Seventeen incredible days of highs and lows for Roberto Alomar ended yesterday in a bizarre way.
The six-time Gold Glove second baseman did the unthinkable at Camden Yards, letting a potential double play ground ball go right through his legs for an error that handed the New York Yankees five unearned runs in a six-run third inning.
The Yankees went on to beat the Orioles, 6-4, to win the American League Championship Series.
Alomar was so distraught that he pumped his clenched fist toward the ground in frustration.
Did the man who had been booed, cheered, vilified and analyzed all over the country for 17 days finally crack?
Orioles owner Peter Angelos said he thinks the fallout from Sept. 27, when Alomar spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck, did Alomar in.
"You saw the way Roberto Alomar performed throughout the postseason even though he was under brutal pressure," said Angelos. "I think the beating he took psychologically took its toll and that very well could have affected him on that play."
Alomar would not say that he was affected by the Hirschbeck incident. He said he preferred to leave "all that stuff" in the past.
"That ball tricked me," Alomar said of his third-inning error yesterday. "I thought it was going to take a hop but it stayed down. I was playing it up and it never came up. I can't explain why it didn't."
Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone said of the Alomar error, "It was a shock. I've seen almost every game this year, and I've never seen a ball go through his legs. I mean you're talking about one of the five best all-around players in baseball."
Malone said the only explanation he could think of was that Alomar was rushing a little to turn the double play because speedy Bernie Williams had hit the ball.
"That play points out the difference between us and New York," said Malone. "We have power, but they have more speed, and speed always creates problems."
Orioles third baseman Todd Zeile also said he had never seen a ground ball go between Alomar's legs.
Zeile said the problem may have been the condition of the Orioles infield.
"This infield is so soft in a nice kind of way that some of the plays that are the easiest turn out to be the hardest, and vice versa," said Zeile. "Unless you go out there and field grounders, it's hard to understand. But the ball took a short hop and then stayed down. It shot right under his glove."
Alomar said he couldn't remember many ground balls going between his legs.
"But it has happened," he said. "I'm only human. I'm going to miss one once in a while. But I don't think one play cost us the game."
Yet Alomar maintained his concentration. He came right back on the next play and made the right decision on a grounder by Tino Martinez with runners on first and third and one out.
Alomar fielded the ball, looked at Wade Boggs who had hesitated at third before heading home and then threw Boggs out at the plate.
Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks said of the heads-up play, "Robbie's a winner. He's a professional. You don't win all those Gold Gloves for nothing."
Alomar, who won his sixth Gold Glove this year with a .985 fielding percentage and only 11 errors, committed two errors in the postseason -- both against the Yankees. On offense, he will be remembered for his game-tying hit and winning home run in the 12th inning to beat Cleveland, 4-3, and clinch the Division Series. But he finished the postseason hitting .250 (10-for-40).
Pub Date: 10/14/96