CINCINNATI -- His mother, Irene, is a factory worker, and his father, Fred, is a welder. Braves reliever Mark Wohlers knew growing up that holding down a regular job would be something he would have to do his entire adult life.
He washed dishes at age 14, at an Italian restaurant called Mel's, moved up to busboy, squirted condiments at a Subway shop. When the Major League Baseball Players Association went on strike, Wohlers found a job at a automobile body shop. Pay: $10 an hour.
"I think when I first started working there the other guys there thought I was going to be some hot shot, not really pulling my load," Wohlers said. "Maybe the first time they saw me standing in a dump, trying to cram the trash down to make more room, they realized I would be OK."
Wohlers would arrive at the shop in Suwanee, Ga., at 7 a.m. and have the coffee waiting when co-workers began filing in at 8 a.m. He went from trash-mashing to sweeping the shop to buffing car bodies, preparing them for a paint job.
"I got a lot better at it," he said. "I know when I went there, the other guys thought I was going to be a walking advertisement. But they knew after awhile that I was there to work."
Wohlers said he had a pretty good idea of how the other employees felt about the players' strike. "But I got to talking to them," he said, laughing, "and after awhile they all supported the players."
How much help?
The speed game played by the Cincinnati Reds really doesn't mean much without a few clutch hits. But Reds manager Davey Johnson thinks his club managed to rattle Atlanta starter Tom Glavine with its speed in Game 1.
"There were times when we affected Glavine's rhythm with our base runners," said Johnson. "A good example of that was when he hit [Hal] Morris with a pitch. You could tell he was rushing his delivery a bit."
However, Greg Maddux, Atlanta's starter tonight in Game 3, disagreed strongly: "Like it really helped them. That's bull. Our staff has held runners all year. Nothing they do on the bases is going to matter how we pitch."
Mortal in playoffs
Maddux is on his way to an unprecedented fourth straight Cy Young Award, but he has been a mere mortal in the playoffs.
The same pitcher who went 19-2 this year with a 1.63 ERA entered the 1995 postseason with a 1-2 record and 8.10 ERA. In Game 1 against Colorado in the first round last week, he got a no-decision by allowing nine hits, three earned runs and two walks in seven innings. In Game 4, he allowed 10 hits and four earned runs but got the victory.
Maddux explains it by looking at the total number of appearances in relation to the numbers they have produced.
"In the playoffs, things happen in such a short period of time that you have guys hitting .500, but the stats don't really mean that much," he said.
"I'm going to go out there and pitch my game, locate the fastball and get ahead in the count. I thought I pitched well against Philly and Colorado and I'm not going to worry tomorrow about whether I gave up a grand slam to Will Clark in the playoffs eight years ago or any of that stuff."
Remembering the start
Reds shortstop Barry Larkin remembers another stretch when Cincinnati couldn't get a clutch hit. "We started the season 0-6," he said. "This is exactly like that. We've had opportunity after opportunity. We just haven't executed.". . . . The main headline on the Cincinnati Enquirer's sports section yesterday morning: "Better pass dog hair." That is reference to owner Marge Schott's superstitious belief that rubbing dog hair from her late St. Bernard, Schottzie, against the players will bring them good luck.
Atlanta Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds
(Braves lead series, 2-0)
Day Site/Result Time
Game 1 Braves, 2-1, 11 inn.
Game 2 Braves, 6-2, 10 inn.
Tonight at Atlanta 8:07
Tomorrow at Atlanta 7:07
Sunday* at Atlanta 7:07
Tuesday* at Cincinnati 8:07
Wednesday* at Cincinnati 8:07
! * -- If necessary