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Tiant hits Oregon trail; Tiant off to Oregon; BASEBALL

For many years Luis Tiant entertained American League fans with his corkscrew pitching delivery and general flamboyance. Because of a high Latin voice, he was jokingly dubbed "the toughest right-handed soprano in baseball." If El Tiante appears in the majors at all during the coming season, it's likely to be in the uniform of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

After an 8-9 record in 1980, the New York Yankees failed to tender him a new contract, opening the door for the Portland (Ore.) Beavers, a minor-league affiliate of the Pirates, to sign him. The 40-year-old hurler could earn a spot on the Pirate roster in spring training.

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There's more than a bit of deja vu here since Tiant earned his first trip to the majors in 1964 by pitching well at Portland. Before that, he had left his native Cuba to collect $150 a week playing for the Mexico City Tigers, moving on to the US minors after three years.

When called up to the Cleveland Indians, he capitalized on a live fastball to produce several good seasons before a shoulder injury contributed to his demise. From 21-9 in 1968 he plummeted to 9-20, making the Indians only too happy to deal him to Minnesota in 1970. The Twins released him after one season, whereupon he caught on with the Red Sox farm system, ultimately to become a legendary figure in Boston's Fenway Park. A highlight of this "second" career was a long-awaited reunion with his father during the memorable 1975 World Series, when he won two games.

To the disgust of Boston fans, who loved chanting "Loo-ee, Loo-ee" as he went into his Twist-o-Flex windup, Tiant was signed by the hated Yankees in 1978 as a free agent. After 17 major-league seasons, he has a 225-167 record.

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