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Sunday, June 19, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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10 moments in slump history

1. One of the great testaments to perseverance with regard to a slump involves Steve Blass, whose inexplicable loss of control ended his career and aligned his name permanently with the wild-throwing "disease" that would later afflict Mark Wohlers, Rick Ankiel and countless others. In his late 50s, Blass was treated by Dr. Richard Crowley, a psychologist who helped cure Steve Sax's throwing problems. By the end of the sessions, Crowley stood in against Blass, who threw 80 pitches and said later that 80 percent of them went where he wanted them to. Blass credits Crowley for being able to play catch with his grandchildren.

2. Mired in a deep slump as a minor-leaguer, Bobby Bonilla bought Charley Lau's book on hitting. That wasn't unusual, considering that Lau was the hitting guru of his day and a highly influential instructor. But Bonilla didn't read the book. He slipped it under his pillow at night, hoping to pick up Lau's hitting vibes by osmosis. "I have to admit it. I did it," Bonilla said years later.

3. Rick Dempsey, a former major-league catcher, once told his Baltimore manager, Earl Weaver, in the midst of a slump that every time he went to the plate, he looked at the defense and hit the ball right where they were standing.

Weaver told him, "Look at the holes, not the guys with the gloves on."

Dempsey reported that he began hitting immediately.

4. In May 2003, with the Florida Marlins mired in a terrible slump that had resulted in the firing of manager Jeff Torborg, backup catcher Mike Redmond decided it was time to shake up the team. Wearing just turf shoes, socks and batting gloves, Redmond headed to the indoor batting cage for a hitting session, au naturel. Word filtered back to the clubhouse, and eventually the whole team was watching in hysterics. The Marlins won the game 6-2, with Redmond getting two hits, which required him, of course, to do the same thing the next day — and thereafter, through what turned into a six-game winning streak.

Redmond resurrected his naked BP routine in Pittsburgh in August when the team went through another cold streak, and the Marlins finished the year 20-8, won a wild-card berth into the playoffs and went on to capture the World Series over the Yankees.

5. For proof that there's life after slumps, players should look no further than Joe DiMaggio in 1941. Stuck in one of the worst slumps of his career, a 20-game stretch in which he hit .184, DiMaggio got a single off White Sox pitcher Eddie Smith on May 15. Thus started the greatest hitting streak in history, which reached 56 games.

6. Another player who survived quite nicely from a debilitating slump was Willie Mays, who started his career 0 for 21 in 1951 and was so despondent he told manager Leo Durocher it might be best to send him back to the minors. But Durocher stuck with the rookie, who hit a homer off Warren Spahn to break the slide. Mays ended up being a key factor in the Giants' comeback to win the pennant.

7. Quite the opposite phenomenon befell the Giants' Mike Benjamin in 1995. A notoriously weak hitter, Benjamin miraculously exploded early in the season to go 14 for 18 in a three-game stretch — the major-league record for most hits over three games, good enough to raise his average to .447. But for Benjamin, it just delayed his customary slump. From June 19 through the end of the season, he went 20 for 135 (.148) and finished as a .229 career hitter.

8. One of the many revelations in Jose Canseco's recent book was a discussion of "slump-busters," a massively insensitive yet time-honored practice. As Canseco so quaintly described it, "Players who are struggling start talking about how they need to go out and find something to break their slump. And often enough it comes out something like this: "Oh my God, I'm 0 for 20. I'm going to get the ugliest girl I can find and have sex with her."

9. Legend has it that many a slumping minor-league team has been known to try the technique used by the fictional Crash Davis of "Bull Durham" fame. Crash and his teammates sneaked into the ballpark at night to engage the sprinkler system and flood the field, giving the team a night off for much-need bonding — with the accompaniment of adult beverages.

10. Maybe all this slump talk is much ado about nothing. Harry Roberts, a renowned mathematics professor at the University of Chicago, determined in 1987 that there's no such thing as a slump in baseball. Roberts compared the statistics of major-league players against the behavior of random numbers, and discovered that there was no shift from a string of hits to a string of outs more frequent among actual hitters than the random-number sequence.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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