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Padre Notebook : Flannery Still Looking for the Hit He Left in Riverside in 1978

Times Staff Writer

It was planned as just another rehabilitation assignment, a four-game retreat with minor league pitching, a chance for an injured Padre infielder, Tim Flannery, to get his cleats wet before he came off the disabled list and returned to the Padres.

The chosen site was Riverside, of the Class-A California League. Flannery, who has been on the disabled list since April 29 with sprained ligaments in his right ankle, drove up last Wednesday. He was to stay with his brother Greg, a cop. It was all supposed to be no big deal.

Little did anyone know, Flannery was on a mission.

“I’m going back to get my batting title back,” Flannery said before he left.

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Flash back to 1978. The Padres’ Class-A club is still in Reno. Flannery still has all his hair.

Entering the final day of the season, his first in pro ball, Flannery, 20, is hitting .350. According to all league stats, he is four points ahead of Joe Charboneau of the Cleveland organization, a guy who later became American League rookie of the year.

“I was a lock,” Flannery remembers. “So the coaches decide that on that final game, I shouldn’t hit, I should pitch. So I pitched. First time ever.”

Last time ever. By the time he was finally able to get his first out in the first inning, he had allowed eight runs. That’s a 216.00 ERA.

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“I was awful,” Flannery said. “The worst.”

Meanwhile, during a routine double-check, statisticians found an error in Charboneau’s records. After the final game he was also hitting .350. And Flannery was suddenly tied for the lead.

Officials then calculated each average out several decimals more. And Flannery was the loser. By .001.

“I haven’t forgotten that,” Flannery said. “I always wanted to go back and get that one more hit.”

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Since going back, though, Flannery has been having trouble getting anybody to pitch to him. After his first three games this week, in 12 plate appearances, he had walked four times. Of his eight real chances, he had two hits. Still, expect him to rejoin the team for its trip to Montreal on Monday for the beginning of nine days on the road.

Eric Show on growing old: After the pitcher turned 32 Thursday, he was queried about the aging process. He said this:

“I have not felt any change, physically, since I was 18. The only explanation for this is that time, as we mortals perceive it, is just an illusion. I’m not actually growing older. I’m not actually 32.”

But of course. Eric Show, indeed, has not changed.

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Superstition of the week: Although Tony Gwynn, who is on the disabled list, has been at the ballpark every day this week, from pregame to postgame, he has seen less of a live Padre game than many of you.

One and one-half innings, to be exact. Beginning last Friday, Gwynn began watching the games from the clubhouse, on television. When the Padres won three in a row, Gwynn wouldn’t leave the clubhouse, even though the Mets came in and won four in a row.

“At first, I did it because we were winning,” Gwynn said. “But then I decided I could get a lot more done in the clubhouse than on the bench. I could do my weights, my exercises, all that stuff.”

Pause.

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“Also, on the bench I would get all frustrated and anxious and want to go in. I guess that’s also part of it.”

Surprise.

Not-quite-working superstition of the week: Garry Templeton returned home last weekend and packed up his bags and moved.

Three lockers down.

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Part of his reasoning was traffic. His old locker was right outside Manager Larry Bowa’s office, and he has been nearly trampled by reporters rushing to get to Bowa after games. His new one is conveniently located behind a pole.

But the biggest reason is history. His new locker is the same locker he used in 1984 when the Padres won the pennant.

“I’m going back to where I felt more comfortable,” Templeton said. “I had a lot of good times here.”

Since moving there, Templeton has gone 0 for 12, and he ended the week hitting .183 and on the bench behind Dickie Thon. Oh well.

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Haircut of the week: That guy at first base for the Padres is not Don Zimmer, or Curly of the Three Stooges. It is simply a man who lost a bet.

“You lose, you pay,” said John Kruk, who is running around these days with a shaved head that makes him look like, well, just about anybody but John Kruk.

“Don’t worry,” Kruk said. “I think it will grow back.”

All of this began before the May 12 game in Chicago, when Kruk walked into the Wrigley Field clubhouse and proclaimed: “We will win today, or I will shave my head.”

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He wasn’t sure if anyone was listening. Everyone was listening.

The Padres lost, 2-1. The next day, back in San Diego for the beginning of the current home stand, Kruk went to a barber, and she began trimming. With about an inch of his hair remaining, she suddenly put down the clippers and refused to go any further.

“She said she couldn’t do that to me,” Kruk said.

When Kruk walked into the clubhouse before the Montreal game that night, his teammates were not satisfied.

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“I thought they would buy it,” Kruk said. “They didn’t. They wanted it shorter.”

Pitcher Mark Davis, who shaved his head this winter, pulled out a pair of electric clippers. He led Kruk in front of a bathroom mirror, sat him down, put a towel around his neck and began hacking.

“Call me Bill the Barber,” Davis said. “It was my first time, but so what?”

Davis promised to cut Kruk’s remaining hair into a flattop. But Davis said he decided that Kruk’s head wasn’t shaped properly. So it all came off.

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“I think he just messed up and wouldn’t admit it,” Kruk said. “It’s OK. I don’t regret nothing. I never regret anything.”

His batting average regrets it. Without his locks, Kruk has gone 6 for 22 (.272) with one double and four RBIs in eight games. His average has dropped from .292 to .287.

Player of the week: Dickie Thon, originally stepping in at shortstop only because Templeton had fluid buildup in his left knee, has worked his way into a starting position. The reason for this can be found in one of his best weeks in several years--in six games he went 8 for 22 (.364) with two doubles and a triple and four runs scored.

“I am feeling comfortable because I am playing more,” said Thon, who raised his average from .171 to .246. “I know Templeton has been swinging the bat good, and he needs to get in, so I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just come to the park ready to play every day.”

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