IT HAPPENED in Kansas City, in 1982, after the A's played a game against the Royals.

As WFAN's Wayne Hagin - who called Oakland's games back then - tells the story, combative manager Billy Martin was waiting for pitcher Brian Kingman after he emerged from the hotel bar.

There was "constant friction" between the two men, Hagin wrote recently on a blog for the Mets flagship station's Web site. "Billy simply did not understand the cerebral Kingman and the two had knocked heads about his pitching style, effort and results."

On the night in question, Martin was ready for a fight. Hagin described the scene. Martin, wearing a black cowboy hat. The manager and his coaching staff "waiting like vultures" for Kingman to emerge. Martin making it clear that they were going to settle the issue right now.

Martin and four of his coaches stepped outside with Kingman. Five-on-one. The other coach stood at the door, making sure that no players tried to interfere.

There were several players in the lobby while all this was going on. Only one tried to help. When he got to the door, the coach said, "You don't want to get involved." The player didn't back off. If the manager had his coaches with him, then he insisted he should be there to support his teammate.

The player was the star of the team, Rickey Henderson.

Henderson is known for a lot of things. He was a character of the game - sometimes referring to himself in the third person - and played with a signature flair.

He also has more stolen bases than any player in history and might be the most proficient leadoff hitter ever. For that, he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame next month.

But nothing he accomplished on the field is as impressive as the gumption he showed that long-ago night in Kansas City when he stood up to Billy Martin and his coaches simply because he thought it was the right thing to do.

The hot corner

* White Sox general manager Kenny Williams sounds as if he could be close to staging a fire sale. "If this team doesn't pick it up at some point, I'm going to have to do some things that maybe aren't the most popular but are in the best interests of the club," he said. "Those things are a little ways away. We've still got some time to right the ship. But if we don't, hey, it is what it is." Williams' comments could resonate down on Citizens Bank Way. Two teams the Phillies have been shadowing recently are the White Sox and Blue Jays.

*One reason for the Padres not to trade Jake Peavy, says general manager Kevin Towers, is the impact it could have on attendance. "For fans to see [their favorite players] go elsewhere is kind of a kick in the gut to them," he said.

Around the bases

* Oakland's Jason Giambi eats yams before every game, according to the San Jose Mercury News, a habit he says he picked up when he and Alex Rodriguez were Yankees teammates. "It not only fuels you, but makes you feel kind of light," Giambi said.

* Pirates first-base coach Perry Hill is unhappy about being ejected for arguing a call Tuesday, insisting that he did or said nothing to deserve being tossed. "It's ridiculous. It's uncalled for," he grumbled. "They expect you to be an unemotional cigar-store Indian."

* The Marlins faced four Cy Young winners (Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum, Randy Johnson and Chris Carpenter) in five games recently and should see Roy Halladay and John Smoltz in the next week.

On deck

CHEERS:

For Braves manager Bobby Cox, who is the fourth manager in baseball history (joining Connie Mack, John McGraw and Walter Alston) to win 2,000 games with the same team.

Cox, typically, shrugged. "All it means is you're getting old, you've been around for a long time," he said. "I've been lucky. We've always had good players."

Modesty is nice, but Chipper Jones was a lot closer to the mark. "Just another notch in his Hall of Fame belt," the third baseman said. "He's the best there is."

JEERS:

To Pirates relievers Sean Burnett and Jesse Chavez. After centerfielder Nate McLouth was traded to the Braves last week, the two pitchers constructed a tribute to him in the clubhouse, including a lit candle, a picture of McLouth and his No. 13.

Part of the problem here is that it sends a terrible message to top prospect Andrew McCutcheon, who was called up to take McLouth's place. Beyond that, baseball is a sport in which service time is a key stat.

Bucs general manager Neal Huntington had it right when he said: "The veteran players, they were going to feel that way. The younger players, they probably need to do something in the game before they pop off."

BY THE NUMBERS:

8: Wins for 42-year-old Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who appears on track to make the All-Star Game for the first time in his career. "It's huge," he said. "Just add it to the list of things that you can say you accomplished in your career."

40: Players used by the Indians already this year, including 22 pitchers. Both are major league highs, according to Stats LLC.

67: Days for the Nationals to reach agreement with first overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg, and his tenacious agent Scott Boras, before losing their claim on the San Diego State pitcher.

UP NEXT:

Sometimes life isn't fair. Sometimes baseball isn't, either.

Since Manny Ramirez was suspended on May 7, Juan Pierre has stepped into leftfield and batted .360 with a .424 on-base percentage. "Without Juan doing what he's been doing, there's no question we wouldn't be sitting where we are now," said Joe Torre, manager of the first-place Dodgers.

But when Ramirez is reinstated, he added, Pierre will go back to being the fourth outfielder. Torre did say he would try to get him a couple of starts a week. That's thoughtful, but Pierre would probably appreciate a trade more ... and this hot streak may mean there will be a market for him that didn't exist last offseason.

Weeklings

QUOTES of the week:

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, on a big game by teammate Laynce Nix: "It's great to have a guy in leftfield who can not only hit the ball, but catch the ball, too."

Nationals leftfielder Adam Dunn, who last year played the same position for Cincinnati, on the obvious reference to himself: "Nice, real nice. Brandon has to let it go. I'm not there anymore. Let me go."

BOOKSTORE NOTE OF THE WEEK:

Mark "Frog" Carfagno once was as well known as any grounds-crew member in baseball. He participated in skits with the Phanatic, he appeared in the team's commercials. Then, in 2004, he was let go.

He says he still doesn't know why. But he has written a book about his experiences, good and bad. "Hardball & Hardship" is a raw but touching account of growing up in Philadelphia, full of his insights on a variety of topics, including why Dick Allen should be in the Hall of Fame.

Carfagno will be signing the book at 2 p.m. June 20 at Jimmy Mac's Tavern in Drexel Hill.

It's also available at www.frogcarfagno.com.

SURPRISE DEFENSE WITNESS OF THE WEEK:

The person least upset by the surprising trade that sent Nate McLouth, presented as a cornerstone of the Pirates' future last winter, to Atlanta might just be McLouth himself. In fact, he defended the Pittsburgh organization from charges that the deal proves the front office doesn't care about winning.

"I'm convinced they want to put a winning team on the field or I wouldn't have signed the [3-year, $15.75 million] contract," he said. "I understand why they did it. They feel like they can help their organization by acquiring three prospects and they have a real good young player [Andrew McCutcheon] to plug into my spot."

UGLY GAME OF THE WEEK:

The Indians' Dominican Summer League team lost to the White Sox' team, 22-17, last Sunday.

The Indians made six errors. Their pitchers walked 10, had three wild pitches and hit five batters. And the whole fiasco lasted 4 hours, 20 minutes.

That couldn't have been easy to watch.

Finally

Remember several years ago when Terry Francona, then the Phillies' manager, was ridiculed for not playing third baseman Scott Rolen on a day when the giveaway item was a Rolen T-shirt?

Well, it was Brian McCann Bat Day last Sunday in Atlanta. Oops. Manager Bobby Cox had chosen that day to give McCann a rest. "Maybe he'll get the game-winner off the bench," Cox suggested when the situation was pointed out to him.

Wouldn't you know? McCann entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth with the Braves trailing Milwaukee by two. And his RBI double helped ignite a three-run rally that gave Atlanta the win.