Always hot in October, Grissom gives new life to Indian summer After frustrating season, spring acquisition bounces back in fall

October 10, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

In Tuesday night's opener of the American League Championship Series, Marquis Grissom lost a battle with the outfield wall at Camden Yards, bouncing off the padding and falling groggily to the warning track in pursuit of Cal Ripken's double.

Last night, the career .344 postseason hitter got even the best way possible, slamming an Armando Benitez slider in the eighth inning over the center-field wall for a three-run homer to give the Indians a 5-4 victory over the Orioles to even the series.

It was the biggest hit for the veteran center fielder as a member of the Indians, who acquired him and David Justice from the Atlanta Braves in a March trade for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree.

Speaking to reporters before the game, Grissom apologized to the Indians fans for what he considered a disappointing season. He batted .262 in 144 games after hitting .308 last year.

"Changing leagues was like a learning process for me," he said. "The pitching and the way the umpires call the game is a whole lot different. Obviously, I didn't have the type of year that I wanted to have. I just had to make the adjustments and believe it will help me down the road. But now it's time for me to put them into effect."

In last night's marathon, Grissom also had to battle the flu, which had dehydrated him in the series opener, forcing him to take intravenous fluids and an extra dose of vitamins.

"Yesterday [Wednesday], I was pretty much just trying to play," he said. "It was pretty tough. I was under the weather and didn't know what was going on. But I just wanted to go out there and play as hard as I could and try to help us win."

Cleveland general manager John Hart never lost faith in Grissom, despite his struggles with the bat.

"We traded for Marquis because he is an excellent outfielder and we like the way he plays the game," Hart said. "Obviously, he has not done as well as he can hitting the ball. But Marquis is a guy with immense pride. He feels he's an All-Star player, and this season wasn't up to his high standards.

"But it didn't surprise me when he hit that big homer tonight. Look what the man has done in past World Series with the Braves [.404 in 12 games]. That's what jumps out on his baseball resume."

Statistically, there was little to indicate that Grissom would be the hero last night. In his only two previous at-bats against Benitez this season, he had struck out.

"In Cleveland, he threw me a lot of sliders but didn't throw them for strikes," Grissom said. "Tonight, he threw me a slider for a strike and I took it. Then he came with a fastball. He throws too hard for me to look for anything else."

But Benitez tried to fool him with another slider.

"I wasn't looking to hit a homer," Grissom said. "I just got good wood on it, and the ball kept going."

Left fielder Bip Roberts pointed toward Grissom in the clubhouse and screamed: "He's my hero. The man was real sick yesterday, but he delivered the biggest hit of the season. We didn't think we could sweep the Orioles in Camden Yards, not with their type of team and fan support. Going back to Cleveland 0-2 would have been very tough. But Marquis, my hero, changed all that."

Grissom got his unusual first name because his father favored Mercury Marquis cars. But last night was strictly a Cadillac job.

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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