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Grant Trimmed by Cub Power

Times Staff Writer

Some people have hair. Mark Grant has pin needles.

He says he went to a barber shop about two years ago and said: “Make it stand on end.”

It does.

And speaking of shrubbery, Chicago Cub right-fielder Andre Dawson hit two baseballs over the left field ivy here on Monday--both off Grant, a 23-year-old, right-handed pitcher who was acquired over the weekend from San Francisco.

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The balls were hit hard enough to make anybody’s hair stand on end, not just Grant’s. Manager Larry Bowa took Grant out of the game after Dawson’s second homer (a 440-foot line drive), but Bowa wasn’t mad at Grant.

The message here is that it’s what’s inside a man (not on top of a man) that counts. The Giants were worried about Grant’s pin needles. They were worried that he was too goofy. President Al Rosen and Manager Roger Craig each had separate meetings with Grant telling him to tone down.

But Bowa and Jack McKeon, the Padre general manager, don’t care that Grant walks around looking like he has just been electrocuted.

“Yeah, he’s flaky,” McKeon said after the Padres lost to the Cubs, 7-0, Monday. “Hell, all guys are flaky. But he’s here to pitch.”

He has some credentials. He was 12-1 as a high school senior in Joliet, Ill., with an 0.88 ERA. He threw a no-hitter that year. The Giants made him a first-round pick in June, 1981, and after only a month in Triple-A in 1984, they called him up. He went 1-4 with a 6.37 ERA, so they sent him back.

A little later, Rosen was asked about Grant and said: “What’s that old saying? Million-dollar arm, 10-cent head?”

Grant thought that was cute and started calling himself “10-cent head.”

Grant went on to lose 15 games at Triple-A in 1985, and he showed up overweight for spring training in 1986, for which Craig sent him down to the minors again. Grant led the Pacific Coast League with 14 victories. The Giants brought him up in September, and he lost 2-1 to Fernando Valenzuela.

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The Giants were impressed, so they hoped he’d make their club this season, and it came down to either Grant or Keith Comstock on the final day of spring training. Craig called Grant into his office that day. Craig told Grant how he’d once had a terrific spring with the Dodgers back in 1952 and still got sent down. So Grant braced for the demotion, but Craig stuck out his hand and said: “I’m proud to have you as a member of my team.”

Grant cried.

“There was so much pressure,” he says.

Anyway, that’s about as happy as it got. As a starter, Grant had a string of six no-decisons. They sent him down to Triple-A Phoenix for three weeks, brought him up again, and he pitched a 4-hitter and lost 1-0 to the Braves in his last start before the Padre trade.

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With the Giants, he never knew if he was coming or going or starting or or relieving, so his family threw a party when the trade was announced. And because the Giants were in Chicago on the day of the deal, Grant got to attend his party. His mom, Sue, bought $100 worth of Padre caps and Padre pennants, and her sister burned a Giant pennant in front of everybody.

Grant wouldn’t call himself a party animal, but he does say: “I’m flaky. I’m the first to admit it.”

What makes him so flaky?

--He does a good Jack Nicholson.

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--He does a good Huey Lewis.

--He does a good Rodney Dangerfield.

--He can recite every word from the movie, “Caddyshack.”

--The Doobie Brothers rock band invited several Giants, including Grant, to come on stage with them recently. They gave Grant a guitar, and he was supposed to fake as if he was playing with the band. But he began running and jumping around the stage to the embarrassment to the organization.

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“Most exciting five minutes of my life,” Grant says of his day with the Doobies.

His mom admits that Grant used to get in trouble at the private school he attended.

“They made him stay after a couple times and write ‘I will not be funny’ 500 times,” she said Monday.

Mark says: “Basically, I guess you could say the Giants told me to grow up. But, deep down, I said to myself, ‘I can’t change the way I am.’ ”

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But McKeon isn’t worried about Grant’s “10-cent head,” and he’s not worried about the hedge on Grant’s head.

“Let’s see if he can pitch,” said McKeon, who’d trade for a porcupine if it’d help him win.


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