Making play is the thing for McLemore Angels memories foremost in his mind

September 08, 1992|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

The life and times of a baseball player form a mental scrapbook of sorts, with plenty of sights and sounds filed away to be savored for later.

Mark McLemore has had a couple of pennant races to file away in the books, with the California Angels in 1986 and '87.

But this season's charge with the Orioles likely will take center stage , not just because the memories are the freshest, but because the things they represent are meaningful.

"This is definitely the best, because I'm out there contributing. I feel like I'm a part of this one and it feels really good," McLemore said.

He said, "It always amazes me when a race comes down to one game. I mean, there are 10 or 15 ballgames that could go either way, and fortunately they've gone the right way for us and we're here."

McLemore was a late September callup with California in 1986, the season in which the Angels won the Western Division, and came within one strike of winning the pennant.

He began the next season as the Angels starting second baseman, and hit .238 in 138 games, but lost his job late in the year when the Angels obtained Johnny Ray from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Not long after that trade, California collapsed and dropped to last place, 10 games behind the Minnesota Twins.

Still, there were positives from those seasons with the Angels. McLemore learned about handling pennant race pressures from some of his illustrious teammates.

"I was taking mental pictures then. There was a lot to take in. Guys like George Hendrick and Reggie Jackson and Doug DeCinces were there, and Don Sutton and John Candelaria were pitching for us," McLemore said.

"These were guys who wanted the ball all the time and wanted to be up with guys on second and third with two out. I could definitely feel the intensity."

McLemore, who started his fifth straight game last night in place of second baseman Bill Ripken, who strained his left Achilles' tendon last Tuesday in Oakland, has made the most of the opportunity.

The switch-hitter is batting .260 for the season -- including .354 with runners in scoring position -- and .318 in his five starts, to go along with solid defensive play.

Last night, that solid defense included a fine running catch of a blooper to right by Pat Kelly of the New York Yankees with runners on second and third and two out in the 11th.

"He's done everything I've asked him to all season," manager Johnny Oates said. "It might have been to hit against a pitcher that Billy had trouble with or get a pinch hit or lay down a bunt. This is nothing new."

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