Relieved Walker walks away from hairy at-bat vs. Johnson Kruk-like wild pitch keeps Rockie on toes

Oriole Notebook

68th All-star Game

July 09, 1997|By John Eisenberg and Roch Kubatko | John Eisenberg and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND SUN STAFF WRITER PETER SCHMUCK CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — CLEVELAND -- National League batting leader Larry Walker's at-bat against Seattle left-hander Randy Johnson in the second inning turned into a virtual replay of John Kruk's famous at-bat against Johnson in the 1993 All-Star Game at Camden Yards.

Johnson's first pitch sailed far over Walker's head and hit the backstop. Walker, a left-handed hitter who refused to play against the intimidating Johnson in an interleague game last month, turned his batting helmet around, stepped across the plate and took the next pitch right-handed.

The crowd and players on both benches roared with laughter.

"I wanted to get somewhere where it was safer," Walker said. "I did the Hogan's Heroes thing with my helmet to protect my ear."

He moved back to the left-handed side after one pitch and wound up getting a walk.

"At least I didn't humiliate myself," Walker said. "A lot of people do against Randy."

Kruk struck out against Johnson in 1993, swinging vainly at two pitches after one went behind his back.

Walker was asked if he and Johnson had arranged the wild pitch before the game to capitalize on the humorous aspects of Walker's fear of Johnson.

Walker denied that the pitch was prearranged. "If it was, I didn't know about it," Walker said. "I didn't talk to Randy all day."

Said Johnson: "The ball just slipped. It was humid out there. I guess it was kind of apropos that it slipped while Larry Walker was up."

Walker and Johnson met in a hallway after the game, laughed about the incident and arranged to have dinner when the Rockies and Mariners play an interleague series later this year.

"I hope it all went over well," Walker said.

A reporter asked if he was ready to see his at-bat as often as the Kruk at-bat, which has become a video staple.

"Well, now it can be a double feature," Walker said. "A couple of overweight left-handers against Randy."

Griffey vs. Bonds debate

It wouldn't be an All-Star Game without more attempts to ignite the controversy over who is baseball's best player, Seattle's Ken Griffey or San Francisco's Barry Bonds.

Neither player would allow himself to be lured into it, though Bonds came the closest.

"If you want to look at the realism of it, you turn one [baseball] card around and you turn the other card around and you look at the stats," he said. "Then you evaluate. It speaks for itself.

"He's very good. He also has a great team around him, too. And he has a great ballpark to hit in, too."

Griffey has a perception that he doesn't get respect from the media, a subject he first raised before batting practice Monday, then returned to yesterday after much prodding.

"Just because you like somebody doesn't mean you necessarily respect them," he said.

"It's an inner feeling. I guess you have to be in my situation to really understand it, to really be around me 24 hours to know what I'm talking about.

"No matter what I do, it's not good enough."

Dressed for the occasion

Jason Dickson's first All-Star experience got off to a rough beginning when he arrived at Jacobs Field on Monday and discovered that his uniform pants had been left behind. A rookie pitcher for the Anaheim Angels, Dickson had to borrow a pair of Yankees pinstripes to get through the workout.

His pants arrived yesterday, so he was able to wear the full Anaheim ensemble. "I was glad about that. I knew since I would be wearing my Angels top, I'd be in a little bit of trouble. But they made it," he said.

Torre on Orioles

Manager Joe Torre said yesterday that the New York Yankees still are too far behind the Orioles to worry about catching them in the second half.

"We haven't found them yet," he said. "They are a distance out in front of us. After we lost two in Baltimore, I had a meeting at home where I told our guys just to concentrate on our record. If we get 15-20 games over .500, that means we're playing well.

"The Orioles are going to win a lot of games and we don't play them again until September. Being against the wild card at the beginning, I'm all for it now."

Unit pricing

Randy Johnson composed an interesting list of pitchers he most prefers watching: Dickson, Detroit's Justin Thompson and Kansas City's Jose Rosado. Each one an All-Star, none a household name yet.

"They're all young pitchers and that's where I was four or five years ago, learning the game. They're probably even further along than where I was. They have command of all their pitches and they're very mature young kids. It's exciting watching those guys."

What about hitters? "I don't like hitters, so I don't really care to comment on that," he said jokingly. "Griffey's on my team so I really enjoy watching him. I enjoy when he hits a home run for me. He's the one hitter I love."

Anderson status quo

The halfway point in the season apparently has brought Brady Anderson no closer to a multi-year contract extension with the Orioles. He said yesterday that there was nothing new to report in his negotiations with the club.

Frank being semi-frank

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