They can hardly offer the definitive explanation of the subject, but if you want to know why the National League is called the senior circuit and why the senior circuit always wins the All-Star game, consider the cases of Jerry Reuss and Greg Minton.
Reuss spent the first 2 1/2 months of the 1987 season pitching his way off two National League rosters, finishing tours with Los Angeles and Cincinnati with an 0-5 record and a 6.11 earned-run average. As White Sox Manager Jim Fregosi not-so-delicately put it, "Reuss co1970037870League."
Minton, meanwhile, barely got the chance to get anybody of consequence out with the San Francisco Giants this season. "The only time I pitched was in the second, third or fourth innings, when we were up by 10 or down by 10," Minton said.
In the National League, they were unwanted. But in the American League, where both found refuge in Anaheim, they are undefeated. Reuss and Minton kept that record intact Friday night at Comiskey Park, where they combined to pitch the Angels past the White Sox, 3-1, extending the Angels' winning streak to a season-high five games.
Reuss (2-0) allowed 6 hits and 1 run through 8 innings, giving him an American League ERA of 0.52 after 2 starts. Minton came in to record the final two outs, giving him 3 American League saves to go with his 1-0 record as an Angel.
How much impact have they made since switching leagues?
Well, Reuss started the Angels' winning streak with an 8-0 shutout in his American League debut Sunday. And in three of the ensuing four victories, Minton has been credited with the save.
What that says about the comparative strength of the two leagues is fodder for the pro-National League argument, although that's an argument Reuss did not care to enter.
"How do you measure that?" Reuss asked. "I imagine there's some significance (attached to his 1987 record), but I've only pitched against two teams in the American League. That's not enough to form any kind of opinion."
Minton prefers to discuss the inherent value to a change of scenery. When asked about having been a "National League refugee," Minton grinned and said: "I think I like 'grizzled old veteran' better."
Minton said he "didn't get any chances in San Francisco. The only save I got came in a game we won in the 13th inning. Somebody had to pitch and I was the only guy left.
"The biggest thing was getting out of San Francisco. I admit, a lot of it was my fault. I was completely out of shape in 1986, but I ran five to eight miles every day during the off-season and got in shape. But in San Francisco, they still had it in their mind that I couldn't do the job.
"The Angels, for some reason, still think I can pitch. And when someone believes in you, that's 90% of the game."
Both pitchers also discussed the value of being new to this league.
Reuss: "Gene Mauch says the change of leagues is the big thing, the hitters not knowing what pitch I'll throw. That may have something to do with it.
"But you also have to consider the grass fields I'm now pitching on (Reuss gets most of his outs on ground balls) and the fact that my arm is getting stronger after arthroscopic surgery late last July. Gradually, I've noticed an improvement.
"In spring training with the Dodgers, my fastball was clocked at 82 to 84 m.p.h. That's not good enough to win in the big leagues. But now, I've gotten my fastball back up to 90, 91."
Minton: "Coming here, it's kind of like being in my rookie year. I threw a sinker to (Carlton) Fisk tonight, and immediately, (Angel catcher Bob) Boone calls time out and tells me, 'He's a good low-ball hitter.' So I just did what Boone told me to do.
"I don't know the hitters here yet. But they don't know me, either."
Another factor comes into play here: Pitching against the White Sox.
Chicago is last in the American League in team batting (.236) and runs scored and next-to-last in home runs. The lineup drawn by Fregosi Friday included five hitters batting less than .240--with one, second baseman Donnie Hill, at .190.
Reuss walked the first batter he faced, then retired the next 10. The only run he allowed came in the fourth inning, when Reuss walked Gary Redus, who took second on an infield out and scored on Chicago's first hit--a single to right-center by Greg Walker.
The Angels had taken a quick lead with two runs in the top of the first on RBI singles by Mark Ryal and Bob Boone. They added a third run in the seventh when Mark McLemore singled, stole second and scored on a single by Jack Howell.
Altogether, the Angels managed eight hits against White Sox starter Jose DeLeon (5-7), but a little was enough for Reuss and Minton.
Reuss saw significance in the fact that he had to pitch with only a minimal margin for error.
"Tonight, I had to pitch," Reuss said. "I had eight runs to work with last time. This time, as soon as a runner got on base, I was facing the tying run. I had to battle."
Said Mauch: "I imagine it was more gratifying for him tonight. But that's not new for him. He's probably won a few games, 1-0, before."
Not recently, however. Not in the National League.
But as long as there's an American League, there will always be a place for second chances for the Reusses and Mintons of the world.
Catcher Butch Wynegar was reactivated before the game, less than six weeks after being placed on the disabled list May 17. "That's a little bit better than the 12 weeks that were originally projected," said Wynegar, who underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his big right toe. He still suffers from an arthritic condition in the joint of the toe. "Dr. (Lewis) Yocum says it may be like that the rest of my life," Wynegar said. "Most of the cartilage in the joint is gone already. I'll just have to live with it." To make room for Wynegar on the roster, reserve catcher Jack Fimple was optioned to Edmonton. . . . Add Wynegar: Angel Manager Gene Mauch was asked about the swiftness of Wynegar's return to the roster. "We had to activate him so he wouldn't have so much idle time," Mauch quipped, alluding to Wynegar's recent remarks about John Candelaria skipping counseling sessions. "We wanted to keep him out of trouble."
Report From Palm Springs: "Not real sharp" was the way Mauch described both the five innings pitched by Kirk McCaskill and the two innings of work by Donnie Moore Thursday night. Mauch said McCaskill will make at least one more start for Palm Springs but was uncertain about the timing of the pitcher's return to the Angels' rotation. "Physically, yeah, he'd be ready after one more," Mauch said. "But I want him sharp. If he needs a third one, he'll get a third one." Moore is scheduled for at least two more appearances in Palm Springs Saturday and Monday. . . . Devon White missed Friday's game to fly home for the birth of his son. Thaddeus Markes White was born early Friday morning, weighing in at 7 pounds 11 ounces. White is expected back in Chicago today, but Mauch did not know if he'd return in time to start the 1 p.m. PDT game. . . . After All, They're Called White Sox : General Manager Larry Himes has caused a minor uproar among his players by enforcing a dress code that includes always wearing socks with street clothes. After Chicago's 13-3 victory over Seattle Tuesday night, Himes held an impromptu clubhouse inspection and wound up fining pitcher Scott Nielsen $100 and outfielder Ivan Calderon $200 (second offense) for going sockless. "Can you believe that a general manager would come into a clubhouse and pull up a player's pants legs, just to see if he has his socks on?" one player told the Chicago Sun-Times. "After the biggest win of the year? That's minor league stuff." In protest, White Sox players are considering paying the fines with money from the kitty of the team's kangaroo court.