Around The League -- Twins Mourn Cesar Tovar

MINNEAPOLIS - A moment of silence was observed in Cesar Tovar's memory before last night's Minnesota Twins-Milwaukee game in the Metrodome.

Cesar Tovar, who became one of the most popular Twins during his career in Minnesota from 1965-1972, died in a hospital in his native Caracas, Venezuela, yesterday. He was 54.

The cause of death was pancreatic cancer, said Miguel Flores, a Venezuelean television broadcaster and a Milwaukee Brewers area scout.

"I can't believe this," said Calvin Griffith, former owner of the Twins. "Tovar is one of the most likeable people you'd ever want to be around. He was smiles and fun all the time."

Rod Carew, a close friend of Tovar's when the two played for Minnesota, was shocked when he heard the news.

"Oh no," said Carew, now California's batting coach, when informed before the Angels-Baltimore game last night. "He was a good friend. Him, me and (Tony) Oliva were really close. We did a lot of things together. We went to the park together, ate together. Both of them were like big brothers. They both helped me a lot."

Carew said the last time he saw Tovar was at an old-timers game in Minnesota a few years ago.

"Cesar was a good man," Carew said. "He played hard. He was like our spark plug. He would always take one for the team."

The Twins acquired Tovar from the Cincinnati organization in exchange for pitcher Gerry Arrigo on Dec. 4, 1964, and Tovar became probably the best utilityman in Twins history. He was honored as the most valuable Twin in 1968 and as the most improved Twin in 1970 and 1971. He led the AL in hits with 204 in 1971.

On Sept. 22, 1968, Tovar became only the second player in history, after Oakland's Bert Campaneris, to play all nine positions in a major league game. He was the starting pitcher against the A's that day in Metropolitan Stadium and struck out Reggie Jackson on three pitches.

After pitching the first, Tovar went on to catch, play first base, second base, shortstop, third base, left field, center field and right field for one inning each.

The Twins traded Tovar to Philadelphia for Joe Lis, Ken Reynolds and Ken Sanders on Nov. 30, 1972. He played in Philadelphia for one year, went to Texas in 1974 and then to Oakland in 1975 before finishing his career with the Yankees in 1976.

In 12 seasons and 1,488 games, Tovar batted .278 with 46 home runs, 435 runs batted in and 226 stolen bases.

Born on July 3, 1940, in Caracus, Venezuela, Tovar spent the past five seasons coaching first base for Lara in the Venezuelan winter leagues.


-- Kansas City released outfielder Hubie Brooks, who possibly ends a 14-year, 1,645-game career without making a postseason appearance.

A lifetime .269 hitter who spent most of his career in the National League, Brooks had 14 hits in 61 at-bats for the Royals this season after making the team as a non-roster invitee.

Brooks declined to speak with reporters after getting the word before last night's Detroit-Kansas City game.

-- Thomas Howard started in left field for Cincinnati in place of Kevin Mitchell, who started the second half of the season by missing a flight from his home in San Diego, where he spent the All-Star break.

Mitchell arrived during the game, pinch-hit in the eighth and walked.

-- Reliever Johnny Ruffin apologized to Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott and fans after pleading no contest in a Florida court to a charge of attempted sexual battery.

"I apologize to Mrs. Schott, the entire Reds organization and to the fans of Cincinnati for the disappointment and embarrassment this regrettable incident has caused," Ruffin said in a statement released by the Reds.

Ruffin, 22, was arrested in January in Sarasota, Fla., after a woman told police that he had sexually assaulted her in his room at a downtown motel.

Ruffin pitched the eighth inning of last night's game against the Chicago Cubs. He gave up a run on three consecutive singles before retiring the side with the bases loaded. -- California traded left-handed reliever Jerry Nielsen to the Chicago White Sox for Class AA pitcher Dean Locklear. Nielsen yielded an 8.03 ERA in 10 games with the Angels last season, and this year was 1-2 with a 7.65 ERA at double-A Midland.

-- Jeff Conine, the Florida Marlins' lone representative at the All-Star game, was the only National League position player not to appear in the game.

"I was truly just happy to be there," Conine said. "Maybe it meant a little less not to play, but (manager Jim) Fregosi told us all before the game that he might have to keep somebody back in case the game went into extra innings. That just happened to be me."

-- Derek Bell of San Diego withdrew his appeal of a five-game suspension for his part in the bench-clearing brawl on April 30 against Montreal. Bell was suspended for charging Montreal pitcher Pedro Martinez after Martinez nearly hit Bell in the face with a pitch.

Bell began serving his suspension on July 9. He will be eligible to play July 17.