The Denver Picayune

Bears Gear Up for
Stretch Run

'It's us against the world,'
says Coach Agard

Milo Bloom
Picayune staff writer

It's only virtual mid-July, but the Denver Bears are gearing up for their first ever stretch drive for the Panhandle Western Division Crown.

The Bears are tied for first place with a 48-38 record, but they are anything but happy. Their recent nine-game losing streak cost them a chance to put distance between them and their closest pursuers, perennial contenders Burlingame and the upstart Belmont Ravens.

The Bears have been the most inconsistent team in the newly realigned Panhandle Western Division. After stumbling out of the gate with a 6-14 start, The Bears went on a 36-12 tear, led by the entire pitching staff, which had a 2.83 team ERA during the streak, and timely, if streaky, hitting by the high-salaried Bear offense, particularly third baseman Ken Keltner. After this came the awful losing streak, when the entire team seemed to collapse.

Team manager Tom Austin Jr. seemed unruffled by the bumpy path his team had taken so far. A cerebral manager in the Tony LaRussa mold, Austin says he expects ups and downs in a long season. "Statistics don't lie," Austin said as he perused spreadsheets on his computer screen. "According to my charts, the Bears have the best LX/QR ratio in the league. What's more, our IP/R/TSIP ratio has been improving since May."

Many baseball insiders questioned the hiring of Austin as manager, citing his lack of on-field experience. Austin has no organized baseball playing experience. When questioned about his qualifications, he huffed, "I have read a lot of baseball books." So far, it appears that he was reading the right books.

If Austin is the brains behind the Bears' surprising success, it is clear that third base coach Ken Agard is the team's emotional center. Many credit Agard's Thanksgiving outburst, when he upended the postgame meal table and send a roast turkey flying into first baseman Don Mincher's lap, with triggering the team's turnaround. More recently, he held a closed-door meeting with the players after the team had lost nine games in a row. "He told us we were a bunch of lollygaggers," said pitcher Pablo Torrealba. "Que es 'lollygagger'?" he asked nearby pitcher Sarge Connally.

Coach Agard walked into Austin's office and popped open a beer. "What a bunch of lollygaggers," the burly coach groused as he pounded some Bud. "They get a little winning streak going and they think they're (expletive deleted) Babe Ruth." Agard continued, "you're one of those #$%*&* reporter types, aren't you? Goldang New York writers. You're probably just like that Zminda guy. All he does is rip us. First he ignores us when we're burning up the league, then he jumps all over us when we stumble a little. I tell ya, all you press types are out to get us."

It is rumored around the Panhandle League that Agard is interviewing for managing jobs. While he has more experience than Austin, his major league experience is unclear. He claims to have spent time with the Minnesota Twins of the Killebrew/Oliva era, but no records can be found.

Bears Ownership Situation Unclear

When crusty Denver liquor tycoon Thomas Austin Sr. bought the defunct Portland Smoked Salmon and moved them here to Denver, local fans were not sure what to expect. Austin began with a complete housecleaning, firing the entire Portland front-office staff (some of whom are still unaccounted for) and releasing all of the players on the roster. Austin intimates say that reflects his brass-knuckled style, which he developed in the liquor, import-export, and gambling industries. "'Tommy the Animal' has left more than a few dead bodies in his climb to the top," said one anonymous source, as he entered the Federal Witness Protection program building on Federal Way.

Others paint a different picture of the aging patriarch of the Austin "Family." Austin, 89, is rarely seen in public these days. Most of his public statements are made through his fourth wife, Candy. The former Candy Hotcakes, 22, is a former Las Vegas showgirl and porn star who is now, she says, "totally in love with my Tommy." Others within the Austin empire hint at darker ambitions for the former dancer. These sources hint that Candy is plotting to take over the team and replace whiz kid General Manager Tom Austin III, 31. Speculation continues that she plans to move the team into the STATS Fantasy Football league because "I like their cute butts in those uniforms they wear."

Denver Picayune,
second edition

Denver Picayune,
third edition

Copyright ©1998 by Tom Austin

Last updated 5/1/98
Gregg Pearlman,

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