PADRES UPDATE : NOTEBOOK : Scout Rates Braves’ Sanders Most Exciting Player Around


Hugh Alexander has been scouting baseball for 50 years. He watched Ruth and Gehrig perform. He scrutinized Mays and Mantle. He studied Clemente.

“I’ve been watching this game for so long,” said Alexander, who scouts for the Chicago Cubs, “that everybody always asks me, ‘Who’s the best ballplayers I’ve ever seen?’

“I always tell them the same five: Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays. Mickey Mantle. Right away, people ask, ‘Hey, how about Stan Musial? How about Hank Aaron?’


“I tell them the really great ballplayers can beat you five different ways: throwing, running, fielding, hitting and home runs. Only the great ones can can excel in all of those phases.

“Now, I tell you what. This guy’s not in that group, and maybe never will be. But I’m not sure if I’ve seen a more exciting player.

“His name is Deion Sanders.”

Sanders, the two-sport star for the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons, has emerged as the biggest surprise of the season. He entered Monday’s game leading the National League in six offensive categories, including a .426 batting average.

“Boy, what an exciting player,” Alexander said. “If he stays in this sport, and gives up football, he could be one of the great ones.

“There’s nothing prettier in baseball right now than watching him hit a triple.”

Sanders already has six triples this season, only two fewer than teammate Otis Nixon has in his entire career.

Padre catcher Dann Bilardello, who contributed to the greatest offensive display in pitcher Andy Benes’ career Sunday by lending him his bat, already has begun hearing the jokes.

“Even my wife (Tish) was getting on me,” Bilardello said. “She told me Andy got more hits out of my bat in one day than I’ll get this whole season.

“But when I gave Andy my bat, I told him there were a lot of hits left in there.”

Bilardello, who owns a career .207 batting average, watched Benes end his 0-for-54 drought Sunday against Butch Henry of the Houston Astros with a double and single. It was his first hit since May 8, 1991, against Danny Cox of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Benes’ hit also prevented him from baseball infamy. The longest drought in the history of baseball belongs to Bob Buhl of the 1962 Milwaukee Braves, who was hitless in 70 at-bats.

In fact, only three players in baseball history have gone hitless during an entire season: Darryl Kile of the Houston Astros (0-38), Don Carman of Philadelphia (0-31) and Ed Lynch of the New York Mets (0-33).

“You know, I knew I hadn’t gotten a hit in a while,” Benes said, “but I didn’t realize it had been that long. What can I say, I owe my success to Dann. He’ll never get that bat back now.”

The Padres survived a scare during the weekend when their triple-A Las Vegas team got into a brawl with Tucson on Friday, with three of the Stars’ pitchers getting injured in the fracas.

Doug Brocail suffered a swollen hand, Tim Scott bruised his shoulder and Adam Peterson had a strained left wrist.

“We’re very lucky,” said Ed Lynch, Padre farm director. “If one of those guys had broken a hand, or torn a shoulder, man.”

The brawl started when Tucson first baseman Benny Distefano threw a punch at Las Vegas outfielder Steve Pegues.

Around the basepaths: Many National League umpires were infuriated with the league’s publicity department for allowing the umpires’ weights to be published in the National League Green Book. Those more upset than others, of course, were the five who tipped the scales at more than 250 pounds: John McSherry (328), Eric Gregg (325), Harry Wendelstedt (278), Joe West (278) and Bruce Froemming (252). . . . Padre reliever Randy Myers has updated his locker, bringing in two pylons and placing them in front of his locker. No one, of course, is permitted in the area. . . . Does Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder Barry Bonds, who’s eligible for free agency this winter, think he’ll receive a contract worth $7.1 million a season such as the one Cub second baseman Ryne Sandberg got? “Hey, he’s not as controversial as I am,” Bonds said, “so that should be worth another million right there.”

New York Mets Manager Jeff Torborg opened himself up to second-guessing Friday when he left in starter David Cone for 145 pitches in a 10-2 complete-game victory over the Montreal Expos. . . . How bad have things gone in Kansas City? Shortstop David Howard, batting .091, has two hits for the season and was tied for the team lead with three RBIs. . . . Cincinnati Red reliever Norm Charlton on gladly handing the stopper’s job back to Rob Dibble: “It feels worse to have a bad night than it feels good to have four saves. You don’t know exactly what it’s like until you walk in those shoes every day. I had a feeling I would know what it’s like, but you don’t know what it’s like to be on a roller coaster until you’re on it.” . . . Chicago White Sox catcher Ron Karkovice on the fact that fellow catcher Carlton Fisk needs to catch in 79 games to set the major league record for games played: “I want to see him get the record, but I have to make a living and support my family too.”