Rookie Gregg Jefferies swinging hot bat for Mets in NL playoffs
Peter Pan has a seeing-eye bat and industrial-strength wrists, and is playing third base for the National League East champion New York Mets. You can watch him perform tonight when the Mets, tied at one victory apiece with the Los Angeles Dodgers, resume their best-of-seven playoff series at Shea Stadium. The fact is 21-year-old rookie Gregg Jefferies has a teen-age face that could have been borrowed from the movie ``American Graffiti.'' Put him in faded blue jeans and a T-shirt with a caricature of Mickey Mouse on the front and you'd swear he just walked out of a malt shop.
So far in this series, Jefferies leads both teams in batting with a .571 average. He has four hits in seven trips to the plate, including a double. New York manager Davey Johnson can't decide whether to call him into his office and praise him or buy him a lollipop and a balloon.
During one press conference, Jefferies referred to the Dodgers' 23-game winner Orel Hershiser, against whom he had just collected three hits, as ``Mr. Hershiser.'' Even the kids in Orel's neighborhood call him by his first name.
Putting a bat in Jefferies' hands is like sending Ben Franklin out with a kite and a key in a thunder storm. Basically, Gregg is what baseball calls a dandelion hitter. That is, he roots out opposing pitchers' best offerings and scatters them to all parts of the infield and outfield.
But this isn't to say that the switch-hitting Jefferies doesn't have good power. He hit six home runs in just 109 at-bats with the Mets after they recalled him from Tidewater on Aug. 27. Gregg was there to fill the roster hole left when second baseman Wally Backman went on the 15-day disabled list, but he wound up winning the regular third base job.
In fact, the National League named Jefferies its Player of the Week on Sept. 11 based on six games in which he hit .440 (11 for 25) with 8 runs scored, 2 doubles, one triple, 3 home runs, and 9 RBIs.