Burkett is hit, can't hit rewind First-year stars savor memories ALL-STAR GAME July 13 1993 Baltimore

July 14, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

When that magic moment came and he was announced into last night's All-Star Game, San Francisco pitcher John Burkett told himself that he would become a sort of human VCR, recording every feeling, every sensation.

"I'm going to try to remember everything because it might not happen again," said Burkett before last night's game at Camden Yards. "I'll just step off the mound, and take in the crowd and file it away."

Luckily for Burkett, who leads the National League with 13 wins, VCR tapes can be erased, an option he might consider after his first All-Star Game effort was such a distinct downer.

Burkett gave up three runs in the fifth inning, which broke a 2-2 tie and gave the American League a 5-2 lead on the way to a 9-3 win, tagging the Giants ace with the loss.

"I threw it up there and they hit it. About the only thing I didn't do was walk somebody," said Burkett. "I was coming right at them, but they weren't backing off. They were taking advantage."

Burkett's experience in his first time in the big game was precisely the kind of thing most of the other first-time All-Stars hoped to avoid: a relatively humiliating display before a national audience.

Atlanta right fielder David Justice singled in the second, but misplayed a single from Cleveland's Albert Belle in the fifth that allowed Texas catcher Ivan Rodriguez to score from first.

Justice took some good-natured taunting from fans in right who gave him the Tomahawk Chop chant as they do in Atlanta, but he claimed that the experience still was good.

"It was everything I expected," said Justice. "To be out with the fellas and to talk with guys that you don't get to talk with during the season was worth it."

For catcher Mike Piazza of the Los Angeles Dodgers, last night's game was the culmination of a dream.

Piazza was a 62nd-round draft choice for the Dodgers and was given little chance to make the majors, much less get to the midsummer classic.

But last night, Piazza, an early favorite for National League Rookie of the Year honors, was, like Burkett, absorbing as much as he could.

"You run around hoping you don't have to say, 'I wish I would have done this or that.' This is like a whirlwind that hits you. I mean, last year, I was sitting at the Triple-A All-Star game watching this game and thinking about how great it would be to play there. But you don't think about stuff like that until you're there," said Piazza, who struck out looking to end the game in his only plate appearance.

For some, there's the "Oh, my God. What am I doing here?" factor to overcome."

"It's a great honor to be here and see guys that you grew up watching on television and you wonder, like how did I get here with them," said Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Pat Hentgen, who did not appear in the game.

Hentgen's teammate, first baseman John Olerud, said: "You've been watching a lot of these guys on television and in games and you get a lot of respect. It's kind of hard to put yourself in that group."

But that moment eventually passes, the butterflies clear and it's time, as Toronto's Devon White says, "for business."

Belle made the most of his All-Star debut, singling to right in the fifth and eventually scoring one of his two runs. He later scored on a wild pitch by Atlanta's John Smoltz in the seventh.

"It was definitely a great experience and I thank [Toronto manager] Cito Gaston for picking me," said Belle.

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