Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Ron LeFlore: Hall of Famer? by Mike Faloon

When it comes to baseball predictions, I possess just enough knowledge to insure that nearly all of my prognostications are wrong. According to me ever-cloudy crystal ball, Darryl Strawberry was to lead a Dodgers resurgence in the early 90s. I once saw the future of pitching in the arms of Jose Rosado, Dustin Hermanson, and Steve Trachsel. I thought Randy Johnson was finished in 1998 and I still believe that Junior is going to break Hank Aaron’s home run record.

The lifelong tendency toward faulty forecasts began on August 22, 1981. My family was on vacation in Toronto and yielded to my pleas to attend a White Sox/Blue Jays game—my first major league game.

I have no memory of ChiSox lefty Britt Burns tossing a four-hit, 8-0 shutout that day. I don’t remember the home runs hit by Greg Luzinski and Chet Lemon. I don’t even recall the White Sox’ six-run eighth inning. But I do remember making my first ever baseball prediction.

I knew that neither my parents nor my brothers were excited about sitting in Exhibition Stadium that day. But, like a good Irish Catholic, I felt guilty about the prospect of being the only person having a good time. I began thinking of ways to pique my family’s interest in the game.

The home team was no help in this regard. Not only were the Blue Jays en route to their fifth straight last place finish but, because of the strike that year, the Jays managed to finish on the bottom twice in 1981.

Attempting to sway my brothers, I informed them that former Syracuse Chief, Greg “Boomer” Wells was in the line up! They shrugged.

I turned to my dad and put everything on the line my 12-year-old mind could muster.

“You know, we’re seeing three Hall of Famers today,” I proclaimed.

“Really,” replied my dad, playing along, “who are they?”

“Three of the White Sox; Carlton Fisk, Greg Luzinski, and Ron LeFlore. They’ll all be in Cooperstown some day.”

“Maybe they’ll visit Cooperstown some day, but there’s no way they’ll be Hall of Fame residents, son.”

That’s what my dad should have said, instead he took my prediction in stride, ruffled my hair, and said something like, “You think so, huh?”

And with that exchange my career of misguided predictions was underway. At least Carlton Fisk made the Hall of Fame, I got that one right. Greg Luzinski? The Bull had a couple more solid years in Chicago before hanging it up following the ’84 season. Pretty good lifetime numbers (307-HR, 1,128-RBI) but not enough to warrant serious consideration from the HOF committee.

And Ron LeFlore? He’s spent more time before decidedly non-HOF committees. His playing days ended in the middle of the 1982 season when the White Sox suspended him for drug problems. In September 1999, following closing ceremonies at Tiger Stadium, he was arrested for failing to pay child support.

I should make it clear that my on-going inaccuracy in no way hinders my desire to keep making predictions. In fact, if you want to know where the money isn’t for the coming season, then listen close: the Mets will get revenge for the ’73 Series, talking the A’s in six games.

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