Cito takes care of his kids right to the end ALL-STAR GAME July 13 1993 Baltimore

KEN ROSENTHAL

July 14, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

He wanted to save him. For extra innings. Even though he had a six-run lead. Cito Gaston just wouldn't stop, would he? He played the Little League father until the bitter end, letting his own kids play so they wouldn't stop loving their daddy.

Let's get it on right now. The AL East race should become a crusade, not just for the Orioles, but for the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees, too. Duane Ward over Mike Mussina in the ninth inning. The Cito Seven wrecking everyone else's fun.

Here's the best part: Mussina showed up Gaston, warming up on his own to incite the crowd. It was later that Gaston said he wanted Mussina, his most rested starter, for extra innings. His plan was to use one of his three closers -- Jeff Montgomery, Rick Aguilera or Ward -- in the ninth.

Of course, no one in the crowd knew this -- and neither did the normally reserved Cal Ripken, who issued a rare call to arms after the American League's 9-3 victory before a crowd of 48,147, the largest in the history of Camden Yards.

"I don't think people are really going to forget," Ripken said. "I got caught up in it. I wanted to get into it, yell and scream, 'Come on, bring Mussina in for the last out.' There is nobody to blame. [But] I don't think the baseball fans here will ever forget it."

Orioles manager Johnny Oates likes to describe Mussina as "ornery," and that's the perfect word for the stunt he pulled last night. First, Mussina triggers the brawl against Seattle, and now this. And we all thought he was just another highbrow kid from Stanford.

"It was the biggest ovation I ever got for never being in a game," Mussina said. "I knew I wasn't going to get into the game. There was nothing said. They [the fans] all wanted to see me pitch. They're die-hard Baltimore fans. They waited 35 years for this game."

But leave it to Gaston to turn Camden Yards into Fort McHenry. Ward, of course, is the Blue Jays' closer with fewer saves and a higher ERA than the Orioles' Gregg Olson. "We Want Mike!" the crowd roared in the ninth, only to see another daddy's boy play in the yard.

It was bad enough Gaston added four Blue Jays to the club's three elected starters, making the roster 25 percent Toronto. It was worse when he made Paul Molitor his starting DH -- over Frank Thomas, over Juan Gonzalez, over Cecil Fielder.

All night, the crowd was on Gaston. The fun started before the game, when a Toronto Blue Jays publicist gathered the Cito Seven for a group portrait in between the AL and NL team shots. "Why don't we just move so all the Blue Jays can sit here," Kirby Puckett cracked.

The Blue Jays got their picture taken all right, right in front of the bleachers in right-center field. The fans who had gathered early did not exactly shower them with hosannas. "Blow Jays!" they cried, along with other, less printable, epithets.

"You have to understand with Baltimore and the Blue Jays," Gaston said. "We've been in races for the last three or four years. In '89, we managed to come back against them. And last year, they were in it right up until the last two weeks."

Whatever, the Blue Jays were just as warmly received in the pre-game introductions -- even their coaches got booed. Think baseball will get the message? Like so much that needs fixing in the sport, the solution to such roster-stacking isn't that complicated.

Expand the rosters from 28 to 32 players. Then, leave the selections to the league president, who would act on the recommendations of three managers. That way, the Citos of the world could still manage in their own self-interest, but not with all their own players.

As it stands, Ward, Molitor and Devon White should buy Gaston a car after cashing All-Star incentive clauses totaling $100,000. The money is no big deal for these millionaires, but why should nTC an Olson miss out on $50,000 simply because his manager isn't picking the team?

Frankly, the best part of the gallant victory by the junior circuit was when the AL broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run, anti-Blue Jay fifth. Albert Belle hit an RBI single batting for Molitor. Fielder, the replacement for John Olerud, got hit by a pitch.

The only two Jays to bat -- Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter -- made outs. Of course, Alomar hit a home run leading off the third, and White an RBI double in the sixth, but when you take seven players, the odds of something good happening sort of skyrocket.

Four of the first five AL hitters last night were Blue Jays, including Molitor, the DH. Gaston could have sat him in favor of Gonzalez, the winner of Monday's home run hitting contest. Or Fielder, the first player since Babe Ruth to lead the majors three ++ straight seasons in RBI.

Nope, he had to follow the yellow brick road.

Right down Blue Jay Way.

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