Gibson Returns, Isn’t Amused : Orosco Apologizes After Admitting He Blackened Cap

Times Staff Writer

Kirk Gibson was back in the Dodger fold Friday morning, still simmering over a prank pulled on him less than an hour before Thursday’s spring training opener.

By Friday afternoon, newly acquire relief pitcher Jesse Orosco had admitted to having put black shoe polish on the inside of Gibson’s cap, prompting the temperamental and temporarily smudged left fielder to storm off the field and miss the game.

Even after Orosco had apologized to Gibson, and Manager Tom Lasorda had held a long meeting with Gibson and a closed-door team meeting, Gibson did not seem totally placated.


“I did what I had to do to get my point across, and that’s that,” Gibson said.

He did not vow revenge, but neither would he say that he will forget the embarrassment of putting on his cap and getting the shoe polish on his forehead.

“Basically, I don’t want to be a part of their fun and comedy act,” said Gibson, who reportedly was fined for leaving Thursday’s game. “I’m not a radical guy. I go by the rules. This other bull is foreign to me. I like to have a good time, but a good time to me is winning.”

Orosco said he was sorry about the prank. He said he discovered that it is unwise to pull practical jokes on Gibson, who admits that he has no sense of humor when the joke is on him.

“Let’s just say I won’t be doing it again,” Orosco said. “That’s because I don’t want to read my name in the obituaries.

“It was just a typical practical joke. Kirk and I talked, and I hope he understands. I felt bad after I did it, and I felt really bad after (Gibson’s) reaction.”

Perhaps of greater concern to Dodger management, however, was Gibson’s leaving the field--and the Dodgertown complex--when he was scheduled to play. Lasorda and Fred Claire, the Dodgers’ executive vice president, said they do not condone either the actions of Gibson or the clubhouse pranksters.

“It wasn’t right, what (Gibson) did,” Lasorda said. “But that’s all been taken care of. Everything was covered in the team meeting.”

After discovering what had been done to his cap Thursday, Gibson blew up and then told Lasorda he was leaving.

“I wasn’t ready to play in the game after that,” Gibson said. “Some race horses walk into the gate; others get all hyped up. Before game time, I get all hyped up and I don’t have a sense of humor. That’s obvious.

“I was (upset) and instead of doing something about it right then, if you know what I mean, I took off. I’m accountable for my actions.”

Asked if he had given Gibson permission to leave, Lasorda said: “I told him that with the way he was feeling, it was best for him to go. He wasn’t in a real good mood. Let’s say that.”

While still on the field, Gibson threatened whomever was responsible with serious reprisals. When he returned to the clubhouse, he reportedly said, “Send the guy who did it into the clubhouse, and then I’ll play.”

At his locker before Friday morning’s meeting, Gibson tried to explain why he had reacted so angrily.

“Certain people are made up differently, and obviously, I don’t pull pranks on other people because I don’t like to be the guy they pull them on,” he said. “I don’t know why they did it to me. I don’t think I’d do that to somebody who didn’t know me. I don’t know those guys. Maybe I’ve given them a false feeling.”

Claire defended Gibson’s reasons for leaving the game.

“It was an unfortunate thing that happened,” Claire said. “You never embarrass a professional baseball player on the field. But it’s one small footnote in terms of what the season is about.”

Before going out to the field, Gibson had been the victim of another prank in the clubhouse. Someone put shaving cream on the receiver of a telephone, then told Gibson he had a call.

“That one was OK,” Gibson said. “But on the field, people were laughing at me. I make enough mistakes on my own that I can have people laugh at me.

“Maybe I’ve done too much talking and that’s why I had this . . . pulled on me. The best thing is to let it die. And if it doesn’t, then we’ll have another conflict. Everybody’s different. If they don’t respect that, then I guess I don’t fit in. The last thing this ball club needs is BS like this.”

Gibson previously had a minor run-in with Dodger shortstop Mariano Duncan, but Lasorda has repeatedly told reporters that the situation has been handled and that there is no lingering animosity. Lasorda also said that Gibson has fit in well with the Dodgers.

“On the whole, I think he’s settled in fine,” Lasorda said. “I think he likes it here and is happy here. That’s my own observation. I don’t think that Gibson has any hard feelings and that (the other players) don’t have any hard feelings.

“I’m sure that the guy who did pull the pranks feels bad. He didn’t think it would turn out the way it did.”

Said Orosco: “I do feel bad, but this has happened before. When I was with the (New York) Mets, (Bob) Ojeda and (Kevin) Mitchell almost went at it. Mitchell had done something to Ojeda, and Ojeda took these brand-new shoes that Mitchell had and cut them up. They got a little angry over it and almost had a fight.

“It did backfire. I wasn’t trying to do anything to get him mad. I’m not stupid. If he gets back at me, fine. I deserve it. If you know a guy doesn’t like something, then you don’t do anything to him.”

The Dodgers have a long tradition of pranks, the most dedicated recent jokers having been Jay Johnstone, Jerry Reuss and, now, Mickey Hatcher.

“I’ve had pranks explode,” Lasorda said.

But to such an extent?

“Not to that extent,” Lasorda said.

Said Hatcher, an artist when it comes to pranks: “You have to know how the guy will react before you do it. I don’t want Gibson mad at us or wish he didn’t come here. He’s a veteran. He’s a very serious competitor. Whoever did it should have known better.”

Gibson said he will not change his personaity to suit his teammates. In Detroit, Gibson was known as a player who occasionally would pull pranks but never liked to have them pulled against him.

When he was a rookie with the Tigers, Gibson was getting a rubdown on a table in the trainer’s room when veteran pitcher Jack Billingham started teasing him. Gibson attacked Billingham, pinning him against a wall.

Gibson also has a history as a practical joker. Detroit reporters recall the time in spring training when Gibson pulled a chair out from under pitcher Dave Rozema, Gibson’s best friend, when Rozema tried to sit. A bottle Rozema held shattered. And Alan Trammell once required stitches after one of Gibson’s pranks.

“That’s fine,” Gibson said when told that Dodger teams traditionally include several pranksters. “I don’t care what they do. I just don’t want them to do it to me, and I won’t do it to them. I can get along fine with the people who do it.

“But it’s just my personality that I can’t play pranks and get along well with people.”

Dodger Notes

Manager Tom Lasorda met with Pedro Guerrero Friday and talked about the possibility of Guerrero’s switching from first base to third base, replacing either Jeff Hamilton or Steve Sax. “His reaction was that he listened,” Lasorda said. “He didn’t say anything. I haven’t made a decision on it and I don’t know anything yet. I don’t think I have to come to a decision right now. If he were playing the outfield and then had to go to third, it would be more of an adjustment. But ground balls at third and first are the same.” . . . Hamilton started at third base Friday (with Guerrero at first) and went 2 for 3.

It was not a good debut for either Kirk Gibson or Jesse Orosco in the Dodgers’ 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins Friday afternoon. Gibson went 0 for 2, striking out in the sixth inning with a runner on third base. Gibson also was subjected to taunts from fans who had heard of his reaction to the clubhouse prank Thursday. Orosco wasted a 4-2 Dodger lead in the seventh and eighth innings, giving up three runs and four hits. Said Orosco, who said he felt no pain in his left elbow and shoulder: “I didn’t expect anything today or for a week. I’ve only thrown the ball six or seven times. When it gets to 11 or 12 times throwing, I’ll be all right.”

Orosco had problems with his change-up and control of his fastball. “I just think I might have let up on some pitches and tried to aim the ball, not follow through,” Orosco said. Pitching coach Ron Perranoski said: “It was the first time he’s pitched, so I’m not concerned one damn bit.” . . . Orel Hershiser pitched three scoreless innings, giving up a hit and striking out two. . . . Reliever Tim Crews pitched a scoreless 10th inning and got the win when Mickey Hatcher singled in Dave Anderson with the game-winning run.

Non-roster player Rick Dempsey improved his bid to unseat Alex Trevino as the Dodgers’ backup catcher by hitting a seventh-inning home run. Dempsey was released by Cleveland last winter after hitting .177 and being bothered most of the season by injuries and health problems. “Last year, I dropped 15 pounds and felt really weak and I don’t know why,” Dempsey said. “Also, I just didn’t hit the ball well. Now, I’ve got everything positive working for me. I’m stronger, feel better.”