Dodgers’ Call Gets This Lefty Off the Hook

Matt Young was cruising along on the Glendale Freeway the other day when a guy on the radio reported that the Dodgers had just traded for Matt Young.

Young stayed as cool as possible. He did not drive into a telephone pole or anything like that. But when your car radio suddenly tells you that you have been traded to your favorite boyhood baseball team, and that at the same time you have escaped the Seattle Mariners’ temple of doom, you do tend to step a little harder on the gas pedal.

He reached his in-laws’ place in La Canada in about five minutes. At least it seemed like five minutes. There, waiting for him, were his parents, who had made the 20-minute drive from their home in Sierra Madre after hearing about the trade from Al Campanis, the Dodger general manager. They had been unable to contact Matt by phone.

Nobody had. Not even the Dodgers. Somebody’s car had struck a telephone pole in La Canada and had knocked out a lot of the phone circuits in the area. About one of every 10 calls was getting through, which was exasperating. It turned the pitcher and his family into the Youngs and the restless.

Young was supposed to call Campanis. But he couldn’t. So, he hopped back in the car and drove to Georgie’s pizza parlor in La Canada, run by his buddy, George Jacobs. But the only things working there were Georgie and the ovens. His phone was out, too.


Finally, Young had to drive to Pasadena, another four or five miles up the pike, to find a phone that worked. He called Campanis at the winter baseball meetings in Hollywood--Florida, that is--and finally got the news from the source’s mouth. He was about to have a Dodger-blue Christmas.

The whole family had reason to celebrate. A couple of times a season, Young’s parents would make the haul to Seattle to see their son play. It is a long way to go to see the Godforsaken Mariners, and can be even longer when your son has become a relief pitcher and might not even get into the game. It can be even longer when you are a disabled veteran, as is Matt’s dad.

Now, Dodger Stadium has to make room for them, for Matt’s seven brothers and sisters and for other relatives and friends.

“I don’t think the Dodger pass list is going to be big enough,” Young said Friday, from a La Canada phone that was working. “Maybe I’d better talk to the Dodgers about an attendance clause.”

The mere thought of 40,000 filled seats in Chavez Ravine was enough to remind the pitcher that 40,000 was the Seattle Kingdome’s usual attendance for a four-game series, assuming one of those games fell on Helmet Day or Funny Nose and Glasses Night.

“I could have marketed my family there to double the crowds,” Young said.

Seattle, baseball’s cold corner, has never even threatened to become a contender, and Mariner management continues to get rid of gifted players the way Mattel gets rid of toys. Within the past few months, players sent packing have included American League playoff heroes Dave Henderson and Spike Owen, rookie sensation Danny Tartabull and All-Star pitcher Young. In return, the Mariners have received Question Mark and the Mysterians.

The word was out that Young was available, despite his 8-6 record and 13 saves for a dead-meat club. Since everyone knew the Dodgers were desperate for left-handed short relief, naturally, Young’s name had surfaced.

“I kept thinking it’d be nice, but don’t get your hopes up,” said Young, who went to Pasadena City College and UCLA. “Too many of the trades you read about are the reporters playing junior general manager.”

The rumor mill had first baseman Greg Brock going to the Kingdome, but Young didn’t buy it. Seattle already had two lefty-hitting first basemen. The name of Dennis Powell, the southpaw who eventually turned out to be the key to the Dodgers-Mariners deal, had never reached Young’s ears.

Why do the Mariners continue to foresake their few proven players?

“I have no idea,” Young said. “I’ve talked to a couple of my old teammates, and they can’t figure it out, either. I better not even guess what’s going on. It’s not my job to play general manager, either.”

All he cares about is that he is coming home. Young can recall countless hours spent bleeding blue for the Dodgers. He can recall specifically a big, division-deciding series with the Houston Astros, sitting there watching, “screaming my head off,” or every detail of a big, game-winning home run by Joe Ferguson.

Biographical information on Young even refers to Manny Mota having had a great influence on him, but the pitcher said, “I don’t know where the heck that came from.” Maybe he filled out a who’s-your-favorite-player questionnaire back in his days at St. Francis High.

“I was more of a Steve Carlton man,” Young admitted.

Carlton never pitched for the Dodgers, but he could be forgiven that. The team will settle for this lefty. A year ago, the Dodgers lured another one from the Mariners, Ed Vande Berg, who used to be Young’s roommate. Vande Berg called Young after the trade and said: “Hey, quit following me around.”

The Dodgers would like Young to follow all of their pitchers. To the mound. To save games for them. Then, if everything works out, he knows a good place to take them just down the freeway for a pizza.