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Sport: Ten Wins and Therefore No Ties

3 minute read
Tom Callahan

Baseball got off to a slow start, clouded with coke and racism. But within a week the sky cleared and everyone simply started over, the thing baseball does best of all. Bo Jackson of Kansas City and Eric Davis of Cincinnati began applying for Willie Mays’ and Roberto Clemente’s old jobs. That odd-shaped Minnesotan Kirby Puckett resumed clubbing homers the unlikely way he did last year. With his Ted Williams stroke, the Mets’ Darryl Strawberry worked at dissociating himself from scandal.

Of all the glad developments, though, the happiest were in Milwaukee, where a couple of strangers named Tom Trebelhorn and Juan Nieves momentarily turned the American League East upside down (restoring Cleveland to the bottom). On a drizzling night in Baltimore, Nieves no-hit the Orioles last week for the Brewers’ ninth victory in a season begun perfectly. “Games like this can make a grown man cry,” said Trebelhorn, 39, the most anonymous skipper in the major leagues.

As a minor-league catcher, coach and manager, Trebelhorn somehow withstood a thousand bus rides from Boise to Walla Walla without becoming very tobacco splattered. He is a substitute math teacher in the off-season and is as reasonable as he is unrecognizable. When Rookie Catcher B.J. Surhoff was called out for straying from the base path, Trebelhorn raced to the umpire, saying, “Look, you know the rule and I know the rule. But the players don’t know the rule and the fans don’t know the rule. So we have to stand here and argue awhile, O.K.?” “Treb” came up from the minors last spring, when a clubhouse heater explosion burned third-base Coach Tony Muser. Manager George Bamberger stepped down with nine games to go last September, and General Manager Harry Dalton had only to see Trebelhorn fill in for four of them before removing “interim” from his title.

Just Jim Gantner, Paul Molitor, Cecil Cooper and Robin Yount remain from the glory year, 1982. Now the designated hitter, Cooper has yielded first base to ex-Dodger Greg Brock, no longer required to be Steve Garvey. Yount has lost the arm for shortstop but was center fielder enough to preserve the no-hitter with a diving catch for the final out. He was quick to say, “Paciorek’s catch in the second inning meant just as much.” Left Fielder Jim Paciorek, subbing for the young home-run champion Rob Deer, said not to forget the infield. And Nieves thanked the team. The season may only be dawning, but this is a winner’s refrain.

“When everyone tackled me afterward,” said Nieves, 22, “I thought, ‘What’s going on?’ ” If it is hard to believe him when he says that winning the game occupied him more than pitching the no-hitter, consider the eight straight decisions Nieves lost at the end of last year. “I felt so pumped up, I was trying to throw the ball through the catcher and the backstop.” The left-handed sophomore from Santurce, Puerto Rico, is the youngest major leaguer in 15 years to pitch a no-hitter, the second Latin after Juan Marichal and the first Brewer in history.

Trebelhorn is not an inflexible headmaster. His normal rules include neckties on team flights, the announcement of which brought a gasp. O.K., he said, “start the year with ten wins in a row, and we’ll all lose the ties.” When the tenth victory came against Texas, the Brewers unbuttoned their collars and sighed dreamily, “Just 152 to go.”

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