Fernando Tatis--who else?--hits two bases-full blasts in one
It's entirely fitting that the man who had the greatest inning
in history isn't one of the game's gods but a 5'10" third
baseman who made his lone previous mark on baseball with
peroxide. Say hello to the Cardinals' Fernando Tatis, the only
player to hit two grand slams in the same inning.
In basketball only a Wilt Chamberlain, never a Tom Boerwinkle,
could score 100 points in a game. Baseball's record book is far
more democratic. So what if 4,777 slams had been hit before last
Friday without two coming from the same man in the same inning.
Such a feat was unlikely, sure, but anyone might do it.
Tatis was delighted by his accomplishment and the acclaim it
brought. "That's what every baseball player is looking for, to
be famous," he said. "I think my name is going to be famous."
Infamy is what awaits the Dodgers' Chan Ho Park, who served up
both salamis to become only the second pitcher after Whoa Bill
Phillips to give up two slams in the same inning. (The woeful
Whoa Bill did it 109 years ago, when relief pitching had hardly
been invented.) Park threw 49 pitches to 13 batters in that
historic third while an overworked L.A. bullpen was being held
out as long as possible. With none out, Tatis, slamless in 2,424
professional at bats, walloped a 2-and-0 fastball 450 feet into
the Dodgers' bullpen for his first home run. He double-Parked
with two out by driving a 3-and-2 slider into the leftfield
Mark McGwire, the National League's active career grand slam
leader with 11, made both bases-full blasts possible, first with
a single to rightfield to load the bases for Tatis's opening shot
and then with a pop-up to right to leave them full for Tatis's
second smash. Tatis was hitting cleanup only because of an injury
to Eric Davis, who shares the National League record for grand
slams in a month (three) with Mike Piazza.
Until last Friday the 24-year-old Tatis had been known, if at
all, for his bottle-blond 'do of last season, which he has
replaced this year with a subdued orange streak. The Rangers
signed Tatis in 1992 out of a tryout camp in San Pedro de
Macoris in the Dominican Republic after he had hit line drives
from both sides of the plate. He was a natural hitter, the son
of a former infielder and coach in the Astros organization who,
after a crisis in his second marriage, fled the DR when Fernando
Jr. was very young. "I thought Fernando [Jr.] was a better
hitter than Sammy Sosa," says Omar Minaya, who scouted both
players for Texas. "Sammy had more power, but Fernando always
looked like he'd be a .300 hitter."
Tatis, whom the Rangers made an exclusively righthanded hitter
to ease his transition to the U.S. and professional baseball,
reached the big leagues in 1997. One day in August of that year
Minaya pulled him out of the batting cage before a game and
said, "We found your father. Are you ready to talk with your
dad?" The father had been living a remade life in Florida. He
had married once again--to a relation of Hank Aaron's. Father
and son were soon reunited in Texas.
Last July 31 the Rangers traded Tatis and pitcher Darren Oliver
to St. Louis for pitcher Todd Stottlemyre and shortstop Royce
Clayton for short-term results. Tatis had hit .264 with 11 home
runs in 155 games with Texas. It was a win-now, pay-later
transaction, just as when the Rangers gave up Sosa, then 20, in
a 1989 deadline deal. That year, Texas finished fourth. Last
season, the Rangers won their division.
It's too early to know if Tatis will join the likes of Sosa,
Jeff Bagwell and John Smoltz as ghosts of late-season trades
past that haunt the organizations that first let them go. Having
just made a name for himself, Tatis can now go about carving out
a career. He followed his slams with three straight whiffs,
which gave him 17 in 16 games. He added another, solo, home run
last Saturday night and led the Cards in homers (seven), RBIs
(21) and runs (17) through Sunday.
It's clear that Tatis understands the randomness of the baseball
universe. He actually disagreed when someone suggested his
record would never be broken. "Baseball's a crazy game," Tatis
said. "Anything can happen."
Understudies Get the Call
STEPPING IN AND STEPPING UP
Three weeks ago journeyman second baseman Pat Kelly was set to
call it a career. He had been released by the Cardinals on April
4, and with no clubs calling, he made plans to move to
Australia, where his wife, Rebecca, was born. Then, on April 10
and April 15, Blue Jays second basemen Homer Bush and Craig
Grebeck went on the disabled list, and Toronto started riffling
Rolodexes for Kelly's number.
Kelly, 31, signed on for his second stint with the Blue Jays--he
played 80 games at their Triple A Syracuse affiliate in
1998--and has plugged the infield hole. In 10 games through
Sunday, Kelly, a career .248 hitter who's never hit more than
seven homers in a season, was batting .300 with three dingers.
With him in the lineup, Toronto had won seven straight and
vaulted into the American League East lead before getting swept
by the Yankees last weekend.
Kelly is one of several scrap heapers who have kept their teams
afloat by subbing ably for injured stars. Here are three others
who deserve recognition:
--Andy Sheets, SS, Angels. Acquired in a spring deal with the
Padres, Sheets--who had never played every-day in his three-year
career--hasn't missed a game while subbing for Gary DiSarcina,
who's out until July with a broken arm. A utility infielder last
year, Sheets, 27, has played solidly at short and, with a .246
average and four RBIs through Sunday, has helped fill the void
left by the Angels' injured sluggers.
--Todd Pratt, C, Mets. When Mike Piazza returned to action on
Sunday, New York was in first place in the National League East,
just as it was on April 9, the day he sprained his knee. Pratt,
32, who three years ago was working in a pizza parlor, hit .320
with 11 RBIs in the 13 games Piazza missed; he also guided the
Mets' staff to a league-low 3.64 ERA.
--Glenallen Hill, LF, Cubs. Hill, 34, started the season as
Chicago's fourth outfielder, but when Henry Rodriguez pulled a
rib cage muscle on April 10, he took over in left and went on a
tear. A career .269 hitter, Hill batted .556 and smashed four
homers in his first five games--overshadowing Sammy Sosa's
punchless start. Had he had the minimum plate appearances
through Sunday, Hill's .444 average would have been tops in the
Barry Bonds Injured
GIANT SHOES TO FILL
What was the reaction in the Giants' clubhouse on April 20, when
the players learned that leftfielder Barry Bonds would miss more
than two months following surgery to repair a damaged left
triceps and to remove a bone spur in his left elbow? "Honestly,"
said one San Francisco player, "I don't think too many people in
here give a s---." Honesty being the theme, it must be said that
Bonds, a three-time National League MVP with a notorious
me-me-me rep, isn't universally beloved by his teammates. In the
Giants' clubhouse there's a whiff of resentment, a weariness at
being tabbed Barry's Team.
"Without Barry in the lineup, I still believe we have enough to
win," said reliever Rich Rodriguez.
Said second baseman Jeff Kent, "Our makeup is different, but
we're still a threat."
Maybe. The Giants, 13-7 through Sunday, think they're playoff
bound with yooouuuur starting leftfielder, Stan Javier! There
may be no Yankees or Indians set for a runaway in the National
League West, but three teams in the division (the Diamondbacks,
the Dodgers and the Rockies) boast deeper staffs than San
Francisco's and payrolls at least $10 million higher than the
Giants' $44.9 million. Beating all three without Bonds would be
quite a feat.
San Francisco manager Dusty Baker has openly fretted about
making up for Bonds's all-but-certain .300-35-100 line, calling
the situation "the largest challenge I've faced." Jerk or not,
Bonds has value that goes beyond the three-run dinger and his
stellar defensive play. Batting in the number 3 spot, he
guaranteed that shortstop Rich Aurilia, the regular second
hitter, saw good pitches. Through week's end, Aurilia, who
batted .408 before Bonds's injury, was just 4 for 26. "Bonds is
a presence," says Jerry Spradlin, a newly acquired righthanded
reliever. "There are guys in every lineup you never want to see.
Baker doesn't expect Javier and rookie outfielder Armando Rios
to make up for Bonds's absence. He knows the Giants will have to
find new ways to score. "We'll mix and match, play with lineups,
experiment," he says. What he's hoping is that some of his
starting pitchers regain their form of recent seasons and others
mature quickly. San Francisco hasn't had a bona fide No. 1
starter since righthander John Burkett in 1993. Then, on a
balanced club with 103 wins, it didn't matter so much. Now,
without Bonds, it does.
Through Sunday the Giants' ERA of 5.36 was 15th in the league,
nearly 1.2 runs higher than last year's 4.18. Mark Gardner, the
lone veteran starter and a 13-game winner last season, is on the
DL with an inflamed shoulder. Last year 28-year-old lefthander
Kirk Rueter led San Francisco with 16 wins; this season through
Sunday he was 1-1 with a 13.50 ERA. Lefthander Shawn Estes, 26,
won 19 games two seasons ago, battled a strained shoulder in '98
and has struggled in '99, going 2-1 but with a 5.40 ERA. Against
Colorado last Saturday he won despite allowing four runs and
five walks in seven innings. Second-year starter Russ Ortiz
(2-2, 2.89) and rookie Joe Nathan (1-0, 0.00), both
righthanders, have been impressive, but, says catcher Scott
Servais, "with young kids, you never know until they're tested.
We'll find out how good we can be when we see if these guys
maintain it over a long stretch."
Clubhouse indifference notwithstanding, that long stretch has
Comiskey Cell Block
THE WHITE SOX' BIG HANG-UP
At the behest of outfielder Darrin Jackson and pitcher James
Baldwin, the White Sox have banned cell phones from their
clubhouse before and after games. "Using one is disrespectful to
other players," says Baldwin. "Any time you get a chance to
talk, you should be talking to other players about baseball."
Infielder Greg Norton, for one, approves of the rule. "I leave
my phone in my truck," he says. "You can't get good reception in
For complete scores and stats, plus more from Tom Verducci and
Jeff Pearlman, go to www.cnnsi.com.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: SAM MIRCOVICH/REUTERS (2) With third-inning slams 1 (left) and 2, the unsung Tatis launched himself into baseball history.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS
COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO Can Estes help carry Bonds-less San Francisco?
THIS SEASON Jeff Bagwell, Vinny Castilla, and Jay Bell and Matt
Williams have become the Astros', Rockies' and Diamondbacks'
alltime home run leaders, respectively. With 10 home runs in 20
games through Sunday, Jose Canseco could be tops for the Devil
Rays by next month. In the meantime, here are the active players
who hold team records for career home runs.
TEAM PLAYER(S) HRS
1. Orioles Cal Ripken Jr. 384
2. Athletics Mark McGwire* 363
3. Mariners Ken Griffey Jr. 355
4. Rangers Juan Gonzalez 302
5. White Sox Frank Thomas 288
6. Mets Darryl Strawberry* 252
7. Indians Albert Belle* 242
8. Astros Jeff Bagwell 226
9. Rockies Vinny Castilla, Andres Galarraga* 172
10. Marlins Gary Sheffield* 122
11. Diamondbacks Jay Bell, Matt Williams 27
12. Devil Rays Fred McGriff 22
*No longer on team
in the BOX
Tigers 1, Red Sox 0
April 22, 1999
Visits by the Red Sox to Tiger Stadium used to feature four
hours of bash ball, not 1-0 games wrapped up in less than two
hours. Times have changed. On average this season Detroit (2:44)
and Boston (2:49) ranked third and fifth at week's end for
fastest games in the majors, largely because they had two of the
worst offenses in either league and their staffs were among the
Last Thursday three pitchers needed just 200 deliveries combined
to shut down both lineups and complete the American League's
quickest game since the Blue Jays beat the Tigers 2-1 in 1:45
last Sept. 27. Compare the tidiness of Boston-Detroit with the
Devil Rays' ugly 1-0 win over the Orioles on the same day: Tampa
Bay and Baltimore needed 79 more pitches and 48 more minutes to
achieve the same result.
the HOT corner
The Reds have had Mark Wohlers for less than two weeks, but
already Cincinnati pitching coach Don Gullett, the king of
reclamation, believes he has spotted some fixable flaws. Gullett
says Wohlers, the erstwhile righthanded relief ace for the
Braves who lost his control suddenly last season, has been
falling off toward the right side of the mound, thus reducing
his momentum toward the plate. Wohlers also has "no true release
point," says Gullett, which could be why his pitches are high....
Jealous of the glamorous life of a major leaguer? Consider
righthander Jerry Spradlin, the Giants' newest reliever. Last
season Spradlin, expecting to stick with the Phillies, bought a
town house in Philadelphia. When he was dealt to the Indians in
the off-season, he went hunting for Cleveland digs. He and his
wife, Paulette, settled on an apartment and last week were
nearly done moving when Spradlin, as he was getting off the team
bus, was told he'd been traded to San Francisco. "It's
shocking," says the 31-year-old Spradlin. "I've still got stuff
in storage in Philly that I was going to move to Cleveland. I
have stuff in storage in Cleveland that I was ready to put in
the new place. Now I have no house, and my things--who knows
where they are?" ...
Reports of righthander Jason Isringhausen's demise have been
greatly exaggerated. Through last week, Isringhausen, a onetime
Mets phenom who has battled assorted ailments for the past three
years, was 1-0 with a 3.80 ERA for Triple A Norfolk. If Masato
Yoshii continues to struggle as New York's fifth starter, Izzy,
still only 26, will most likely take his place....
Three-time American League All-Star Carlos Baerga, batting .260
with six RBIs in 19 games for Triple A Indianapolis, will most
probably be released by the Reds if he doesn't improve soon....
Last year Pittsburgh was agog over rightfielder Jose Guillen,
owner of a lethal arm and potentially powerful bat. Times
change. The Pirates, miffed at Guillen and his lackadaisical
attitude, shipped him to Triple A Nashville on April 18. Guillen
wasn't hustling on the bases and rarely drove the ball....
Lefthander Bruce Chen, 21, who entered spring training as the
likely fifth starter for the Braves but had a dismal preseason,
has recovered nicely with Triple A Richmond, where he was 3-0
with a 0.72 ERA and 32 strikeouts over his last 25 innings....
Were the Angels thrilled to see Mo Vaughn homer against the Blue
Jays last Thursday in his first at bat since spraining his ankle
on Opening Day? Says lefthander Chuck Finley, "When we saw that,
everybody patted the trainer on the back."