TORONTO -- When the Orioles played their annual exhibitio game in Rochester two months ago, Cal Ripken begged out of the home run-hitting contest.
"I know he doesn't like them, but that's the first time he eveasked out," said Rick Vaughn, the Orioles' public relations director. "He told me if I couldn't find anybody else he'd do it, but he'd prefer not to."
Yesterday, as part of the All-Star festivities, the AmericaLeague and National League held their annual home run-hitting contest, and Ripken was scheduled as the leadoff hitter for the AL. By the time he was finished, the contest was over.
Even on a day when baseballs were going over the fence athough launched from missile pads, Ripken's performance was truly awesome. Each batter was allowed 10 "outs" -- an out being defined as anything that wasn't a home run.
Ripken hit seven balls over the leftfield wall on his first eighswings. Before he made 10 "outs," Ripken had hit 12 home runs, including three that almost made the fifth level of the SkyDome.
"Halfway through he was arm weary," said Oakland coach RenLachemann, who was the catcher during the contest. "I told him to hit the ball the other way to break the monotony."
As home run-hitting exhibitions go, it was one of the mosspectacular ever seen.
"I really do hate these kind of things," Ripken said after the show"I'm always worried it might mess up my swing.
"My expectations were low," he said. "But I did notice that thball was carrying pretty good today."
He was asked about his thoughts as one ball after another lefthe park. "Besides being arm weary, I couldn't believe it was happening," he said. "I told Lachemann, 'I don't know what I'm doing, just tell him [Toronto coach Hector Torres] to keep throwing them in.' "
As prolific as Ripken was, he was almost upstaged by Detroit'Cecil Fielder, the last American League slugger to take his swings. After failing to get a ball out of the infield in his first five swings, Fielder crushed two over the restaurant located on the ++ third level -- in straightaway centerfield. "Cecil said he was going for distance," said Lachemann.
The longest two of Fielder's four blasts out of the park wermeasured at 457 and 458 feet. A year ago, in cozy Wrigley Field, the American League lost the homer derby 4-1. Yesterday's tally: AL 20, NL 7.