There are many strange and horrifying moments in baseball, but few compare with picking up the newspaper and seeing that The Wacky One is back in town.
It’s enough to make you double-lock your door. Which I did. Immediately. Not that it matters. If Joaquin Andujar really wants you, he won’t let a little thing like a door stand in the way.
Who’s your favorite knucklehead? Oh, yes. The Wackster. Andujar. The self-professed “One Tough Dominican.” Surely you remember his performance for St. Louis in the 1985 World Series? Trashed the seventh game? Went after an umpire? Screamed unmentionables in two languages? They were holding him back that night, as if he were a berserk gorilla in need of a tranquilizer dart. It was hide tide for the Wacky One.
But things went sour. He was traded to Oakland, where good and decent men such as Al Davis and Dave Kingman have tried to make a buck. A fitting spot, I thought. But Joaquin was not a happy camper. At least not when we chatted last year. Did I say chat? Actually, I just stood there while he challenged four teammates to “kiss my bleeping bleep” and then one of them grabbed a bat and .
I made a quick exit that day. How much fun can one man stand? But now the A’s were back in town. One year later. Go ahead, I figured. Just keep your hands and feet away from his mouth.
And there he was, suddenly, in front of me, in the visitors’ clubhouse, pulling on those lemon yellow socks. He looked the same: the angry eyes, the jutting jaw. I approached quietly. With this breed, it’s best to let them establish the tone.
“You a bleeping sports writer?” he began.
See what I mean? Bleeps come fast and furious
“Lemme ask you something,” he continued, without pause, “How come when I pitch good, it is never in the bleeping newspaper? I pitch good the other night in Boston, I call my wife in Oakland, she can’t find no bleeping story nowhere! If I pitch horsebleep, it’s on the front page! How come my wife can’t find no story?”
I explained that I was from Detroit, not Oakland, so I doubted his wife saw my paper.
“You got friends in Oakland?” he replied.
Uh-oh, I thought suddenly. This was a bad idea. The beast is unreasonable. And next thing I knew, he was on his feet, yelling, the “bleeps” coming fast and furious. And then I noticed his teammate, Dennis Eckersley, staring on in disbelief. Bad flashback. Last year. The guy with the bat. Stay calm, I figured. Remember where the exits are.
“You poor bleep,” Eckersley interrupted, laughing at The Wacky One,
“you’re making a mill and a half a year, and your’re complaining?”
“Go bleep yourself,” said Andujar.
“You got a lot of bleeping nerve.”
“Bleep you. You ain’t bleep.”
“You want a part of me?”
“I want a part of you. I take three of you.”
Make a run for it, I figured. Now! Before they find three bodies! Then Andujar grinned. “We’re only bleeping around.” I looked at Eckersley. He was not smiling.
“Anyhow, next year I am retiring,” Andujar said, changing the subject. “I just gonna go home to the Dominican Republic. I am a free agent, but today a free agent have to take a lot of bleep and kiss a lot of bleep. And I don’t kiss no bleep and I don’t take no bleep.”
“What will you do?” I asked.
“I gonna work with kids at my sports camp.”
That’s it, I figured. Joaquin has gone bye-bye. Reggie enters the picture
“Look,” he said. He pulled out a satchel, and removed some photos of children. “I buy the uniforms. I pay for the field. Nobody write about it, of course, because they just write bad things.”
I looked at the picture. The kids were definitely from the Dominican Republic. But I noticed they were wearing red caps with the letters “JA” on the front.
“Joaquin Andujars” he said proudly.
My god. A whole team of them.
The rest is blurry. A teammate interrupted and said: “Man, you ain’t retiring. You’re just waiting to go back to the National League.”
At which point Reggie Jackson, the one and only, walked over and pointed to a poster that showed the American League’s dominance in World Series play. Andujar scowled.
“What the bleep you trying to tell me?”
Jackson just whispered: “American League.”
“Bleep you,” said Andujar. “I don’t need your bleeping bleep. Stick it in your bleep. . . .”
So much for the pictures. And so much for me. Jackson and Andujar? No thanks. For all I know, there’s no clubhouse left this morning.
But what the heck. I had done my job. I had given him his annual checkup, and it’s good to know certain things don’t change. Our favorite knucklehead? He’s still as popular as ever. He still wears the green and yellow cap with the big “A” on the front.
And we still know what it stands for.