Those hop-skip-and-jump baseball managers

"In today, out tomorrow" a good motto in the cleaning business, comes close to describing the tenure of today's major league baseball manager. The New York Times discovered that since 1970 American League managers have averaged only 1. 93 years on the job, National Leaguers 2.7.

This period has seen only one manager stay put, Baltimore's Earl Weaver. By contrast, Billy Martin has hopped from Detroit to Texas, New York, and now to Oakland.

Though the A's, Yankees, and Angels always seem to be breaking in new managers, keeping track of who's in the Texas dugout may be the league's hardest assignment. The Rangers have had nine managers since moving to Texas from Washington in 1972.

There's a saying that managers are hired to be fired. They are convenient scapegoats in a game where strategy decisions are easily second-guessed. Making their jobs all the more precarious are impatient owners, who shell out incredible sums for free agents and expect instant results.

Ousted managers, however, are frequently rehired by other clubs. A dozen current managers have previous big league experience. The managing fraternity has been compared to the Supreme Court by California pitcher Dave LaRoche, who says, "It's tough to get in, but once you're there, you've got a job for life -- somewhere."

Jim Fregosi, John Goryl, and Maury Wills have been dumped so far this year, Fregosi by California, Goryl by Minnesota, and Wills by Seattle, all before the strike. 'Safe' at first

Collisions at first base may not happen often, but they do occur, even at the highest levels of play. Convinced they could be avoided, Jim Hendrickson and Charles Fuller have invented the "Safe Base," a double-size bag that's half white and half bright orange. The first baseman tags the white portion in fair territory, the baserunner the orange in foul territory.

"We decided if we made a base rectangular instead of square, the first baseman would have 225 square inches and the runner 225 square inches," explains Fuller, who, with Hendrickson, was cocerned about youngsters being banged up in youth leagues. "The base isn't any closer or further from home plate than it was."

If in taking the throw, the first baseman only touches the orange, the runner is safe. In cases where the fielder touches both parts, the runner is out. When the runner is rounding first on an extra base hit, he may touch either half , and once safely on first, only uses the white half.

The Safe Base helps runners avoid collisions not only with first basemen, but also with pitchers covering the bag.

The Amateur Softball Association used the Safe Base at this year's National Sports Festival, and American Legion baseball teams have tried it out.

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