Tom Lasorda has been beaten. He has even been outmanaged on occasion. But he has seldom been outtalked.
You can say what you want about the Dodger manager, but then you'd better be prepared to duck. He loves nothing better than a war of words.
Which is why Enos Cabell always fascinated him.
Cabell loved nothing better than to lay down a barrage of four-letter words and match Lasorda, adjective for adjective, insult for insult.
Hunched over in his defensive stance at third base for the Houston Astros, Cabell peered into the Los Angeles dugout on one occasion and yelled: "I'd rather beat you guys than eat when I'm hungry."
Lasorda, not to be outdone, yelled back, "I'd rather beat you than eat a plate of linguini."
Which just shows the extremes to which Cabell drove Lasorda.
"I've been screaming at them (the Dodgers) for years," Cabell said of his pre-Dodger days. "Lasorda has called me just about every name in the book.
"I remember one time we had J.R. Richard going against the Dodgers. I told Lasorda, 'You wait, he's going to throw a shutout against you.' He did. When I saw Lasorda the next day, I said, 'I told you. Now you're in trouble again because (Ken) Forsch is pitching.' He also won."
That was four to five years ago when the Astros won quite a bit.
And always, it seemed, Cabell was in the middle.
"Once, the two teams were playing, and there were some bad feelings, I remember, involving Cesar Cedeno and Reggie Smith," Cabell said. "So what happened? They hit me with a pitch. I went out to the mound, Ken Brett was pitching, and we had a pretty good fight. It lasted 20 to 25 minutes."
Did he get to face his old antagonist, Lasorda?
"No," Cabell said, laughing. "There was a big pileup on the field, and I wound up on the bottom."
But he remained near the top of Lasorda's most-admired list.
"It's like any other field," Lasorda said. "If you're a salesman, and another guy beats you to a sale, you don't like the guy. It's the guy you beat that you like.
"One time I'd been hollering at him (Cabell) and (Dodger coach Joe) Amalfitano said, 'You'd love to have the guy playing for you.' I said, 'Damn right.' (Leo) Durocher was the same way. He'd always want the guys who gave him the roughest time."
Besides, Cabell in Los Angeles would have been a natural. He went to school here, graduating from Harbor Community College as an all-conference pick in baseball. He lives here in the off-season, in Anaheim Hills, and has "about 100 cousins" in the area. He even has one with the Dodgers, outfielder Ken Landreaux.
The Dodgers even tried to get Cabell. He was nearly obtained for Candy Maldonado in the spring.
When that deal fell through, the Dodgers got involved in negotiations to get a third baseman they had long sought, Buddy Bell of the Texas Rangers.
Last month, though, when it became obvious that the price for Bell was more than the Dodgers wanted to pay, Lasorda finally got his wish. The Dodgers gave up third baseman German Rivera and Rafael Montalvo, a Triple-A relief pitcher, and Cabell, 35, became a Dodger.
"I was kind of happy and kind of sad," Cabell said of the trade. "I wanted to stay, but I wasn't playing that much anymore. They were playing the kids. So I asked for the trade. I wanted to come home."
Whenever Cabell wanted to make a request of Houston management, he had a neat little arrangement. All he had to do was lean over in his golf cart and tap the guy next to him. He and owner John McMullen of the Astros are buddies. Honest-to-goodness buddies. Golf-playing, high-fiving buddies.
"He took a liking to me because I never lied to him," Cabell said. "Everything I said to him always came from the heart. When he had questions, he would call and ask me because he knew I'd never lie. If I thought he was wrong, I'd tell him, 'You messed up.'
"We'd play golf. We'd hit and talk baseball. I'd ask him questions about the sport, and he always had the right answers. I found out he knew a little bit about the game.
"He was not born with money. He had to work hard to get it and he knew some things. He taught me a lot about life. If you can't improve yourself, you've got to find somebody else who can."
Though he wanted the trade, Cabell did not want it badly enough to cross his friend.
"If he (McMullen) would have said, no, I would not have come," Cabell said.
But he did come, in his 14th major league season. The Dodgers are his fifth club, and he had two separate tours of duty with Houston. He started with Baltimore in 1972. In 1975, he moved to Houston, where he spent six years. Then came a season in San Francisco and two in Detroit before he returned to the Astros in 1984, signing as a free agent.
He has not only been around the league, but around the diamond as well. During the last six weeks of the '74 season, he played six positions for the Orioles, helping the club to a divisional title.
"He can play third for us, first, the outfield or pinch-hit," Lasorda said. "He's the kind of guy you enjoy having around."
Still, it's not his glove his new employers always remind him to bring along, but his bat. A fielder whose glove had grown rusty from lack of use when the Dodgers obtained him, he has been a consistent hitter--.273 in the American League, .279 before this season in the National League. The last two years, he has hit .311 (with Detroit) and .310 (in Houston).
When the Dodgers got him, he was batting just .243 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 59 games. He has improved that in Los Angeles. In 95 at-bats as a Dodger, he is hitting .284 and has driven in 10 runs.
When asked his favorite position these days, he still replies, without a pause, "Hitting."
Said Dodger coach Monty Basgall: "He can hit and run, control the bat and do a lot of little things. He's not a great hitter, but he's a manager's ballplayer."
He'll have to do more than hit, however, with the Dodgers. Since they didn't get Bell, they are going to need him at third, especially with former starter Dave Anderson on the disabled list with a bad back.
Cabell hadn't handled a grounder at third in two seasons when he marched out there for Los Angeles soon after his arrival.
He had a disastrous game at that position against the Chicago Cubs recently at Dodger Stadium, letting one ball bounce past him for a run-scoring error, making a bad throw a few innings later and then nearly allowing a throw by the catcher on a steal attempt to sail into the outfield when he appeared to be a step late covering third.
At one point, Cabell screamed over to pitcher Orel Hershiser: "I haven't gotten a good hop yet. Why don't you stop throwing those sinker balls and throw it away from them so they'll hit it elsewhere?"
That was several weeks ago. These days, the Dodgers couldn't be more confident when balls are hit Cabell's way. He is moving well at the position, making the plays and steadying an infield that had more holes in it than a colander earlier in the year.
"I hadn't played there (third base) hardly at all and I've never been a great defensive player," he said. "I've taken a lot of ground balls and worked hard to cut out the silly mistakes I was making when I first got here. But I needed to play. Taking ground balls before the game is just not the same thing."
Even in the best of times, that wasn't always enough. The last time he played third base for a full season was 1980. He led the National League in errors with 29.
But Cabell showed he hasn't lost any of his give-'em-heck spirit, honed over the years of responding to Lasorda's digs. When that statistic was printed in The Times recently, Cabell took the trouble to find the number of errors committed by the 1980 Gold Glove winner at third, Philadelphia's Mike Schmidt. It turned out to be 27. "I should have gotten the silver glove," Cabell said.
Thus far, he has committed five errors with the Dodgers in 17 appearances at third.
"But the guys on this team have been great. After I made an error, they came up to me and said, 'Come on. Let's go.' They are helping me more than they think."
One reason the Dodgers wanted him was so he could help others. Cabell has always been known for his leadership, whether it was leading the charge against Lasorda or leading a cheering section of teammates. He was team captain in Houston, and when rumors swept around the league recently that Astro Manager Bob Lillis was in trouble, one of the names whispered as a possible successor was Cabell.
He shrugs off such whispers, saying he isn't finished playing yet.
A little more difficult to shrug off are the whispers about his appearance before a federal grand jury investigating drug traffic in the Pittsburgh area. Cabell has repeatedly refused to comment on his testimony.
Cabell employs another shrug at the suggestion that he can bring his leadership qualities to his new clubhouse on demand.
"You don't make yourself a leader," he said. "The players make you a leader. I just do what I have to do and say what I have to say. (Bill) Russell, (Steve) Yeager, (Jay) Johnstone, they are the leaders on this club. (Pedro) Guerrero is going to be the leader in the future because he is such a dominant player."
Nevertheless, Cabell has one true believer in the locker stall next to him. Cousin Landreaux loves having him around.
"He's somebody to talk to, player to player, when things are going bad," Landreaux said. "He understands what you are going through. Plus, he always hustles. That's a leadership quality."
Whatever his role evolves into, Cabell figures he's home to stay.
"When your legs go, that's when you become a bad player. Your eyesight lasts until you are 50 or 60," he said. "I could play five or six more years the way they are playing me now. It's not going to be hard on my body."
Nor on his vocal cords, now that he's on the same side as Lasorda.