Anderson does leadoff role his way Orioles hip to it

April 27, 1994|By JOHN EISENBERG | JOHN EISENBERG,Milestones and Memories

After the best game of his career, Brady Anderson sat in the Orioles' clubhouse yesterday wearing a black T-shirt with a cartoon picture of Albert Einstein above the words "It's All Relative."

"I put it on because I knew you were coming," he said to the circle of reporters gathered around him.

Someone asked if he was happy to hit a couple of homers.

Tough question.

"The way I was going, I just wanted one single," said Anderson, who popped out four straight times in a game over the weekend.

Someone asked if he had known he could have tied a major-league record with a fifth extra-base hit in his last at-bat. (He already had two homers and two doubles.)

"Why don't they tell me these things?" he wailed with mock exasperation. (Translation: He didn't know and he didn't really care.)

Finally, the Official Woodward and Bernstein Special Question of the Day: "Big day, huh, Brady?" someone asked.

"I guess it is, now that you're telling me," he said, unable to wipe a semi-bemused expression off his face.

He paused for a moment, then smiled. "I suppose I should NTC appreciate it more than I am," he said.

He would, of course, if only he were someone else. If only he wasn't the Orioles' resident hipster and decidedly iconoclastic leadoff hitter.

He has nothing against history and statistics and all that stuff. But let's face it, it's not very cool. And cool is important to Brady.

All of which is 100 percent fine and A-OK with the Orioles.

Whatever he wants to do is fine with them. Swing away. Wear Einstein T-shirts. View his place in history with something less than weepy sentimentality.

"I long ago accepted Brady for exactly what he is," manager Johnny Oates said yesterday.

A bright, unflappable, Hollywood-ish California kid with a peerless workout ethic. A leadoff hitter who would rather hit homers than bunt.

"I don't have a bunter's mentality," Anderson said yesterday, somewhat redundantly, "and I don't ever want to have one."

For years the Orioles tried to force one on him, meld him into a bunting, slap-hitting clone of Brett Butler, the Dodgers' All-Star sprite. He balked, convinced he could contribute with his power as much as with his speed.

"I knew I was never going to be another Brett Butler," he said.

The Orioles almost ran out of patience with him, but then Oates took over as manager and told him to play the way he wanted in the spring of '92. Since then Anderson has been the everyday leadoff hitter, made the All-Star team once and established himself as a cornerstone of the team.

"It's ancient history," Anderson said of his dispute over his hitting style. "I'm a leadoff hitter, but I'm not a typical leadoff hitter. Everyone knows the deal. If there's a runner on second, I don't bunt him over, I try to drive him in."

Said Oates: "Greg [Biagini, hitting coach] works with him a lot, but strictly on mechanics. Driving through the ball, that sort of thing. Nothing to do with where or when to hit a certain way."

His version of a career game yesterday was proof of his singular style. It wasn't a stack of stolen bases and runs scored, as it would be for a classic leadoff hitter. It was four pulverized extra-base hits.

It was coming up in the bottom of the eighth with a chance to tie the major-league record for extra-base hits in a game. He struck out, swinging fiercely.

"Don't worry, you'll have another crack at the record," someone said later.

"Yeah, sure," Anderson said, laughing.

The strikeout was his 18th of the season, tying him for the club lead. Until Monday he was struggling, his average down to .205. But, as is often the case, he got hot just when it seemed he was in dire straits. He had two hits Monday, then yesterday hit two homers and a double off Oakland's Bobby Witt in the first four innings.

"Don't ask me why," he said. "I can't explain these things. All I know is that you can lose a groove in a hurry. I know from experience."

Indeed, his career has been marked by streaks, good and bad. Long slumps followed by months when he all but carried the team. Four pop-out games followed by four extra-base hit games.

At times it has seemed that he should bat elsewhere in the order, that he just doesn't reach base consistently enough to lead off, but he has scored 202 runs since the start of the '92 season.

"The thing with Brady is that his production will always be as good as anyone's when you look up at the end of the year," Oates said. "I'm very happy with what he gives me from that spot."

Said Anderson: "I don't know that there's such a thing as a typical leadoff hitter anymore. Kenny Lofton, Lenny Dykstra, Butler . . . everyone's a little different. Things change. You don't have to be the way everyone always thought a leadoff hitter should be."

Just like his shirt said: It's all relative.

"And anything," Anderson said, "is better than popping out four times in a row."

O, WHAT A DAY

Brady Anderson yesterday became the fifth Oriole to have four extra-base hits in a game:

Player ........ Year ... 2B ... HR

Anderson ...... '94 ..... 2 .... 2

Cal Ripken .... '83 ..... 2 .... 2

Dave Duncan ... '75 ..... 4 .... 0

Don Baylor .... '73 ..... 3 .... 1

Charlie Lau ... '62 ..... 4 .... 0

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