Ripken's night unforgettable to newcomer Boskie, too Pitcher gave up homer to him in record game

Orioles notebook

February 21, 1997|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Shawn Boskie's favorite article in his collection of memorabilia is a lithograph of Camden Yards, Sept. 6, 1995, the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record.

The stands are packed, the numbers 2130 are on the warehouse, and Ripken is shown hitting his memorable home run. The pitcher on the mound: Shawn Boskie, then with the California Angels, now with the Orioles.

"Probably the highlight of my career," Boskie said.

A lowlight, in a way. Boskie is glad he pitched that night and that he participated in history. But, he said yesterday, he badly wanted to beat the Orioles. He did not want Ripken to hit the homer. He did not want to contribute to the almost mystical celebration.

Friends, family and writers have asked Boskie if he intentionally grooved a pitch to Ripken, if he gave up the home run on purpose. Boskie scoffs.

"We [the Angels] weren't playing that well at the time," said Boskie. "We really needed to win that game."

(In fact, the Angels finished the regular season in a first-place tie with Seattle, which won the one-game playoff and advanced to the Division Series.)

Boskie has never appeared in a playoff game, and he imagines that the atmosphere of the postseason would be something similar to what he experienced on Sept. 6, 1995.

He remembers being extremely pumped up before the game, as he warmed up in the bullpen. "The catcher was diving all over the place," said Boskie. "After about 15 pitches, I finally had to step off and take a breather."

Ripken batted in the fourth inning, immediately after Bobby Bonilla hit a home run. Boskie fell behind in the count three balls and no strikes, and thought to himself, Now don't make this pitch too good.

He threw a fastball over the middle of the plate, Ripken swung and drove it into the seats in left.

An inning later, the game was delayed by the prolonged standing ovation, when Ripken's record became official and the numbers 2131 were unfurled on the warehouse. Boskie returned to the dugout. "I treated it like a rain delay," he said. "I was thinking about the game."

The Orioles won, 4-2, and Boskie unwillingly went down in history with Ripken. But last summer, Boskie acquired his lithograph, and asked Ripken to sign it. "He wrote something like, 'Always a great battle,' I think, and 'Here's to remembering,' " said Boskie. "It was really nice."

Full-squad thoughts

Observations from the first full-squad workout yesterday: When position players went to work out in the field, B. J. Surhoff went to left field, Eric Davis went to right. Davis told manager Davey Johnson he prefers right field over left field.

Center fielder Brady Anderson wore a large shin guard on his right leg as he took batting practice.

Kelly Gruber, trying to make the club as a utility man after three seasons away from the game, struggled as he took live batting practice for the first time. If Gruber isn't ready and needs to start the year in the minors, then Jeff Reboulet will likely be the Orioles' Opening Day second baseman -- in place of Roberto Alomar, who must serve a five-game suspension at the start of the year.

Alomar, moving around on crutches, looked more comfortable yesterday, and reported his ankle is feeling "much, much better."

Rocky Coppinger looked particularly sharp as he threw to hitters.

Rafael Palmeiro, returning from a relaxing winter to immediately face Coppinger, hit a few meek line drives before managing an opposite-field drive over the left-field wall.

Anderson, Ripken and Chris Hoiles swung the bat well.

Sidney Ponson, perhaps the Orioles' best pitching prospect, looked comfortable pitching to major-league hitters. Ponson likely will start the year at Double-A Bowie.

Johnson likes the athleticism of this team. "I felt like a football coach," he said. "We've got guys who can run and throw and do everything."

Everybody is healthy, Johnson said, other than Alomar.

Pub Date: 2/21/97

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