Henderson is still La Russa's No. 1 man 3-hit game proves manager right

October 12, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. -- They were calling for Rickey Henderson's head, but Oakland Athletics manager Tony La Russa would not oblige. He stuck with the struggling Henderson yesterday, and his confidence was rewarded.

Henderson, who entered Game 4 with one hit in his first 10 at-bats of the postseason, had three hits, scored two runs and drove in another to answer his critics, most notably a local newspaper columnist who publicly called on La Russa to bench the slumping outfielder in favor of rookie Eric Fox.

La Russa took the column good-naturedly, but the only substitution he made in the outfield was in center field, where rTC Jerry Browne started in place of Willie Wilson.

Midnight madness

La Russa claimed yesterday that a crowd gathered in front of his Danville, Calif., home late Saturday night and began clamoring for him to start Mike Bordick in Game 4.

"His fan club was in my neighborhood screaming at midnight," said La Russa, who had planned to start Bordick all along. "There was a note on my door. 'Play Bordick or move out of the neighborhood.'

"I finally went out there and told them he was playing. They cheered. Then they came back in a half-hour and said 'but you can't pinch hit for him.' I couldn't promise that."

The veracity of the story remains somewhat in question. La Russa insisted that it was true, but he was having so much fun telling it that he left reporters wondering how much was fact and how much was fiction.

"I hope he was making it up," said Bordick sheepishly.

La Russa would not be sorry for the switch. Bordick started the A's five-run third inning with a single and made a terrific running catch on a foul ball by Dave Winfield in the 10th inning.

The Candyman can

Left fielder Candy Maldonado remains the unsung hero of this playoff series. He delivered an important RBI single in the eighth inning and sliced the opposite-field hit that set up the winning run in the 11th.

Maldonado is batting only .286 in the series, but he has reached base in seven of his last 13 plate appearances.

Not a boom year

The A's have had a banner year at the gate and in the standings, but club officials claim the team will lose millions this year regardless of the outcome of the playoffs and World Series.

"Financially?" In our situation, it [the financial impact of making the playoffs] is very little," club president Wally Haas told the San Francisco Examiner. "The losses will be significant, but I'm not going to dwell on it. That's not the story now."

This is the same team that reportedly lost $15 million in 1984. The economic climate improved dramatically over the next few years, but the A's are feeling the weight of a $40 million payroll. That's why there has been speculation the club will let many of its potential free agents (there are 14) go.

Estimates of the club's operating loss for 1992 range up to $5 million.

No sellout string here

The Orioles sold out 59 straight games at Camden Yards, but the A's can't even sell out their playoff games at the Oakland Coliseum. The Game 3 crowd of 46,911 was the second-smallest to see a playoff game in Oakland since the Haas family bought the team in 1980. The game yesterday did not sell out and tickets still remain for Game 5 today.

Somebody goofed department

It was erroneously reported yesterday that Saturday's Game 3 was the longest nine-inning playoff game (3:40) in American League history. The longest AL game was Game 2 of the 1990 ALCS between the Oakland A's and the Boston Red Sox, which ran three hours and 42 minutes.

The faulty information resulted from a mistake in The Sporting News Complete Baseball Record Book. The error was corrected upon review of the ALCS linescores in the 1992 League Championship Series Media Information Guide and Scorebook.

Sierra makes adjustment

A's right fielder Ruben Sierra, who had one hit and no RBI in the first two games of series, has been much more of an offensive force in games 3 and 4.

"I found out what I was doing wrong," Sierra said, "I was reaching for the ball. I wasn't waiting like I normally do. I was a little anxious. Now I've found myself and they're going to have to be careful with me."

Sierra had two hits and drove in two runs in Game 3. He drove in two more runs yesterday with a sacrifice fly and an RBI single.

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