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Saturday, July 22
An everyman for all of us

If this were a perfect, red-white-and-blue-tinted world, you can bet your stars and stripes that our Olympic baseball team would be heading for Australia in September led by Mike Piazza and Alex Rodriguez instead of Terry Steinbach and Pat Kelly.

But a slight technicality -- also known as a "season" -- got in the way of that dream team. So here at Week in Review, we've got a new dream.

Barry Bonds just became the seventh active player to hit 300 home runs for one team. Can you name the other six (not all of whom have hit 300 for their present team)?

(Answer at bottom)

If we can't have the best, the brightest and the most famous players in the world on our Olympic team, we need someone else to rally around.

Preferably someone short. Someone inspirational. Someone who, at the very least, might be the funniest player who ever lived.

Presenting Week in Review's official candidate to lead our Olympians to glory, to gold or, in case of an emergency, to the stage of the nearest Australian comedy cabaret ...

Yes, friends. It's the greatest mighty mite in our land, Mr. Casey Candaele.

By all rights, Candaele should already be a household name by now. But for those households that might have missed him, let's recap his sterling career: He's 39 years old. Official estimates of his height range from 4-foot-11 to his listed altitude of 5-9. And in nine seasons in the big leagues, he averaged a whopping four stolen bases and one home run a year.

But what the heck. He's versatile (played all nine positions in a game last year for the New Orleans Zephyrs). He's still, essentially, active (currently hitting .284 for the first-place Nashua Pride, in the ever-popular Atlantic League). And most of all, he's fun.

So we're now officially championing his cause. We're just puzzled we had to stoop to this, with a candidate of his caliber. And frankly, Candaele admits that he, too, is puzzled that no one from the Olympic committee has called him yet.

Casey Candaele
Our hero, back with the Astros in 1993.

"I don't know what it is," he said. "I must have done something over the years to show them how bad a player I am."

Oops. We urge the committee to ignore that last remark -- because Candaele has other qualifications right up the Olympic team's alley.

"Well, I'll tell you one thing," he said. "I've listened to a lot of national anthems. I remember there was one guy in the Southern League who played the national anthem on his kazoo. That was the greatest anthem ever -- that or Whitney Houston."

And we understand there are many anthems played at the Olympics. So familiarity with them has to be an asset. But Candaele says he's blatantly patriotic in other ways, too.

"I haven't been to see that movie, 'The Patriot,' yet," he said. "But I plan on going to see it a whole bunch of times if they want me to."

He also claims he has a drum at home. Which is about as patriotic as it gets.

"Isn't a drum that thing you can keep a lot of liquid in?" he said. "I have one of those. And I have a fife. In fact, I have fife of them."

OK, we need the committee to ignore that fife-and-drum stuff, too. We can testify that Candaele proved his historical acumen by successfully naming five presidents, complete with middle initial. And he has a full complement of red, white and blue attire.

"I have a T-shirt," he said. "That's white. I have some red socks. And I have some blue underwear. All my attire is close to the skin."

In other words, he can just about feel that patriotism in his bones. He even vows he would cry on the podium during the gold-medal ceremony, as all medal winners are required by law to do.

"I'm taking acting lessons," he said. "So that would be a good test."

Candaele said he also could help out the Olympic cause by participating in other sports if necessary.

"Let's see," he said. "What would a good event be for a short, slow 39-year-old guy? I could maybe shine the batons for the relay teams. That would be valuable."

And that's not all. Candaele envisions himself helping the cause in numerous other events. Such as:

  • Swimming: "I could do the breast stroke," he said. "I could anchor the medley team. If they got a big enough lead, I think I could hold them off. What I do is actually a form of the doggie paddle, but it's pretty good. If they got up by, say, a couple lengths of the pool and I only had to go one length, I could bring it home. I'd even shave my head. Or maybe I could even go bald by that time. Things happen quickly when you age, you know."

  • Greco-Roman wrestling: "I've been watching a lot of wrestling on TV, so I think I could handle that. You know, all that Olympic wrestling stuff? That's fake. The stuff on TV -- that's the stuff that's real. They stage all that stuff at the Olympics. I'm pretty sure I heard that someplace."

  • Pole vault: "I think I could be good at that. I'm light. So I'd get some good spring. Actually, if I could do the pole vault over the high-jump bar, that would be good."

    Hmmm. Maybe he'd better stick to shining those batons. But overall, Candaele has more to offer than he's often given credit for. After all, he's managed to stay employed all these years, right?

    "How could they not need a guy who doesn't have any talent, that they could look at and make fun of and stuff?" he said. "I could do that. You've got to have some kind of gimmick when you're a small guy with no talent and no speed, and you can't, hit, run or throw. But I'd be a good clubhouse presence."

    Exactly. Leadership is what it's all about here. And who better to lead our Olympians than a man who once hit the shortest home run in the history of Montreal's historic Olympic Stadium? (First seat behind the right-field foul pole.)

    "Of course, I'd bring leadership," Candaele said. "I could tell guys how to take 4-o'clock-in-the-morning flights to different places, then get up and take a 14-hour bus ride. I could tell them how to live in a hotel properly, or what to pack for certain-number-of-day road trips. They could talk to me before they left for Australia, and I could tell them what to pack.

    "For that trip, you don't even need a suitcase. It's not that long. It's in a beachy area, right? So what do you need? A uniform and swim trunks. What more do you need than that? OK, maybe a Foster's or two to bring to the Australians so they like you when you get over there. That's about it."

    But even though he'd mostly be walking around in his bathing suit with a beer, Candaele swears he wouldn't cause an international incident or anything.

    "Oh, no," he said. "I'd be on my best behavior. After I handed out my Foster's, I'd go right back to my room. Or I'd go see things. Whenever I got off the field, I'd go see some sights, maybe go surfing. Hey, is that a competition in the Olympics? Then I'd probably go out to dinner, talk to people. It would be nice talk, too -- fun, happy talk. Just chit-chat about their job, how they're doing, how beautiful Australia is, how much fun I'm having. I'd be real diplomatic."

    Candaele may have a reputation for having extensive fun over the years. But he says he has no skeletons in his closet whatsoever.

    "I wouldn't have any problems there," he said. "Oh, you know, there might be some little things I did when I was a kid. But I don't think anybody would remember those. I can't think of anything that would be a problem. Then again, isn't memory the first thing to go? That and hair. And within a month, I should have lost both of them."

    So all in all, he's just about the perfect Olympian. He could be to our Olympic hereos what, say, Rudy was to Notre Dame football. So the Casey Candaele campaign is officially in progress. Can that plane ticket to Sydney be far behind?

    (Don't answer that.)

    Mile high mystery pitcher of the week
    If it takes courage for a real pitcher to pitch at Coors Field, then what does it take for a position player to pitch at Coors Field?

    No, the correct answer is not: A court order. The correct answer would be: Guts, fortitude and, of course, desperation -- possibly not in that order. And for living proof, we cite the heroic tale of Frankie Menechino, trusty middle infielder for those resourceful Oakland A's.

    Tuesday in Denver, Menechino was Oakland's final pitcher in an 18-3 loss to the Rockies. He got summoned by manager Art Howe with two on and no outs in the eighth, after reliever T.J. Mathews developed a blister. What followed wasn't exactly Pedro-like -- but then again, when's the last time Pedro volunteered to work in Denver?

    Menechino became just the second position player ever to pitch at Coors. (Gary Gaetti, who miraculously twirled a shutout inning, was the first, on July 24, 1998.) And as great claims to fame go, "that's pretty good," Menechino said. "No question."

    It would have been better without all those baserunners, naturally. But you've got to take these claims to fame however they come along -- especially because this one fell under the category of Careful What You Wish For.

    "I'd been telling Art all week: 'Say, if you need some innings, I can throw,' " Menechino reported. "I wouldn't call it lobbying. I was just kind of kidding around. But then I was just hanging out at shortstop, and T.J. got hurt and he pointed at me. And I said, 'ME?' But then I was like, 'OK, what are the rules again?' "

    That would be 60 feet, 6 inches, three strikes you're out, and keep your foot on the rubber. Menechino did fine with all that. It was just that lack of atmospheric pressure he was having difficulty with.

    He said it was his master plan to throw all knuckleballs -- "but then I threw a couple, and they didn't move at all. I said, 'Uh-oh.' Then I threw a couple of curveballs and they barely broke. So I knew I was in trouble."

    Actually, he was in trouble when the plane landed in Denver. He just didn't know it yet.

    When he entered this game, the score was 12-3. Next thing he knew, he'd faced seven hitters, and it was 18-3 with still just one out. But fortunately, he got Butch Huskey to hit an inning-ending double play. So his final line looked like this:

    1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2 more runs charged to Mathews, 1 HR to Todd Walker.

    Best we can tell, Menechino was the first position player to give up six hits in an inning since Braves shortstop Whitey Wietelmann did it in in a 24-2 loss to the Cubs on July 3, 1945. But Menechino chalked up half of those hits to "three chinks."

    "Bobby Chouinard (who was pitching for Colorado at the time) got his first major-league hit off me," Menechino reported. "He gets on first, and I hear, 'Time out. Give me the ball.' I didn't know what was going on. They said, 'First hit.' I said, 'Come on, you can't count this. You're not gonna take this, are you?' It shouldn't count. Check the rules on that."

    Menechino claimed he did "throw one by Todd Helton." But he later conceded: "Well, he fouled it off" (and then doubled).

    Our hero also complained that the Rockies were actually trying to get hits off him. No fair on that.

    "They didn't want to make outs against me," he said. "You could tell. They were taking pitches. They were geared up."

    So Frankie Menechino emerged from this adventure with a 36.00 ERA. But, hey, that's about an average ERA at Coors Field. What's important here is not the numbers. It's that he pitched at all -- in a ballpark that could have made Rafael Belliard look like Sammy Sosa. Now, we think, he deserves an opportunity to show what he can really do -- at sea level.

    "Yeah, I've got to get one more chance," he said. "Get my ERA down. Do my Nomo impression. I've got a great one. But I forgot to do it. I got a little flustered."

    So don't touch that mouse. Coming right up (or possibly not): Menechino does Nomo at a sea-level ballfield near you. Followed by a heavy dose of knuckleballs.

    Rockie road of the week
    While we're on the subject of those amazing Colorado Rockies, what a week they had. All right. So we say that every week. But this time for sure. Their week included:

    A brawl with the Reds. A losing streak that hit 11 games. An insane day-night doubleheader Monday featuring 40 runs, 70 baserunners in 19 innings, 21 runs scored from the seventh inning on, more lead changes than the Lakers-Pacers series (OK, only seven), five straight half-innings in Game 2 in which a team blew a lead and a 3-hour, 55-minute second game of a day-nighter. Which was followed by an 18-3 game the next day.

    To recap all that, we bring in our official Coors correspondent, Rockies coach-humorist Rich Donnelly.

  • Donnelly on that doubleheader: "Everybody pitched but the coaches."

  • Donnelly on Menechino: "I like his delivery. Compact. Worked quick. Didn't walk anybody. What's his ERA now -- 36.00? That's probably lower than a lot of guys have at Coors Field."

  • And Donnelly on having to play an 18-3 game the afternoon after that doubleheader: "They should have a rule for days like that. After seven innings, you can have a coach pitch. If you're going to put a position player out there, it's the same thing. So put the screen up and let the coaches throw. You know, they pop it up once in a while, even against us."

    Ballet company of the week
    Normally, the best compliment you can pay a middle infielder is to say he has great hands. But what do we do about Robbie Alomar and Omar Vizquel, baseball's Bolshoi division over in Cleveland?

    How can you say they have great hands -- when they don't even use their hands?

    Not the bare ones, anyway. Three times in three games against Houston this week, Alomar and Vizquel started double plays by flipping the ball to second base with their gloves. The last time leather was put to this good a use, it was for the invention of the wallet.

    At one point Tuesday, Alomar and Vizquel turned four double plays in five innings. Which resulted in the first curtain call for a double play in the history of ovations.

    "You know what that was?" observed Astros broadcast-witticist Jim Deshaies. "That was the Harlem Globetrotters -- and we were the Washington Generals."

    Now we suppose there might be some purists out there complaining that Alomar and Vizquel don't play by the book. But Deshaies counters: "They use two hands on every double play -- just one for each guy."

    The only problem we see with being this spectacular is there's nowhere to go from here. Maybe they ought to try wearing gloves on both hands.

    "Put them out there with ping-pong paddles," Deshaies proposed. "Looks like they're bored with the whole glove thing."

    Wild pitches
    Box score line of the week
    The last thing anyone wants to do is become a perennial winner of this award. But Oakland's Mark Mulder now has won it for the second time in three starts -- a Jaime Navarro-esque ratio. His line Tuesday in Colorado: 4 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, in an 18-3 loss that led to the pitching debut of Menechino.

    That vicious Coors Field now has been the home of four of the 14 games this year in which starters gave up double-digit runs. So A's manager Art Howe announced afterward: "You can throw this one right out. They even hit Frankie today."

    Yogi-ism of the week
    When the Tigers visited the Bronx this week, the great Yogi Berra popped in to see Tigers manager Phil Garner. Asked afterward if Berra had delivered any Yogi-isms, Garner reported the following instant classic, on the subject of Joe DiMaggio:

    "He said, 'Joe was very graceful. He always had that 'goat' when he was running."

    Uh, that would be "gait." It was the grounds crew that had the goat.

    Burglar of the week
    He was the only player in America with 3,000 career at-bats and exactly ONE career stolen base. He was once told by his college coach: "My staff feels you're maybe the slowest teenager in America." And it took him nine years just to steal his first base, after which his friend, Larry Walker, wondered: "What -- did the catcher go blind or something?"

    So fine. Maybe Blue Jays catcher Darrin Fletcher isn't exactly Maurice Greene. But just because he hadn't stolen a base since July 18, 1997, it didn't mean he'd never steal another one. So in the 1,000th game of his career, on July 9 in Montreal (the scene of his only other stolen base), Fletcher took off on a delayed steal. And made it.

    "That's kind of like Halley's Comet," Fletcher said. "If you miss that, you won't see another one for another 75 years."

    Injuries of the week
  • Cardinals reliever Mike Matthews broke his hand Saturday -- punching the still-undefeated dugout wall. He's now on the disabled list.

    "You hate to kick a guy when he's down," said manager Tony La Russa. "But that was dumb."

  • Oakland manager Art Howe pulled a hamstring Thursday -- racing out of the dugout to argue a call by plate umpire Chuck Meriwether.

    "I was looking for the sniper," Howe said.

    Trade of the week
    When Hal Morris got traded from the Reds to the Tigers on Tuesday, he didn't need to consult his travel agent to figure out how to join his new team. Thanks to the miracle of interleague play, he just had to walk down the hall of Comerica Park.

    Morris started his evening in a Reds uniform, getting scratched from the lineup just before game time. Then he was sitting in the dugout in the middle of the game when he was told he had a phone call from GM Jim Bowden. Bowden informed him he'd been traded. So Morris headed for the Reds' clubhouse, where he was told by pitcher Pete Harnisch: "Go over there and pinch-hit."

    That would have been illegal, actually, since Morris had started the night as a Red. But he did attend a sixth-inning press conference announcing his acquisition by the Tigers -- while wearing a uniform of the team they were playing. He then finished the night hanging out in the Tigers' clubhouse. Talk about your confusing trades ... "Hal came up to me about the fifth inning and said, 'I'll see you,' " said Reds manager Jack McKeon. "I said, 'Well, who's team are you on?' He said, 'I'm not sure.' "

    Insider of the week
    We've heard of some unlikely home runs. But Tuesday in San Diego, Ruben Rivera hit one he'll never forget. Two outs in the ninth. Nobody on. Two strikes, no balls. His team trailing by a run (2-1). And a man at the plate who had struck out in 22 of his previous 40 at-bats.

    Then Rivera sliced a ball off the right-field wall. Angels rightfielder Orlando Palmeiro slipped. And Rivera circled the bases for a game-tying inside-the-parker.

    The bad news is that the Padres still wound up losing in extra innings. The good news is that Rivera was believed to be just the eighth man ever to hit a game-tying inside-the-parker for a team down to its last out -- and the first, according to SABR's David Vincent, since Lee Lacy, on Aug. 3, 1978.

    "There's always hope," teammate Trevor Hoffman told the San Diego Union Tribune's Tom Krasovic. "That's what makes baseball what it is."


    Debut of the week
    How out of control are the Cardinals? They've called up four position players from Memphis this year. The first, Larry Sutton, hit a home run in his third at-bat. The second, Keith McDonald, homered in his first career at-bat. The third, Eduardo Perez, hit a home run in his fifth at-bat. Then along came the latest call-up, Chris Richard, to upstage them all -- he homered Monday on the first PITCH of his career.

    McDonald, who had just become the second player in history to homer in the first two at-bats of his career, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Rick Hummel that he'd dispensed the same advice to Richard that minor-league hitting instructor Todd Steverson had given him. Which was: "Anything you see above the knees, swing as hard as you can."

    But McDonald said he didn't pass along any advice about how to homer in his second at-bat, too.

    "Can't be sharing all my secrets," McDonald said.

    Collision of the week
    Another guy who had a thunderous debut this week was Phillies catcher Gary Bennett. In his first game since being recalled from Scranton, Cubs outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. steamrolled him in a collision at the plate. But despite being belted flat on his back, Bennett held onto the ball for an out -- and a Web Gem nomination.

    The next day, Bennett told the Bucks County (Pa.) Courier Times' Randy Miller that his wife, Ruby -- seven months pregnant -- saw the replay on TV. "She covered her stomach," Bennett said, "and said, 'Don't look at that.' "

    Blubbermouth of the week
    One more debut note: Quotes just don't get any cooler than Australian pitcher Cam Cairncross' reaction this week to being called up by the Indians, nine years after his professional debut.

    "I could have blubbered," he said.

    Hall of Fame invitee of the week
    Finally, this fitting note for Hall of Fame weekend: Pete Rose continues to be left out of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's (and ESPN.com's) Jim Caple found one Hall of Fame Rose can get into.

    We just regret to report it's the Cockroach Hall of Fame, located in the back of a pest-control supply store in Plano, Texas.

    "We could easily put him in," said Michael Bohdan, curator of the Cockroach Hall. "If someone could get a cockroach and glue a picture of his face on it and put a miniature baseball bat next to it, we would put him right in, no problem."

    Trivia answer
    Ken Griffey Jr. (Mariners), Mark McGwire (Athletics), Sammy Sosa (Cubs), Cal Ripken (Orioles), Frank Thomas (White Sox), Juan Gonzalez (Rangers).

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

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