Padre Notebook : Flannery Hopes to Convince Club He’s Worth Keeping Around

Times Staff Writer

A month ago, in the middle of his 11th season in a Padre uniform, 11 seasons’ worth of cheating experts and odds, Tim Flannery was lounging in the visitors’ dugout in Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium and talking about retirement.

“When I retire, it’s not going to be like Steve Garvey and his thing at the La Jolla Marriott,’ Flannery said with a smile. “My retirement party is going to be down on Rosarito Beach, in a wet suit, with a surfboard under my arm. I will say, ‘It’s been fun, see you in the water.’ And I’ll be gone.”

Right about then, Flannery cut the sunset scene short with this: “But I’ve talked to a lot of veterans, and they’ve said, ‘Hey, make them rip the uniform off your back.’ That’s how I feel.”


His fight is on. Flannery, 30, who is in the final year of his guaranteed contract, will spend the rest of this season hoping to convince the Padres to pick up his option year at its reasonable figure of around $400,000 and allow him to finish his career with the place and people he loves. And vice versa.

“I know I sound like Steve Garvey here, but I really do have a love affair going with this city and our fans, and I would love to finish my career here,” said Flannery, who, judging from the cheers, is still the most popular player on the team, even though he has only 80 at-bats so far this year. That puts him on a pace for just 120, fewer than half the number he averaged during his six previous full Padre seasons (291).

The Padre management loves Flannery, too. The question is how much? With Randy Ready performing somewhat the same role, and receiving much more playing time, there are questions as to just what management thinks about its team’s common-man hero.

“Tim has accepted his role as a utility player this year. Every club needs players like him; he’s been a good team man,” Manager Jack McKeon said. “But we aren’t even thinking about re-signing people right now. We’re just thinking about trying to win games.”

Look for Flannery’s agent, Steve Greenberg, to begin talks with Padre President Chub Feeney in a couple of weeks. But don’t expect any begging.

“If I can’t play here, I’ll look at all offers,” Flannery said. “I know there are teams out there who needs good utility players.”


There are, and he is one. He is hitting .250 in his limited role, about 50 points higher than the average utility infielder. In 45 games, often thrown into a tough infield position at the last minute, he has yet to commit an error.

“What I do is probably one of the most difficult jobs in baseball, and I don’t think young kids can do it,’ Flannery said. “It works on your confidence, it works on your ability to stay sharp. But pennant contenders need players like me--somebody to fill in for a week when a starter goes down in the last month of the season. I’m the kind of guy who has proven he can do that.

“I think if I stay here it will come down to what chance do the Padres think they’ll have of winning a pennant next year?”

Flannery said that in the meantime, he’s not going to worry about it.

“Hey, I’ll keep playing every game like it’s my last and have no regrets,” Flannery said. “That’s what I’ve tried to do so far.”

Yes, Dickie Thon Does Lead This Team in Something: A recent study revealed that Thon is the only Padre among 19 major leaguers who have received baseball’s unique mid-game honor.

He is the only one to have been kissed by Morganna, the kissing bandit.

Even if it was virtually by accident.

Thon, who was bussed on the cheek during opening night with the Houston Astros several years ago, said he wasn’t even Morganna’s main target.


“She had just gotten Nolan Ryan, and she was running out to left field to get Jose Cruz,” he recalled. “But then the police were running after her, and she wasn’t going to make it, so she just stopped where I was playing shortstop and kissed me.”

So? How was it?

“Oh, you know,” said Thon, who told his wife about the kiss as soon as he arrived home. But he didn’t tell her everything.

“Morganna later sent me a picture of herself, and I had to give it away,” Thon said. “In the picture, she wasn’t wearing any clothes.”

Another Peek Underneath Those Mark Grants: The open-minded Padre pitcher who brought us spiked hair and hotfoots has come up with yet another fad.

Umpire imitations.

From the time he reached double A in 1983, Grant has imitated the way umpires make their calls. By now, in his third year in the big leagues, he has turned it into something of an art, with the proper hand and feet gestures for every National League umpire.

“It’s just something to do. It’s all in fun,” said Grant, 24. “John Kibler is easiest to imitate because he makes his calls so simply, Dutch Rennert is the most active with his calls. . . . It’s just kind of a fun thing I picked up.


From his new spot in the bullpen, Grant is better able to use this talent, as evidenced in Chicago recently, when he stood up between innings and mimicked first base umpire Joe West’s “out” calls from the previous inning.

One problem. As soon as West saw this, he smiled, and then imitated a pitcher winding up, throwing a pitch, and then violently jerking his head around as that imaginary pitch sails off for an imaginary home run. Call it West’s idea of a Mark Grant imitation.

“Yeah, umpires have done that to me before,” Grant said, smiling. “Hey, that’s fair.”

The good-natured Grant tries, he really does. Also recently in Chicago’s Wrigley Field, during batting practice, he faced the bleachers from center field and held up a ball. He waved the ball in the direction of different sections, with the intention of throwing it to the section that cheered loudest. He waved toward left field, then right field, then center field.

The center field fans won, so Grant wound up and . . . threw the ball out of the park and into the street.

“Yeah,” said Grant glumly, “it got away from me.”

You’d Never Guess Dept:

--If Padre first-round draft pick Andy Benes makes the big leagues--and a lot of front-office reputations are riding on the fact that he will--it will be his second Padre team.

In Little League in Evansville, Ind., one of the first teams he played for was also called the Padres.

--While the Padres were stranding six men on second base and generally stumbling over themselves against Houston during Thursday’s 3-2 loss at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, a rather appropriate problem came up in the stands. In Section 1, after complaints from several fans, authorities discovered and captured a skunk.


Minor League Stuff:

--Gary Green, a first-round pick in the June, 1984, supplemental draft, has changed positions in hope of changing his luck. After he played only 13 games with the Padres in his first three pro seasons, Green, the 1984 U.S. Olympic team shortstop from Oklahoma State, has moved to third base, where he is becoming a standout for triple-A Las Vegas. A six-game hitting binge (8 for 21 with four doubles) recently increased his average to .278 and, coupled with his excellent play in the field, established him as Las Vegas’ regular third baseman.

--One of the top Padre left-handed pitching prospects has taken a step backward. Pete Roberts, a first-round pick in the secondary phase of the June, 1985, draft, was 4-6 for Las Vegas this summer before being demoted to double-A Wichita June 30, where he promptly went 0-4. The demotion occurred after he begged out of a start during Las Vegas’ first-half pennant drive because he said he couldn’t get loose. When the angry Padres sent him down, the brown-haired kid responded by dying his hair blond and shaving his initials into the side of his head. How surprised he must have been when he reported to Wichita to find Tom Romenesko, the Padres’ farm director, already there on other business. Needless to say, the two had a little chat, and the Padres expect that Roberts will clean up his act enough so that they will want to protect him on the 40-man roster this winter.

--Yet another former San Diego State player is making noise with the Padres, this time a 14th-round draft pick named Rich Holsman. The left-handed pitcher, taken in the June, 1987, draft, is just 6-6 for Class A Riverside but has a 2.17 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 99 innings. Last season at rookie league Spokane, Holsman went 6-4 with a 1.89 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 62 innings.