Sound of beaning echoes for Orioles

April 29, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Generally speaking, professional athletes don't scare easily. There are, of course, exceptions. The clanking sound of a baseball hitting a batting helmet definitely is one of them.

"Whether it's your team or the other team, that's a terrible sound to hear," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said.

Fear, however fleeting, swept the Orioles late Wednesday night at Anaheim Stadium when California Angles reliever Scott Lewis beaned Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles on the left ear flap with a fastball in the seventh inning of the Orioles' 13-1 rout in the first game of a seven-game West Coast trip.

The pitch knocked the helmet off Hoiles' head. He took a few steps toward the mound until being slowed by home-plate umpire Tim Tschida and Angels catcher Jorge Fabregas. Both dugouts and bullpens emptied, but no punches were thrown. Lewis was ejected.

Hoiles was a late scratch from last night's lineup. He had a productive batting practice session after complaining during the day of some blurriness.

As players were pouring onto the field after Hoiles was hit, Orioles manager Johnny Oates found Hoiles, grabbed him by the head and stared into his eyes.

"I didn't see anything but whites," Oates said. "I didn't know where his eyes were at first. He said he knew where he was, but I'm not sure he knew where he was."

Said Hoiles: "Throughout the day there were lapses of dizziness. I'm not going to go into a game like that. If there's another pitch in there I'm not going to be able to see it and react to it. It's not anything major. I'll be in there tomorrow. I just want to have the security to know I can track the ball."

Lewis said he did not hit Hoiles intentionally.

"My intention wasn't to hit Chris in the head," Lewis said. "I was trying to come inside, but the ball got away from me. I think he was looking for something away. He didn't really give himself a chance to get out of the way. I'm not trying to end anyone's career. That's not what I'm about."

Hoiles was the fifth batter Lewis faced. The first four also reached base, including Cal Ripken, who hit a three-run home run before Lewis hit Hoiles with the 0-and-2 pitch. It was the Orioles' fourth home run of the night.

Orioles winning pitcher Ben McDonald did not retaliate, though he did not close the door to doing so at some point.

"We'll see these guys somewhere down the road," McDonald said. "There is no doubt in my mind he was throwing at him. That was just too obvious."

Hoiles walked off the field without needing assistance.

"I didn't black out," Hoiles said. "I still knew where I was at. I was a little dizzy at first."

Hoiles, who spent 51 days on the disabled list in 1992 after a Tim Leary pitch fractured his wrist, was hit nine times last season.

"I can't say I mind being hit, but being hit in the head is totally different," Hoiles said. "That's messing with life. That goes beyond baseball. That goes beyond making a point."

Angels hard-throwing left-hander Chuck Finley threw a pitch over Brady Anderson's head in the fifth inning. California's Eduardo Perez leaned back from a high-and-tight McDonald pitch in the sixth.

"I don't know if Ben's pitch to Perez had anything to do with it, but I didn't think that ball was even close to him," Hoiles said. "He was diving over the plate. It wasn't as close as he thought it was. It wasn't really close at all."

A scar above Hoiles' right eye is a reminder of his being bloodied by a pitch in the minor leagues.

"Pitching inside is part of the game," Hoiles said. "I'm a catcher. I realize that, but if you are going to pitch inside, you don't go for somebody's head. Pitching inside is important in this game, especially at this level, but not inside somebody's head."

Hoiles came out of the game for a pinch runner, but did not require hospitalization.

"It turned out all right, but you do wonder about what could have happened," Hoiles said. "You don't get hit in the head with a fastball, and just go home at night and go to sleep."

Oates wondered as well.

"I just hope all the brave souls think about the consequences of hitting someone in the temple," Oates said.

"I hope they think about what happens if he doesn't get up. You're awful brave standing 60 feet away. If it's an accident there is nothing you can do about it. But if it's intentional, I just hope they think of the consequences," Oates said.

Retaliation apparently was on the mind of Angels left fielder Dwight Smith when he came to the plate in the eighth and flinched backward from a McDonald curve that settled into the middle of the strike zone.

"Did you see that?" Orioles center fielder Mike Devereaux said. "Their hitters were scared. That's one bad thing about baseball. It's sad a pitcher can live with himself knowing a fastball could end a guy's career.

"Something has to be done. There has to be some kind of suspension. But you watch. Nothing's going to happen to him."

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