Before 1st pitch, game is win for Weiss Son's triumph over E. coli, attendance, is joy for Brave

All-Star notebook

July 07, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

DENVER -- Atlanta shortstop Walt Weiss said he's looking at tonight's All-Star Game and its many festivities through "different eyes."

Eyes that watched his 3-year-old son, Brody, battle for his life after contracting a deadly strain of E. coli from swallowing contaminated water in a public swimming pool. Eyes, probably moist, that will search out Brody in the stands tonight at Coors Field.

"That will be the thrill for me, that he's able to come here," Weiss said.

The moment was made possible by Colorado owner Jerry McMorris, who flew in Weiss' family on his private jet.

"I don't know if Brody would have had enough energy to fly commercial," said Weiss, who was selected to start in his first All-Star Game. "It blew me away that he'd do something like that."

Weiss played in Colorado for four seasons before signing with the Braves, and still lives here. His day began yesterday with a visit to Brody's pediatrician in Denver.

"The doctor said it looks like he's doing OK," Weiss said. "He'll have to be monitored once or twice a week. He still doesn't have a whole lot of energy, but that'll change."

Griffey or Lofton in center?

American League manager Mike Hargrove had no trouble deciding on a batting order, but he wasn't as certain about how his outfield would be aligned.

Texas' Juan Gonzalez would start in right field. But Hargrove was left with two center fielders, Ken Griffey and Kenny Lofton.

"I asked Kenny this morning where he would rather play. He said he didn't care. I said, 'That's not an answer,' " Hargrove said.

Lofton got his answer later in the day. He'll start in left field.

Griffey said he had played only one inning there but was willing to try if necessary. "It doesn't really matter where I play," he said. "This is for the fans. I don't think they really worry about where you play. They just want you to hit."

Skid takes 'zest' for Ripken

Though saying he still loves the game as much as when he started, Cal Ripken added that the Orioles' dismal first half has left him frustrated.

"There's a lot more spring in your step when you're playing on a winning team, a competitive team," said Ripken, starting in the All-Star Game for an unprecedented 15th straight year and in his 16th game overall.

"This first half has taken some of the zest out of the game. But if you look at it in the most simplest form, I love playing baseball. I love putting this uniform on. Yeah, it's as much fun putting the uniform on now as it was before."

Slugfest of praise

Two players who are in the chase for Roger Maris' record of 61 home runs in a season have cast their votes for somebody else.

"I have my money on Mark McGwire," said the Cubs' Sammy Sosa, a strong candidate himself with 33 at the break.

He then turned to Ken Griffey sitting beside him and added, "Griffey, I know you're my boy, but "

Griffey, with 35 at the midway point, didn't disagree.

"Mark," he said. "He's bigger out of the three of us."

McGwire, who leads the majors with 37 homers, said the most remarkable number to him right now is the 101 RBIs by Texas' Gonzalez. The major league record is 190 by Hack Wilson.

"It's absolutely unbelievable," he said. "Anybody who has over 100 RBIs by the All-Star break, I tip my hat to them. He's a great, great hitter.

"You know the sad thing. If somebody said who was the 1996 MVP in the American League, I bet nobody really knows it was Juan Gonzalez. He puts up the numbers every year. It just seems like he doesn't get the notoriety that he should."

Don't forget Joltin' Joe

While the buzz around baseball continues to center on the pursuit of Maris' and Wilson's records, San Diego's Tony Gwynn is more impressed by Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.

Leave it to an eight-time batting champion to appreciate the beauty of a single.

"I don't know jack about hitting home runs, to be honest with you. But I've got to believe that DiMaggio's streak is the toughest. That's every day, getting at least one hit every day," Gwynn said.

A shade of Red

The Cincinnati Reds will have a representative at tonight's game after all. Reliever Jeff Shaw was chosen before his trade to Los Angeles, but NL manager Jim Leyland picked Reds second baseman Bret Boone to replace Sosa, who can't play because of stiffness in his left shoulder.

Boone is hitting .285 with 27 doubles and 51 RBIs. He also leads major-league second basemen with a .993 fielding percentage.

"I wanted to stay with the theme of having a uniform of every team, so we added Bret, who obviously is having a pretty good year," Leyland said.

Boone, son of former All-Star catcher Bob Boone, was just glad to have his day. "It's a thrill to be here, an honor to be recognized."

Defending Omar over Nomar

In Hargrove's estimation, there were four shortstops worthy of representing the AL tonight, but he couldn't justify taking more than three. He chose Omar Vizquel, whom he watches every day in Cleveland, over last year's Rookie of the Year, Nomar Garciaparra, even though the Boston shortstop is hitting .318 with 56 RBIs.

Vizquel, making his first appearance, is hitting .302 with 30 RBIs and 16 stolen bases.

"Omar has a .981 fielding percentage, best of any shortstop in the history of baseball," Hargrove said. "I think, given those numbers, Omar deserved to come."

Captains for the day

Lee MacPhail, former club president with the Orioles, will serve as the AL's honorary captain. During MacPhail's 10 years as league president, the AL lost nine straight All-Star games.

MacPhail thanked current league president Dr. Gene Budig for choosing him anyway. "Maybe he figured that the law of averages would be on my side."

Pub Date: 7/07/98

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