Baseball / Ross Newhan : In a Farewell Season, Reggie Jackson Is Faring Rather Poorly

It was designed as a last hurrah, a grand farewell. Reggie Jackson would say so long by returning to the team with which he had said hello.

Jackson's return to the Oakland A's, however, has not been so grand, and there is a chance that the farewell may end prematurely.

Jackson has four home runs, having hit his last on April 30. He has 12 runs batted in, getting his last on May 6. He is batting .190. There is reason to believe that he will give himself until the All-Star break in mid-July to pull out of it--or retire.

Jackson won't say it for the record, but he does say that he thinks the same things as everyone else, that he knows what everyone is thinking and saying about the A's 40-year-old designated hitter.

"I might be famous," he said. "I might have a Rolls-Royce. I might wear a Rolex watch. But I'm no different than anyone else. I think the same thoughts."

Jackson shared his thoughts during a 30-minute meeting with A's Manager Tony LaRussa in Baltimore earlier this week. LaRussa said later that Jackson still has life in his bat, that he simply got off to a slow start and that he needs to be stroked, to be reassured.

"It's not easy being Reggie Jackson," he said.

The A's, however, will have to make a tough decision when center fielder Dwayne Murphy, injured since mid-April, gets off the disabled list. Luis Polonia, recalled to replace him, is hitting .343. The A's also like the defensive skills of Stan Javier, who started in center Saturday. Jose Canseco and Mike Davis will definitely stay.

Jackson doesn't want to be a burden. He doesn't want to hold on just because of what he once was.

"I've tried everything I can think of," he said, alluding to his hitting. "I've changed my stance. I've changed my stance in the same at bat. I'm in good shape. I can still get around on most fastballs.

"I just don't know what it is. You do the best you can. If it doesn't work, get a Greyhound bus out.

"Take a ride to--what's the place in the desert?--Death Valley."

Either as the result of, or emblematic of, their bizarre season, the Milwaukee Brewers should be fitted for straitjackets. Make it part of their uniform.

Let's see now. The Brewers opened the season by winning 13 straight en route to a 20-3 record.

Then they eventually lost 6 straight before winning 4 straight before losing 12 straight before winning 6 straight. Then they lost to the New York Yankees, 13-1, Friday.

"It's only June and I'm all streaked out," Manager Tom Trebelhorn sighed. "I could not explain what happened before (when the Brewers lost the 12 straight) and I can't explain what's happening now. I just want us to play consistent baseball."

The Brewers have been consistent only in their inconsistency.

The latest winning streak seemed to stem from the awakening of designated hitter Cecil Cooper, who began a weekend series with the New York Yankees batting .250, having raised it from .143 during a 14-game span during which he batted .379.

"He wakes everybody else up," Trebelhorn said. "Everybody was pulling for Coop, so when he got hot, it solidified the team."

Said left fielder Rob Deer, reflecting on the Brewers' ability to rebound from the 12-game losing streak: "You can't ever doubt yourself. We're too good a club to play the way we were playing. It wasn't a lack of confidence. It was just a lack of hits."

The one constant in the Brewer season has been left-handed reliever Dan Plesac, who had made eight straight scoreless appearances before the Yankee series and had converted 13 of 14 save opportunities, allowing only 2 earned runs in 24 innings, striking out 31. Said Trebelhorn, enhancing the pitcher's bargaining power:

"I'm not sure you can put a value on Dan Plesac."

From the Mets' Rafael Santana, before the team's signing of Tom Seaver: "Why don't they just sign Pedro Borbon? He hasn't pitched in six years."

Is it a dream? Some of the Chicago Cubs wonder.

Andre Dawson's out-of-this-world statistics included a .346 batting average at Wrigley Field, where he previously had a career average of, yes, .346. His desire to play for the Cubs was based in part on his preference for day ball. He has hit 11 of his 19 homers at Wrigley or one every 9.2 at bats.

Former Dodger Bill Madlock is expected to appear regularly with the Detroit Tigers as a third baseman, first baseman or designated hitter. The Tigers opened the season with Darnell Coles at third base, but the slumping and erratic Coles was moved into a platoon role at first base and is now on the disabled list.

"Sparky knows what kind of player I am," Madlock said of Manager Sparky Anderson. "I told him I'm between Coles and Brooks Robinson."

Quotebook:

--Phil Niekro, on how he celebrated the victory that allowed him and Joe to become the winningest brothers in baseball history: "You can't find good polka music on a Monday night in Cleveland. If it had been Saturday night, I'd have raised a little hell."

--Cardinal pitcher Joe Magrane, asked when he will leave the disabled list: "For your readers of English descent, I'll be back in a fortnight."

--Pittsburgh outfielder Andy Van Slyke, on the reasons for his .500 career batting average, 13 for 26, against Atlanta's Rick Mahler: "I can't figure it out, but I can't figure out the theory of relativity either."

On the subject of underwear, Jim Palmer, who models a certain brand, sent a pair to the Yankees' Tommy John after John had registered his 269th victory last week, passing Palmer on the all-time list.

The shorts carried this inscription: "You passed me with 269 wins, but just try to fit into these pants."

The 22-7 loss to the Chicago Cubs Wednesday merely punctuated a six-game trip on which the Houston Astros permitted 58 runs.

Manager Hal Lanier held a postgame meeting in which he blistered his pitchers for consistently failing to pitch inside and later predicted that there would be changes in his middle relief staff, as well as a possible bullpen demotion for Bob Knepper, who went one inning as Wednesday's starter and is 2-6 in the wake of his 17-12 record of last year.

Said Lanier: "I can only repeat what Hall of Famer Bob Gibson said. You have to pitch inside to be effective. Guys are going up there swinging from the heels because we're throwing balls from the middle of the plate out. I don't mean that you have to knock 'em down, just move 'em back."

Atlee Hammaker may have already wrapped up the National League's award for Comeback Player of the Year. The San Francisco Giant left-hander is 3-1 with a 1.75 earned-run average after having had two rotator cuff operations, an elbow operation and a knee operation since 1983.

"I can't think of too many people who would go through four operations just to throw a baseball," teammate Scott Garrelts said. "Nobody around here believed he'd be able to pitch like he is."

Dwight Gooden's nephew, Gary Sheffield, was the No. 1 draft choice of the Brewers last June. A shortstop, he was batting .327 at Stockton through Thursday and led the California League in game-winning hits with nine.

Sheffield seems to be solid gold--literally. His wrists and neck are draped in gold chains, he drives a Corvette with gold pinstriping and gold hubcaps and his initials are inscribed in gold on his two front teeth.

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