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Friday, July 28
A sauerkraut with an attitude

He makes Jose Lima look like Pedro Martinez. He makes Anthony Young look like Cy Young You think David Cone has had a tough year? He's been Randy Johnson compared to the losingest baseball figure of the year 2000. By which we mean:

The one ... the only ... Sauerkraut Saul.

Curt Schilling has won 15 games or more in four different seasons. Can you name the nine active right-handers with more 15-win seasons than that?

(Answer at bottom)

Normally, it isn't easy for a pirogi to become a legend -- especially an inedible pirogi (a stuffed pastry). And in the beginning, Sauerkraut Saul's only purpose in life was to dress up in a pirogi suit and run in the daily pirogi race at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium.

But then something amazing happened. Something mesmerizing. Something that's almost impossible, in any competitive endeavor.

After 46 races, Sauerkraut Saul had a record that made Terry Felton look like Old Hoss Radbourne:


Some racers have a tough time getting out of the blocks. Saul couldn't even get out of the package.

"Look, you've gotta understand what we're made of -- potatoes and cheese, and you're fried," Saul alibied, in an exclusive interview with Week in Review. "Then you've got that sauerkraut on top. We're not exactly on the Richard Simmons athletic diet here. So I'm already carrying those extra pounds of potatoes and cheese. You try and run around and keep that inside you. It's tough to keep down. I'll tell you that."

Of course, his fellow pirogis -- Chester Cheese and Potato Pete -- weren't exactly Bo Jackson themselves and they managed to win a few races. But that's not important now.

What's important is that last weekend, on a historic Saturday night, as the nation's pirogi fans watched, Sauerkraut Saul burst out of the zip-lock, took the lead and broke his storied losing streak. What a moment. The crowd might still be roaring.

"I think the fans were more excited about Saul winning than the Pirates winning," reliever Jason Christiansen told the Beaver County Times' John Perrotto.

Sauerkraut Saul
Sauerkraut Saul was heading to his first victory on July 8 when his effort was thwarted by masked men from the bulllpen.

But no one in Pittsburgh area was more worked up about this development than Saul himself.

Asked how it felt as he motored toward that finish line, Saul -- who sounds suspiciously like Pirates media-relations assistant Ben Bouma -- got all poetic.

"I grew up in Pittsburgh," he waxed. "I saw Franco Harris. I saw Omar Moreno. I got to see some good runners growing up. I just pictured myself running like Franco Harris after his Immaculate Reception."

Right. Sure he did. And come to think of it, Sauerkraut Saul winning a race might be more miraculous than the Immaculate Reception.

"It's like Prairie View or Northwestern football," Saul said. "They've all got to end sometime."

But unlike Jose Lima, who at least had other people to turn to for guidance, Saul was a lonely figure in all those defeats.

"I'm sure Lima's probably called Anthony Young on the phone to get some advice from him, but you can't compare him to me," Saul said. "It's apples and oranges. There aren't many pirogis I can call and say, 'I've lost 46 in a row. Can you help me?' And it's tough to call people and say, 'This is Sauerkraut Saul.' All they do is laugh for 10 minutes."

But beneath Saul's humble exterior, Pirates observers were beginning to tire of Saul's cocky demeanor, even in the face of that 0-46 streak. You would think a winless pirogi would worry about being sent down the garbage disposal and replaced by a more competitive food product. But to watch Saul strut around, you'd have thought he was 46-0.

"Much as people might wish there were, there ain't no minor league for pirogis," Saul said. "I've looked around the streets of Pittsburgh, and there's no pirogi to take my spot. So there's no pressure. They've got them sausages out in Milwaukee and them planes flying around Shea. But there are no pirogis out there that can put me out of business."

It might have been just that sort of egomania that caused Saul's most controversial moment of the season. Two weeks ago, he actually took out ads in the local papers, guaranteeing a win. And he almost did -- but just before he got to the finish line, he was tackled by a mysterious figure.

Asked about that night, Saul's voice veritably trembled.

"Yeah, well, I was watching ESPN Classic one night, and I saw a clip of Joe Namath when he made his guarantee about the Super Bowl," he said. "So I made my own guarantee. But let's just say that some guys around here didn't want me to win. Maybe they had money on the race and they thought they were a shoe-in. It's those hooligans in the bullpen who did me in."

Those hooligans denied all, naturally. But Saul took no chances. He confessed he had since hired his own personal security guards to make sure there were no more shenanigans. But amazingly, now that he's finally remembered how to win, he somehow has forgotten how to lose. Through Thursday, he had, incredibly, won five in a row -- using his patented "bowling-ball technique."

"I figured I might be on the cover of Sports Illustrated," Saul grumbled. "But I lost out to Refrigerator Perry -- speaking of someone who is full of fatty potatoes and cheese. I wouldn't have minded losing out to Tiger Woods, but Refrigerator Perry? Come on. I'm in better shape than he is."

Well, he might not be a magazine cover boy (or is that cover hors d'oeuvre?), but Saul still ranks as possibly the most inspiring pirogi of all time. Nevertheless, he was wary of giving advice to the young pirogis out there who now look at him as an icon.

"I don't want to pull a Charles Barkley here," Saul said "But if they're looking at me to be their hero, they should choose a new career path. Oh, it's better than being on somebody's plate. But my advice would be: Stay in school. Don't do drugs. And don't become a racing pirogi.

"And that's a statement that's probably never been said before in history."

Olympian of the week
When last we left you, only a week ago, we had just launched our campaign to get baseball's funniest mighty mite, Casey Candaele, a last-minute slot on the Olympic baseball team. But in case you missed it, let's replay Candaele's campaign speech:

"How could they not need a short guy who doesn't have any talent," Candaele intoned, "that they could look at and make fun of and stuff?"

Hoo boy. Just based on that sentence alone, we can see it's clearly going to take more than a mere campaign speech to get a 5-foot-9, 39-year-old utility guy from the Atlantic League to Sydney.

So this week, we went right to the top. We took our campaign to former Angels GM Bill Bavasi, co-chairman (along with Bob Watson) of Team USA.

Asked if there were any chance that Candaele was the kind of guy the Olympic committee was looking for, Bavasi didn't sound as if he was ready to put our man's face inside the Olympic rings.

"No," he replied, way too succinctly. "I'd love to tell you he is ... but no."

Nothing personal, Bavasi promised.

"Hey, I tried to get him a few times in the minor leagues," he said. "And most of the time, it was because I knew he was hilarious. If this was 10 years ago, and I was a farm director, it would be a different story. As a farm director, I had two things that were high priorities -- five tools ... and a player who makes the farm director laugh.

"But the problem is, this is the Olympics. We've got national pride at stake. This isn't the Midland Angels."

Yes, but national pride is almost Casey Candaele's middle name. Remember, he even promised to shine the batons for the relay team.

"Sorry," Bavasi said. "We don't have any batons. He might be able to shine the shoes in the clubhouse. But personally, I think he's above that."

We pointed out all of Candaele's other fine qualities, which are way too numerous to be listed here. How, for instance, could this team not want a guy who spent the best years of his career playing in a ballpark known as Olympic Stadium?

"Uh, that's in Montreal's Olympic Stadium," Bavasi pointed out. "Basically, you can say what you want, but this guy's not playing on the Olympic team."

Now this may have sounded like a turn-down to most folks. But being the dogged reporters we are around here, we try not to take no for an answer. So we did our best to wear Bavasi down.

Sure enough, at one point, he promised to e-mail Watson in Australia to pass along our nomination. And Candaele told Week in Review he was impressed by that, "but since Bob Watson's the GM who didn't sign me back in Houston when I was a free agent, I don't think that's gonna help much."

But then Bavasi left one very tiny opening, not knowing our Candaele for Sydney campaign would jump through it faster than Edwin Moses.

"If he could just turn back the clock," Bavasi said, sympathetically. "And you know what? I wouldn't put it past him."

And well he shouldn't -- because we tracked down Candaele in the clubhouse of the Nashua (N.H.) Pride. He revealed that he does indeed have a clock, right there next to his bed.

"Think I could turn it back 10 years?" he wondered. "How many times around is that? I'm gonna have to get the Pythagorean theorem out and figure that out. That would be patriotic, wouldn't it? Pythagorus -- the guy who invented that theorem -- wasn't he American? Maybe I could turn the clock back far enough that I would be able to meet him."

There you go. Now we're onto something. If you start turning the clock back, why stop at 10 years?

"Exactly," Candaele said. "I'd turn it back farther than that. I'd want to meet all the great men in history, so I could start having patriotic discussions with them. Maybe I could meet the guys who signed the Declaration of Independence and maybe sneak my name in there.

"Yeah, that's my plan -- to sign the Declaration of Independence so I could prove I'm patriotic. How could they turn down a guy who signed the Declaration of Independence if he wanted to be on the Olympic team?"

Now this, we thought at first, was a foolproof plan -- way more foolproof than shining those batons. But then we thought for a second. And we realized, sadly, that Thomas Jefferson never once made an Olympic team. So maybe this isn't so foolproof after all.

"I don't know," Candaele said. "I remember talking about this just the other day. 'All men are created equal -- and they are endowed by their creator with the inalienable right to play on the Olympic team.' That was an addendum I wanted to put in there and they wouldn't let me. That would have done it, too."

Yeah, that probably would have done it. But if Candaele can just turn back that clock far enough in the next week, there's still time -- because the Olympic team won't be named until Aug. 23. So the Candaele for Sydney campaign marches on. And by next week, we can see it marching straight into that Pacific Ocean.

Rain men of the week
In the picturesque city of Seattle, they've spent three decades being denied one of baseball's greatest traditions -- the good old-fashioned rain delay.

But just to prove what kind of visionary people they are in the Great Northwest, they made a conscious decision to eliminate that tradition on purpose. They threw a roof on top of the Kingdome. Then, in an attempt to keep up with modern-day ceiling technology, they upgraded to a spectacular, state-of-the-art $100-million retractable roof on their new $517-million palace, Safeco Field.

And so, even in a city that averages 144 days a year of H2O dropping out of the sky, there was one thing you could always count on: If the Mariners were scheduled to play a baseball game, they were going to play it, darn it. Continuously. From start to finish.

Unless there was an earthquake.

Or the National Tile Service predicted there was a 75 percent chance of ceiling-tile showers.

OK, so once in a while, other stuff happened. But rain delays? Never a problem.

Until last weekend.

In the third inning of a July 22 game against Texas, it was time for something completely different. Rain began falling through the open roof. And falling. And falling.

The normal procedure here is for the roof to close when that rain falls. Hence, the term: retractable. But this time, the roof had other ideas. So after a prolonged wait for the roof to get unstuck, the umpires finally stopped play -- and Seattle had its first official rain delay since Sept. 12, 1969, when a Seattle Pilots game at old Sicks Stadium had to shut down.

This one even lasted 54 old-fashioned minutes, too, thanks to what was described, in terminology all Washingtonians could relate to, as "a computer glitch."

Of course, any time those Seattle Pilots make the news -- which is still, somehow, with amazing frequency -- we call in the ultimate Seattle Pilot, Jim Bouton. And he said he could describe this "nostalgic moment" in two words:

"Seattle Pilot-onian."

"That's truly Seattle Pilot-onian," Bouton said. "Their roof wouldn't close. Our toilets didn't flush. Very similar."

Asked what he recalled about the roof at old Sicks Stadium, Bouton reminisced: "It was very high -- very, very high. And mostly cloudy."

And much like the roof at Safeco, that roof had trouble closing, as well.

"It mostly opened up -- a lot," Bouton said. "We had more than our share of rain. But it didn't stop us. We lost in rain or in shine. It didn't matter what the weather was."

On days when the roof was blue, though, there was nothing better than hanging out at Sicks Stadium remembered Bouton with distinct fondness.

"The great thing," he said, "was that on a really nice day, if you'd give up a home run, it would disappear into the right-field seats -- and you'd get a brief glimpse of Mount Rainier. It was beautiful. In fact, some people thought that was the reason we gave up so many home runs."

Back in the old days at Sicks, rain delays weren't a stop-the-presses event. So you would think the Pilots would have employed the most experienced grounds crew in baseball. Bouton had a different recollection.

"Actually, we were the grounds crew," he said. "The Pilots were pretty low-budget, you know. When we weren't warming up in the bullpen, we were rolling out the tarp."

B-dum, bum. (Cymbals, please.)

All right, so he made that up. The Pilots didn't really use players to double as the grounds crew -- "but it felt like it," Bouton said. "We were making grounds crew money."

Nowadays, Bouton is eagerly awaiting the September release of the millennium edition of "Ball Four -- the Final Pitch," complete with a 50-page epilog and a 120-player photo gallery. But in the meantime, he's just glad the folks in Seattle got to relive that rain-delay experience one more time.

"You know," he mused, "I wonder how many people sat there in the rain and said, 'This feels just like the Pilots.' "

Roofer of the week
We don't know about your household, but when something breaks in our household we don't get out our handy-dandy tool kit, putter around for the next 11 hours and fix it. No, we replace it. Much neater. Much simpler.

So now, being the socially responsible baseball column we are, we're going to help those Seattle Mariners address their little roof problem. Our advice to them: Replace that roof with a proven product.

So we've located a man who installs thousands of roofs every year in the Seattle metropolitan area -- and every one of them retracts.

He's Dave Hamack, the owner of one of the Seattle area's most successful dealers of automotive sunroofs, Hoglund's Top Shop, in nearby Everett, Wash.

Hamack is a big Mariners fan to begin with. So if they'd like him to install a giant sunroof on top of Safeco, he's all for it.

"Sure," he said. "I'd do it. Anything's possible, right? It's all money and time. We'd put a nice big power sunroof up there. It can open up, do whatever they want."

Well, one thing they'd certainly want is a roof that would take less than 54 minutes to open and close. So we asked Hamack how long it takes his retractable roofs to do that.

"Well, I'm driving in my truck right now," he said. "So let's see. ... About five seconds -- and it's all the way open. Just push the buttom, let go, and it closes right up. You don't even have to hold it down. It's a great system."

And it's not as if Hamack would install that roof, then never be heard from again. He promises all his customers they'll never have to worry about those pesky leaks or computer glitches for the rest of their lives -- if not longer.

"We guarantee our roofs forever," Hamack said. "Now I'm not going to say we never had a water problem, but in 11 years in the business, I can count them on one hand. And we take care of every one."

Great. Seems to us this is exactly the kind of product the Mariners are looking for.

"They need a roof that works," he said. "So I think one of our roofs would be perfect. Install one of these, so when the roof is closed, some light's coming in. We could put the biggest sunroof ever up there. It would be kind of like putting one on a Crown Victoria. It would be cool. It might be raining, but it would be sunny in there. Have them give me a call."

Sure will. But first, one more thing: Cost is always a consideration. So we'd need to know what a giant custom stadium-sized sunroof would cost, anyway.

"The most we ever charged would be about $1,500," Hamack said. "For this job, I'd say, oh, $125 million would probably cover it."

OK, sold. Now if he could just throw in a left fielder at no extra charge.

Wild pitches
Box score line of the week
Andy Benes, welcome to beautiful Enron Field, where you, too, can give up four home runs in a single inning. Benes' line last Sunday in Enron: 1 2/3 IP, 8 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 6 extra-base hits and 4 (count 'em) four homers in one inning.

Because Jose Lima had earlier this year had also allowed four home runs in an inning, Benes helped the Astros become the first team ever to hit four homers off one pitcher in one inning and also surrender four in an inning by one pitcher in the same season.

Also in this game, Benes and his brother Alan each allowed a home run to Lance Berkman. And the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR's David Vincent, reports that was just the third time in history that brothers gave up bombs to the same hitter in the same game. The others: Mike Schmidt off Rick and Paul Reuschel (April 17, 1976) and Rogers Hornsby off Jesse and Virgil Barnes (Sept. 24, 1922).

Benes' review of his day's work: "I'm not going to jump off a bridge or anything. The one thing I've realized after 11 years is, they pay both teams."

Cleanup hitter of the week
When you think of your prototype cleanup man, you think of Mark McGwire, of Albert Belle, of Mike Piazza. You don't think of 6-foot-tall, 183-pound shortstops with five home runs all season. But Tuesday, Tigers manager Phil Garner did indeed use that plucky Deivi Cruz as his No. 4 hitter -- for the first time in Cruz's 531-game big-league career.

Garner the Magnificent even predicted Cruz would drive in three runs, saying: "That's not a prediction. That's a fact."

Well, the bad news was, it wasn't a fact. Cruz only knocked in two. The good news was, the Tigers won by two runs, 6-4 over Tampa Bay.

Still, Garner deadpanned afterward: "I'm a little disappointed in him."

But Cruz told Booth Newspapers' Danny Knobler he could live with two RBI. "If I get two every game," he said, "maybe I'd get 300 in a season."

And we bet he could live with that, too. At any rate, through Thursday the Tigers were 1-0 with Cruz hitting cleanup and only 33-34 with Juan Gonzalez hitting cleanup. But the next night, Gonzalez came off the DL to displace Cruz in the cleanup slot. So Garner was asked if he had any predictions on how Gonzalez would do.

"No, no," he said. "You can't rush the Great Santini. I've got to get the aura."

And you have to admit: "I've got to get the aura," beats "No comment" any day.

Camper of the week
Royals catcher Gregg Zaun fulfilled a lifelong dream last weekend by sleeping in the clubhouse in Detroit, in between a night game Friday and a day-night doubleheader Saturday. You might look for the whole Royals team to try that soon because Zaun went out the next afternoon and drove in three runs in an 8-5 win over the Tigers.

Asked by the Kansas City Star's Dick Kaegel if the clubhouse campout was the secret to his success, Zaun replied: "All the bat bags were just a few feet from my head, you know."

Blowout of the week
It's never good to lose 17-7 in your own ballpark. But the Marlins might have set new franchise standards for ugliness in their 17-7 wipeout by Montreal last Saturday. They gave up 19 hits and seven walks, became the first team since the '98 Cubs to balk three times in one game, got their manager (John Boles) ejected and got almost as many balks (two) as innings (2 1/3) out of their starting pitcher (Reid Cornelius).

All that would have been rough enough. But Montreal scored those 17 runs in a game Lee Stevens, Vladimir Guerrero and Rondell White didn't even play in because of injuries. No problem. Andy Tracy stepped in for Stevens and drove in seven runs -- one more than he'd knocked in in his career before that.

"I hope they play Stevens, Guerrero and White tomorrow," Boles said. "It will alleviate some of the stress."

Pudge imitator of the week
They started the night with Pudge Rodriguez as their catcher. They ended it with Scott Sheldon as their catcher. That's what's known in the trade as a tough day at the office for the Texas Rangers.

Along the way to a 6-5 loss to Anaheim in 12 innings, the Rangers lost their MVP catcher for the year. And blew a 5-2 lead in the ninth. And scored the game-winning run in the 10th on a balk, only to have the call reversed. And then pinch-hit for their last catcher (Bill Haselman) and wound up with Sheldon (normally an infielder) catching for the first time ever in the big leagues.

Asked by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Jim Caple if he was disappointed when the Rangers called up a real backup catcher (B.J. Waszgis) the next day, Sheldon replied: "I tried to rally some troops to push for me, but the decision was already made -- and that notion was quickly squashed."

Tourists of the week
Who were those guys touring the Baseball Hall of Fame around midnight last Sunday night? It was the Cleveland Indians, just off the plane to take part in the next day's annual Hall of Fame game. So why would they go visit the Hall at that absurd hour?

"If you're not going to be in it," said Dave Burba, "you might as well go see it."

Coors blight of the week
This week's Coors Field special took place last Sunday, when the Padres and Rockies hooked up for two games in one. Pedro Astacio took a no-hitter into the seventh and a 2-0 lead into the eighth. Then, naturally, the two teams took turns scoring in five consecutive half-innings.

The Padres eventually won it 6-4 with a two-run 10th. And both runs scored after they had two outs and nobody on. Then Eric Owens chopped an infield single off the plate. And Ryan Klesko smoked a game-winning home run that was last seen heading for Colorado Springs.

"Perfect," Owens told the San Diego Union-Tribune's Bill Center. "The shortest hit you can get followed by the longest."

Dominator of the week
How do we explain the fact that David Wells is now 17-3 lifetime against the Cleveland Indians -- and 7-0 against them the last three seasons? The Akron Beacon Journal's Sheldon Ocker posed that question to Omar Vizquel.

"It's his goatee," Vizquel quipped. "It's scary."

Cam Cairncross quote of the week
Time once again to check in on our favorite Australian relief pitcher -- Cam Cairncross, of the Indians.

In this week's adventure, we find Cairncross throwing two pitches to Toronto's Darrin Fletcher that he thought was strikes -- but weren?t called strikes. (He still got Fletcher to pop up the 2-0 pitch.)

"I?ve got to learn the umpires," Cairncross said afterward. "I thought I threw two pretty good pitches, and I look up and it?s 2-0. It's a little bit different than blooming Double-A ball."

Ah, but Australian relief pitchers are always in bloom, mate.

Outskirters of the week
Tigers catcher Brad Ausmus told reporters last week he thought the Tigers had arrived at the "outskirts" of the wild-card race. So he was then asked where, exactly, those outskirts were located.

"Travers County," said Ausmus, who vacationed there during the All-Star break. "Five-hour ride -- with a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old in the back seat. But that's a lot better than where were in '96 and last year: In Lake Michigan, with no boat -- and our life preserver was about 40 yards away from us."

Trivia answer
Greg Maddux (12), Roger Clemens (9), Kevin Brown (6), Mike Mussina (6), Charles Nagy (6), Dwight Gooden (6), David Cone (5), John Smoltz (5) and Todd Stottlemyre (5).

Jayson Stark is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

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