Before the recent Camera Day at the stadium, their combined minds came up with another caper. They would switch uniforms.
"And we didn't allow any individual pictures," Royster smiled. "Every picture had to be of the two of us, or they didn't get a picture."
At times, their oneness comes in the form of the purest propinquity.
During a recent game, a right-hander was pitching and Flannery, naturally, was playing while Royster was lifting weights in the clubhouse. Flannery felt a twinge in his shoulder and went to the training room after the game for treatment. Royster was already there.
"A weight fell on my shoulder," he said. "There we were, with ice packs on the same shoulder. The guys came in and laughed: 'You guys have got to be kidding us.' "
They have so much in common, but they are so different. Flannery is white and Royster is black, and Bevacqua calls them "Salt and Pepper." The one called "Salt" is the peppery Flannery, whose herky-jerky hustle has long made him a fan favorite. The one called "Pepper" is the fluid Royster, who can put the smooth on almost any position on the field.
These two fellows have produced one of the most charming stories of the first half of the 1985 season. I was disappointed at first that there were no monsters lurking in the Padres' clubhouse, but this was better.
Jerry Royster and Tim Flannery expected to be what they have seemingly always been--role players. In a sense, they are still role players, but they have made their role prominent.
The Padres have turned second base into a duet.