Padres' New Manager Is Making a Hit With Lit : Boros Works on His Novel, Coaches Team on Good Reading

During spring training this year, San Diego Padres pitcher Eric Show was troubled. Something was lacking, and it bothered him. But it wasn't a matter of curve balls or contract details.

The problem: His education in Shakespeare had been neglected.

Show, who is scheduled to start against the Dodgers in the season opener at Dodger Stadium on Monday afternoon, is a well-read one-time physics major from UC Riverside.

By most standards, he is the epitome of the American dream. Except when it came to Shakespeare.

Boros to the Rescue

Still, as things worked out this spring, he had just the person to help him. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound pitcher turned to the team's new manager, Steve Boros. Sitting in the sun in the right-field corner before an exhibition game in Phoenix recently, Show recalled that Boros advised him to see a play.

"He recommended that I don't try to read 'The Tempest' or something like that," the dark-haired pitcher said. "Instead, (he said) just go see the play and get a working knowledge about what's happening and then go to the book."

Later that day, the Padres' 6-foot-4, 230-pound catcher, Terry Kennedy--a former English major at Florida State University in Tallahassee--said he had asked Boros how to read the classics.

Boros recommended that the player start with easier works and authors, including "Catcher in the Rye" by J. D. Salinger.

"He's my resident reviewer," a pleased Kennedy said. "Plus he knows the game."

Shakespeare in the dugout? J. D. Salinger in the clubhouse? Can this be the Great American Pastime?

To some extent, it is, at least at San Diego.

Boros, who became the Padres' manager earlier this year, will teach hitting, pitching, defense and some literature in the coming months.

Winning a pennant would be great, but writing a great novel would be in the same ballpark for Boros, who once told author Nelson Algren he'd have cut off his arm to have written a book like Algren's "The Man With the Golden Arm."

A Novel Activity

Boros is one for the books. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in literature, the 6-foot, 185-pound manager spent two months last winter in San Diego libraries writing the first two chapters of a novel.

The work describes the struggle between one player who uses baseball to discover himself and another who wants to make money and dominate people.

Many managers, including the late Walter Alston and his successor, Tom Lasorda of the Dodgers, have published autobiographies, usually with the help of professional writers.

But a manager who wrote a novel would be "unique in my memory," said Edwin H. Cady, who teaches a course in sports and literature at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Cady said the only exception might be Christy Mathewson, the Hall of Fame pitcher who managed the Cincinnati Reds from 1916 to 1918. The Bucknell University graduate is credited with writing children's stories including "Pitcher Pollock," "First Base Faulkner" and "Second Base Sloan."

'No Form' Autobiography

In addition to the work on his novel, the graying, curly-haired Boros, 49, has written a 400-page autobiography that he says "has no form."

"I don't know what to do with it. It's stored in my garage."

Accumulated Notes

Boros kept notes for the work while he played third base for Detroit, the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati between 1957 and 1965.

After finishing his major league career with a .245 batting average, he played a few more seasons in the minor leagues and started writing, spending several winters in the Flint, Mich., library in the Hungarian neighborhood where he grew up.

When he quit playing in 1969 to coach and manage, Boros continued putting his thoughts on paper. As a coach and manager in the Puerto Rican winter league in 1972 and 1973, he wrote at the beach.

He managed the Oakland A's in 1983 and part of 1984 before getting a second chance to manage in the major leagues with the Padres.

In an interview in his Phoenix hotel room during spring training recently, Boros said he'd like to write full time.

Writing "gets me thinking," he said. "It keeps me sharper. It makes me more aware of things around me than anything else I do.

"There's nothing I would rather be doing right now than managing the San Diego Padres," he said. "But at the same time I'll say that . . . I can't see myself doing it beyond five years."

Interest Bloomed Early

Boros never considered writing professionally until professors praised his essays at the University of Michigan, but his love of words developed earlier.

As a boy, he said, his parents took him to movies three or four times a week.

"I really think my love of narrative, my love for stories began there. The other thing is that Hungarians love music. They're very sentimental and they love stories."

Somehow, Boros said, he inherited that love. He reads voraciously. His favorite novel is F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," and he recently finished W. P. Kinsella's highly praised "Shoeless Joe."

His wife of 13 years, Sharla, says his favorite activity is the theater and that he almost always sees a play when his team visits New York.

Boros said that because he played hard, his major league teammates kidded but never ostracized him when he wandered off to libraries and theaters instead of shooting pool or playing poker. The Padres seem to take the same attitude.

'His Strongest Virtues'

"I appreciate his interests," said former Dodger Steve Garvey, the Padres' first baseman, "because it tells me that he has a higher education. . . . Higher education gives you the opportunity to learn to think . . . and to rationalize and to use logic, and I think they're his strongest virtues."

"I think there is no advantage ever in being uninformed or ignorant," Show said. "So his intelligence could do nothing but help him. But remember that the factor that's going to override all this is the way he handles certain situations. . . . He's got to know baseball and how to work with people."

Boros doesn't think it's unusual that he would want to write a novel.

"You and I both know a lot of English majors who are writing novels, or want to write novels," he said, "and I think of myself more as another English major who thinks that he's got a book in him (than as a manager)."

He recalled that while he was studying literature at Michigan, his professor invited him to a party attended by authors Nelson Algren, Gore Vidal and William Styron.

He's Got to Try

"Now I'm like some kid who's been invited to the seventh game of the World Series," he said. "I can't believe it.

"So I join this group of people standing around Nelson Algren. And I've always admired his writing, and I know that he's a baseball fan and that he'd written articles for the Chicago papers about the White Sox. So someone introduced us and I asked him why he was so fascinated with sports.

"And he said that there's something about an athlete who is a champion, whether it's a boxer like Henry Hank, who knows he's going to knock out his opponent, or a jockey who knows he's going to win a race, or a pitcher like Sandy Koufax, who knows he's going to pitch a shutout.

"That's that look of confidence, that complete sense that he's going to win, that he knows exactly what he's doing. He knows what the outcome is going to be. As a writer, I can never feel that way about anything I've written."

Boros says he may never be completely confident about his writing, but he knows that the desire started very early and that he's got to try.

"It would be wonderful if I could make a living at it," he said. "I'm not sure that's the way it's going to work out. . . . But that's all right. Because then I can go to the grave knowing that at least I tried."

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