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This Pitcher Is Really Way Out in Left Field

There was Mark (the Bird) Fidrych, the pitcher who talked to baseballs and got on his hands and knees to wipe off the pitching rubber.

There was Al (the Mad Hungarian) Hrabosky, the reliever who carried voodoo dolls of opposing players and fired himself up by turning toward center field before storming back to the mound.

There was Bill (Spaceman) Lee, the hippie in spikes who once referred to manager Don Zimmer as “the designated gerbil.”

But none of them may quite match Turk Wendell, pitcher for the Greenville Braves of the Southern League, who is in a league of his own when it comes to weirdness.

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Raad Cawthon of the Atlanta Journal lists the following Wendell rituals practiced before the start of every inning. He:

--Crosses the foul line with a three-foot-high kangaroo leap.

--Circles the mound counterclockwise, then walks to the rubber and squats. If the catcher is already squatting, he must stand. When the catcher does squat, Wendell stands.

--Walks off the mound, looks to center field, says a prayer and crosses himself.

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--Points to the center fielder, who must wave back.

--Draws three crosses in the dirt behind the rubber and then licks the dirt from his fingers.

Add Weird Wendell: He refuses to catch the ball thrown to him by the umpire before the game. Wendell demands that it be rolled to him. If the umpire forgets and throws the ball, Wendell will let it bounce off his chest or let it roll until an infielder picks it up.

Last add Weird Wendell: He has also been known to pitch while not wearing socks. He chews licorice and then brushes his teeth in the dugout. He has thrown to first base as many as eight or nine times a game with nobody on base. And he once took a camera out of his back pocket on the mound and shot a picture of the opposing batter before pitching to him. But the man can pitch. Wendell won 10 of his first 13 decisions for Greenville with a 2.30 earned-run average.

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Trivia time: Name the last switch-hitter to be named the American League’s most valuable player.

A new twist to his life: Kenneth Freemire had gone to the track only once in his life, but he was sure in need of a winner when he went to Saratoga last weekend.

“I was really hurting for money,” Freemire said. “I didn’t even have anything left for the week.”

That shouldn’t be a problem anymore.

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The 21-year-old mechanic won the track’s Pick 6, worth $264,103, by correctly choosing the winners of Races 3 through 8.

Earlier that day, Freemire had been forced to borrow $1.50 from a friend to buy a pretzel.

The Daly Report: Earlier this week, Indianapolis Colt Coach Ron Meyer had toyed with the idea of signing PGA Championship winner John Daly, a kicker in high school.

“The Colts decided against it,” Daly said, “because they were afraid I might get hurt.”

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Trivia answer: Oakland pitcher Vida Blue in 1971.

Quotebook: Minnesota Viking Coach Jerry Burns, on the arrival of defensive lineman Al Noga after a three-week holdout: “Maybe he won’t be here tomorrow, but it was fun to see him here today. He jumped offside twice. . . . He’s in midseason form.”


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