It’s a Whole New Show in Oakland : Baseball: Former Padre tries to put past troubles behind him.
His face contorted by anxiety and anguish, pitcher Eric Show gazes across the rain-soaked baseball field, trying to remember. It shouldn’t be this laborious. If anything, the difficulty should be recalling the entire list of calls.
Instead, here he was Friday night, desperately probing his memory to come up with the names of teammates who congratulated him three months ago when he signed with the Oakland Athletics.
Show, who had been with the Padres since 1978, figured he’d hear from most of his teammates. Maybe a few of his former teammates, too. So maybe they didn’t have his telephone number. But surely they’d be leaving messages at his guitar store.
Well, after 13 years in the organization, he heard from Padre reliever Craig Lefferts, his teammate of five years. He received a call from reliever Rich Rodriguez, whom he had known for three months. And there was a message from pitcher Fred Toliver, whom he played with for all of five weeks.
That was it.
“It was a little surprising,” Show said, shrugging his shoulders, “but it’s over with now. There’s no grudges, bitterness or hate. To me, it’s a new horizon.
“If I dwelled on all of the negative factors involved, it would get depressing. But I’ll never let go of my memories. I’m not afraid to look back. I just refuse to be bound by my past.
Show, the Padres’ all-time leading pitcher with 100 victories, never felt he was truly accepted in San Diego. Some thought he was selfish. Some thought he was arrogant. Everyone knew he was different.
“The last 10 years seemed to be one of conflict for me,” Show said. “It seemed like one conflict after another. I want to make it clear I was responsible for that, I just don’t know to what degree.
“I think it was a case where I had a lot of theories, that were either understood, misunderstood or dismissed.”
Show, 34, joined the John Birch Society when he first came up to the big leagues in 1981, and recruited teammates Dave Dravecky and Mark Thurmond. Three years later, his affiliation was uncovered when he was spotted passing out pamphlets at Del Mar. All of a sudden, he was labeled a neo-Nazi.
In 1985, Show gave up Pete Rose’s record 4,192nd hit. Rather than paying tribute, he sat on the mound and appeared to be pouting during the celebration. All of a sudden, he was labeled a spoiled brat.
On the afternoon of July 7, 1987, in a game against the Cubs, he hit Andre Dawson in the face, causing a near-riot. All of a sudden, taking in consideration his John Birch affiliation, he was labeled a racist.
“I felt very isolated, very alone at times,” said Show, who was scheduled to start Friday against his former teammates until the game was rained out. “It was like a family--a dysfunctional family. There was a lot of turmoil. A lot of chaos. There were times when it seemed like everybody was hating everybody.”
Whether it was a coincidence, it was during this time that Show began to struggle. He was 15-9 with a 3.40 ERA during the 1984 season, and opened the 1985 season with a 7-5 record. Yet, he won only five games the remainder of the season. Only once in the next five years did he win more than nine games.
“It was like the turning point of my career,” Show said. “Nothing seemed to go right after that.”
It was his back that gave out on him in June 1989, requiring surgery in August. His confidence left him after he lost the first six decisions of the 1990 season. And his morale departed once the fans turned on him.
“That hurt my feelings for awhile,” Show said, “and my desire waned. You try to ignore it, but you’re only human. I tried to gather some peace in midst of a lot of misunderstanding.”
It seemed like the whole world turned its back on Show. Teammate Jack Clark called him selfish, and screamed at him in their team meeting. Pat Dobson, Padre pitching coach, and Show began feuding. Jack McKeon, general manager, attempted to trade him.
“People thought I either had a bad attitude,” Show said, “or a bad back.”
Show was so frustrated one night that he blurted out that he wished he was pitching for Oakland. One of his teammates challenged him. Show retreated, saying, he wouldn’t mind pitching for the ’27 Yankees, either.
“I think everybody’s fantasy is to play with the A’s, isn’t it?” Show said. “I know all about ‘Reds October,’ but this is the best team in the world.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to go (to the World Series) again. It’s just a matter of who we play.”
Yet, the Padres couldn’t give him away, and when the season ended, they simply bought him out of his contract, and kicked him out the door. No goodbyes. No speeches. Just a final check.
Two months later, he was signing a two-year, $1.6 million contract with the Athletics. If he stays healthy, and pitches at least 150 innings in each of the two seasons, he’ll receive another $400,000 in incentives.
“I remember my agent (Arn Tellem) calling me and saying, ‘The best offer I’ve been able to get so far is the Oakland A’s. I just said, ‘Sign.’ I didn’t even ask for how much. I just said, ‘Sign.’
“After two suspect years, and having very few teams interested, and then having the best team in baseball interested, I’ve got to believe that this is something that is in the hands of something greater than just man. If you want to call it fate, call it fate. I choose to call it God. Because I can’t think of anyone else that could have put together this situation for me as efficiently.”
Show is expected to slip into the No. 4 starter’s spot, occupied by Storm Davis two years ago, and Scott Sanderson last season. It so happens that Davis won 19 games, and Sanderson won 17.
The same is predicted of Show.
“I actually feel like I’m wanted here,” he said. “It’s not like someone saying, ‘You’ve got the fourth spot until you screw up.’ I don’t think I’ve ever had this type of hope and expectations.
“I think I’ll do my best, too, to fit in. I’ve already tried to keep down a lot of the extra-curricular concepts that have gotten me in trouble.
“I’m actually just talking about baseball.
“Can you believe it?”
A’s center fielder Rickey Henderson, who showed up for Friday’s workout, denied the allegations that he’s going through the motions in camp. “I’m playing,” he said, “I’m working. This ain’t no league. Ain’t none of this crap count. When they say, ‘Bing, bing, the bell rung,’ I’ll be around. If I ain’t around, you go, ‘Hey, where he at?’ ” . . . Henderson said if the Athletics continue their refusal to renegotiate his contract, he would like to be traded to the Angels, Chicago White Sox or Kansas City Royals. Has there been any interest in Henderson? “No,” said Sandy Alderson, Athletic general manager. “If anyone’s interested, the number is 602-225-9400.” . . . The cancellation of Friday’s game wiped out Eric Nolte’s chance of starting against the Athletics. It would have been his first start in an “A” Game in two years. . . . The Padres are scheduled to play the Milwaukee Brewers at 12:05 (PST) today in Chandler. The probable pitchers are Derek Lilliquist, Jeremy Hernandez and Ricky Bones. . . . Greg Harris and Craig Lefferts are scheduled in the “B” game against the Seattle Mariners.