LOS ANGELES (AP) - Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has never been able to escape it - that famous Sports Illustrated cover shot of him taken during spring training 1978, just before he was to begin his rookie season with the Kansas City Royals.
``I'm 54 years old, the picture was taken when I was 20, and to this day I probably get one or two copies of that a week to get signed and returned,' said Hurdle, whose team was pounded 15-1 Sunday by the Los Angeles Dodgers on the 34th anniversary of his big league debut.
The words used to trumpet Hurdle's arrival - ``This Year's Phenom' - didn't help his transition into the big leagues. But he uses that experience - and the subsequent ribbing he went through from teammates and opponents - to keep the egos of his young players grounded - particularly the 11 players who made their big league debuts this season with the Pirates.
``I had a lot of self confidence at the time - and rightfully so - but it was a tremendous challenge coming up to the big leagues,' Hurdle recalled. ``I think over time it was more than I ever anticipated, but I didn't get caught up in it when I first saw the cover, and I didn't say: `I'm a phenom.' It is what it is, and it makes me smile because it takes me different places on different days.'
Hurdle doesn't have the cover hanging on the wall in his home or his office at PNC Park. But his parents do at their home in Viera, Fla.
Hurdle recalled his shock at being on the cover of the nation's top sports magazine. Photographer Hans Kluetmeier was assigned to shoot Hurdle and fellow Royals prospects Willie Wilson and Rich Gale, and snapped an inordinate amount of pictures without letting any of them know who is going to be on the cover.
``As I was going to the park one day, I went to the 7-11,' Hurdle said. ``In those days they had Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated on the counter. So I go get a Honeybun or a Twinkie and a thing of milk, and I put them on the counter. Then I look at the guy, he looks at me and then looks over there at the magazines. We both looked at the picture, then looked at each other, and then I just left my stuff and walked out. When I went to the park, there was like 40 of them everywhere you turned.'
In Hurdle's first big league game, he hit a two-run homer against Glenn Abbott in his second at-bat to help the Royals beat Seattle 8-5 at Kansas City. But he had a difficult time living up to the hype over the long haul. He ended up with 32 homers in 1,391 at_bats during a 515-game career that stretched from 1977 through 1987. That first season was particularly uncomfortable for him.
``There was some resentment in some areas,' Hurdle said. ``I mean, there was a guy with a month of major league time on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Little did I know how that would play out and the perception of it all, and it did add to something that wouldn't have been there without that. In fact, I got so much (grief) that George Brett really laid off. I think he was very understanding of the situation.'
And Hurdle tries to be understanding of his young players.
After consecutive games in which Pirates starters Jeff Locke and James McDonald each pitched three innings and allowed a combined total of eight runs, Brad Lincoln (1-3) lasted only 1 1-3 innings and was charged with six runs on eight hits - three of which were sharp singles through the box.
The Dodgers' run total tied a season high and equaled the most the Pirates have allowed. James Loney had his first five-hit game in the majors and Jerry Sands had four, including a home run to lead a 23-hit attack against eight Pittsburgh pitchers. Sands and Juan Rivera each had four RBIs and Loney drove in three. Matt Kemp had three hits, including his 34th homer, and had two RBIs to increase his career-high total to 113.
``We were challenged dramatically over the weekend. They shut our offense down and they beat us up with the bats,' said Hurdle, whose staff hasn't had a 1-2-3 inning in the last two games. ``To go that deep with the pitching, that's a struggle. We're not getting the length we need out of our starters, which has compounded some things.'
Chad Billingsley (11-10) allowed a run and four hits over five innings and struck out five. The right-hander was staked to an 11-0 lead through the first three innings and breezed to his first victory in eight starts since beating Arizona 7-4 on Aug. 5.
Lincoln, a 26-year-old left-hander making his seventh start for the Pirates this season, gave up hits to five of his first seven batters and threw 33 pitches in the first as the Dodgers took a 3-0 lead on Jamey Carroll's RBI groundout, Kemp's first-pitch homer to center field and Sands' RBI single.
The Dodgers increased the margin to 9-0 in the second. Kemp hit a two-out RBI single, Rivera chased Lincoln with another single, and Loney greeted Aaron Thompson with a two-run double just beyond the reach of center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Two batters later, Sands hit a first-pitch homer into the left-field pavilion.
Rivera made it 11-0 in the third with a two-run single against Chris Leroux, one of 18 pitchers the Pirates are carrying on their expanded roster. Two more runs scored on a routine flyball by Rivera that fell for a double between center fielder Alex Presley and right fielder Xavier Paul, each of whom thought the other was going to catch it.
``Everything about today was awful. You name it,' said second baseman Neil Walker, who was 0 for 4 and didn't hit a ball out of the infield. ``This is the same team that contended for the first four months. We look forward to going to Arizona and playing spoiler.'
Notes: The Pirates' run came on Paul's RBI double in the fifth. ... Hurdle was 0 for 13 lifetime at Dodger Stadium, the only ballpark in which he had at least four at_bats without getting a hit. ... Billingsley fanned Garrett Jones in the fourth for his 900th career strikeout. ... In Lincoln's only other start against the Dodgers, on Sept. 1 at Pittsburgh, he gave up three runs in the first and held them scoreless through his final five innings in a 6-4 loss. ... The Pirates, who have not won a season series against the Dodgers since 2000, lost this one 6-2. They will be the opponent in the Dodgers' home-opening series in 2012.
The Associated Press News Service
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