Charlie Kerfeld

Since you’ve arrived here, you probably remember at least a little about Kerfeld, one of the most colorful ballplayers of the late ’80s, kind of the John Daly of the Houston Astros. Here’s Charlie reacting to the death of Dave Smith, another Astros individualist, last year: “It brings back a ton of memories. Our lockers were right next to each other for all the years I was there. He was a great teammate. He always seemed to be able to take things in stride probably better than all of us.

“A California dude, that was what he was. He would relax and let things happen. It shakes you up a little bit. You realize how short life is and how you should enjoy every moment of it.

“He was probably one of the most giving people I ever met. He was probably known around the league as the best tipper around the league. (The news of his death) is a tough one. You ain’t supposed to go this early.”

Back in March 1986, in a spring profile of the guy who was about to become a minor sensation, the Houston Chronicle wrote:
“A quiet, nondescript bunch, the Astros have politely become baseball’s version of Holiday Inn. No surprises, no excitement. Fun? Not around here, and don’t you forget it.

Like the first wave of players who grew their hair long in the late 1960s, Kerfeld is a new breed of player. A child of the late ’70s, he thinks a song by Led Zeppelin qualifies as a golden oldie. First man on the moon? He was 6 years old when it happened. Where were you in ’62? Charlie was gleaming in his father’s eye.

In a sport where not much has changed in 30 years, especially the attitudes of the participants, a Charlie Kerfeld is viewed as a trailblazer.

But, in fact, all he is is just a 22-year-old kid acting like a 22-year-old kid. Kerfeld marches to the beat of a different drummer. The drummer, perhaps, of Oingo-Boingo or the B-52s or the Fat Boys, three of his favorite musical groups.

For recreation, Kerfeld has been known to step out for an evening of slam dancing, a ritual where partners bang each others’ heads. Ginger and Fred, it ain’t.

“I’ve seen a lot of guys like Charlie in my career,” said Nolan Ryan, a 19-year veteran, “but not many right-handers. I’ve seen a lot of left-handers like him, though.”

No one can be sure, but Kerfeld might be the first major-league player to wear a Jetsons’ T-shirt under his game jersey.

It’s just one in the Charlie Kerfeld line of spring ’86 undershirts.

“Let’s see, I brought the Jetsons, the Flintstones, Twisted Sister, AC/DC, the Go-Go’s, Devo and Twisted Brother.”

Twisted Brother?

“Yeah, that’s our own band,” said Kerfeld. “Some buddies from home (Carson City, Nev.,) and me.”

A real band?

“Naw, we play air instruments. I play lead air guitar. You know, the top dog.”

Oh, of course.

“I’m 22 years old, and my mother still hasn’t figured me out,” said Kerfeld. “I think she’s given up.

“People don’t understand that I’m the same person I was when I was 14 years old. Only thing is I got a lot bigger, then I got smaller.”

Everybody knows that Kerfeld, never a Don Knotts to start with, went Balloon City last summer. His weight went all the way up to 284 pounds, which, spread over even a 6-foot-7 body, was quite a load to haul.

“The first thing I want to say about last year is that I was embarrassed,” said Kerfeld. “I let myself go, and I had to pay for it.”

When Kerfeld was called up from the minors in July, he weighed about 280 pounds. He really had no idea why he was called up, nor did many of the Astros. They snickered at his weight, as did everyone else who saw him squeeze into a uniform.

Within 24 hours of his recall, Kerfeld was on the mound in a sold-out Shea Stadium, making his major-league debut. Before the night was over, New York hadn’t laughed so hard since “Funny Girl “debuted.

In the first game of a double-header, the Mets scored 16 runs – all of them unearned. Top that, Charlie. No problem.

In the second game, Kerfeld took the mound. Lenny Dykstra, the Mets’ leadoff batter, took one look at Kerfeld’s girth, and decided a drag bunt might work.

Dykstra bunted, Kerfeld fielded and dived for the runner. Only about four steps late, he ended up sprawled in the first base coach’s box.

Things only got worse for Kerfeld. He gave up five hits, eight walks and six runs in three innings. It was a rude awakening to Kerfeld that a sense of humor doesn’t retire hitters in the big leagues.

“I wasn’t even close to the plate,” said Kerfeld. “That was the worst I’ve ever pitched, including Little League. There was nothing else to do but build from that.”

Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 1:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

The Play-by-Play for Game 6 of the 1986 N.L. Championship Series

It’s available as a table in different forms elsewhere, but this is how the Houston Chronicle presented a summary of the Astros-Mets classic of 23 years ago:

Mets first – Knepper strikes out Wilson. Mitchell grounds to third. Hernandez takes a called third strike. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Astros first – Doran singles to center. Hatcher forces Doran, first base to shortstop. Garner doubles to left center field, scoring Hatcher. Davis singles to center, scoring Garner. Bass walks. Cruz singles to right, scoring Davis. Ashby misses suicide squeeze, Bass cut down between third and home. Ashby lines to short. Three runs, four hits, no errors, one left.

Mets second – Carter flies to right. Strawberry grounds to second. Knight grounds to third. No runs, no hits, no errors.

Astros second – Thon grounds first base to pitcher. Knepper takes a third strike. Doran grounds to third. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Mets third – Teufel grounds to short. Santana singles to center. Ojeda bunts, Santana forced at second. Wilson walks. Mitchell strikes out. No runs, one hit, no errors, two left.

Astros third – Hatcher grounds to short. Garner flies to center. Davis flies to left. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Mets fourth – Hernandez flies to center. Carter flies to right. Strawberry takes a called third strike. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Astros fourth – Bass and Cruz ground to pitcher. Ashby flies to left. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Mets fifth – Knight grounds to pitcher. Teufel grounds to third. Santana grounds to pitcher. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Astros fifth – Thon grounds to second. Knepper walks. Doran forces Knepper. Doran steals second. Hatcher beats out infield single to third, but Doran is tagged out after rounding third base. No runs, one hit, no errors, one left.

Mets sixth – Mazzilli bats for Ojeda and strikes out. Wilson grounds to third. Mitchell grounds to second. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Astros sixth – Aguilera pitching for New York. Garner strikes out. Davis doubles to left. Bass grounds to pitcher. Cruz grounds to third. No runs, one hit, no errors, none left.

Mets seventh – Hernandez grounds to second. Carter flies to center. Strawberry takes a called third strike. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Astros seventh – Ashby grounds to second. Thon lines to pitcher. Knepper flies to right. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Mets eighth – Knight grounds to short. Teufel singles to center. Santana hits into double play, shortstop to first. No runs, one hit, no errors, none left.

Astros eighth – Doran grounds to second. Hatcher grounds to third. Walling grounds to second. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Mets ninth – Dykstra triples to center. Wilson singles to right to score Dykstra. Mitchell grounds to third. Hernandez doubles to center, scoring Wilson. Smith replaces Knepper. Carter walks. Strawberry walks to load the bases. Knight hits sacrifice fly to right to score Hernandez. Carter and Strawberry advance one base. Backman pinch hits for Teufel and is walked intentionally. Heep pinch hits for Santana and strikes out. Three runs, three hits, no errors, three left.

Astros ninth – McDowell pitching for New York, Elster at shortstop, Backman at second base and Dykstra in center field with Wilson moving to left field. Davis grounds to third. Bass grounds to shortstop. Cruz flies to left. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Mets tenth – Dykstra flies to left. Wilson pops to short. Elster strikes out. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Astros tenth – Ashby grounds out, first base to pitcher. Reynolds bats for Thon and strikes out. Puhl bats for Smith and grounds out, pitcher to first. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Mets eleventh – Andersen pitching for Houston and Reynolds at shortstop. Hernandez grounds to shortstop. Carter walks. Strawberry pops to third. Knight strikes out. No runs, no hits, no errors, one left.

Astros eleventh – Doran grounds to short. Hatcher grounds to third. Walling grounds to pitcher. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Mets twelfth – Backman grounds to first, unassisted. McDowell grounds to second. Dykstra grounds to short. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Astros twelfth – Davis strikes out swinging. Bass singles to center, caught stealing. Cruz grounds to second. No runs, one hit, no errors.

Mets thirteenth – Wilson grounds to pitcher. Elster grounds to second. Hernandez lines to shortstop. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Astros thirteenth – Ashby flies to center. Reynolds grounds out, first base to pitcher. Pankovits hits for Andersen and grounds to third. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Mets fourteenth – Lopez pitching for Houston. Carter singles to right. Strawberry walks. Knight bunts but forces Carter at third base. Backman singles to right to score Strawberry. On Bass’ throw home, Knight and Backman advance to second and third. Johnson bats for McDowell and pops to catcher. Dykstra is walked intentionally. Wilson strikes out. One run, two hits, one error, three left.

Astros fourteenth – Orosco pitching for New York. Doran strikes out. Hatcher homers off left field foul pole. Walling grounds out, first base to pitcher. Davis pops to second. One run, one hit, no errors, none left.

Mets fifteenth – Elster pops to first. Hernandez takes a called third strike. Carter singles to center. Carter thrown out trying to advance on loose ball, catcher to shortstop. No runs, one hit, no errors, none left.

Astros fifteenth – Bass strikes out. Cruz strikes out. Ashby grounds to second. No runs, no hits, no errors, none left.

Mets sixteenth – Strawberry doubles to center. Knight singles to right to score Strawberry. Knight advances to second on throw home. Calhoun pitching. Knight takes third on wild pitch. Backman walks. Knight scores and Backman moves to second on wild pitch. Orosco sacrifices Backman to third. Dykstra singles to right to score Backman. Wilson hits into double play, second to short to first. Three runs, three hits, no errors, none left.

Astros sixteenth – Reynolds strikes out. Lopes bats for Calhoun and walks. Doran singles to center, Lopes to second. Hatcher singles to center to score Lopes, Doran to second. Walling forces Hatcher, first base to shortstop. Doran to third. Davis singles to center to score Doran. Walling to second. Bass strikes out.

Published in: on September 14, 2009 at 1:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Remembering Astros’ Closer and Surfer Dave Smith

Today’s news of the death of Dave Smith inspired a search for some more information on this man who was one of the higher-profile members of the late ’80s Astros. Back in 1986, Smith said of going to Poway High in Del Mar, near San Diego: “I’d get up early and I’d go to the beach. And then I’d go to school (Poway High) and then I’d go to the beach and then I’d go to (baseball) practice.” At San Diego State, Smith said: “Well, I was always late (for practice). I’d show up with a surfboard on top of my van and I’d be wearing a wet bathing suit, you know. And I’d stroll into the ballpark. I guess that ticked him off a little bit.”

Armen Keteyian, an infielder on the San Diego State team, said: “See, Smitty was always the first one to say, `Let’s party, boys.’ We’d get in his van. Dave’s van was like our mobile home. We’d take it everywhere the team would play. And we’d be at the first 7-Eleven or beer place we could find.

“One time, he and I were driving in his Z. He always had a nice car, you know. Anyway, we were driving down El Cajon Boulevard to some strip place. He comes around the block and pulls up behind two guys in a van. They don’t make their turn properly, so Smitty yells something and they come out of the van. I say, ‘Oh no, we’re gonna fight,’ but it gets broken up.

“So we keep driving, and to my left I see the van again, and they’ve got the doors open, and they’ve got guns. I say, ‘Dave, they’ve got guns.’ They took two shots and knocked out a tire on my side. I’m under the seat now, but Dave floors it.

“We get stopped by cops, who pull guns on us, too. We explained, and they ended up catching these guys. They had just robbed something. I had to go testify. So that’s what happened when you hung around with Smitty.”

Still in 1986, Smith said: “I’ve changed, but not completely. I’m no [Charlie] Kerfeld, but I’d like to think I still have some of my old qualities. I still surf.”

In 1989, a profile of Smith and his surfer buddy Tim Flannery had Smith saying: “I saw him a couple of times [during the 1981 strike] when I was surfing. It was weird. We didn’t go out together. We just ran into each other in the ocean. Not literally though. He’s goofy-footed, so he likes to take off to the left. I keep my left foot forward so I like to go right.”

Flannery said: “We bought a parcel of land together on the Hollister Ranch, north of Santa Barbara. It is very private, no telephones, no newspapers. Just coastal mountains and great surf. I took Smitty up there, and we went straight for the water. Smitty didn’t even look at the tract of land we were considering. After about an hour of great waves he asked, ‘Who do I write the check to and how much?”’

He added: “I think I’m the best on small waves. But with all due respect, when it gets too big, I stay on the beach. I know my limits. He doesn’t have any limits. Maybe he’s got more guts than I do, or maybe he’s just stupid. But, you know, that’s what makes him a great pitcher.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 119 other followers