Piazza-Martinez showdown is no-show

Two had bruised feelings after incident last year

All-Star Game notebook

July 14, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

BOSTON -- National League catcher Mike Piazza stood on deck last night, on the verge of getting another crack at pitcher Pedro Martinez. Perhaps Piazza would have experienced a flashback in this 70th All-Star Game, which no doubt would have made his heart race and his hand throb.

Piazza's last experience with his former Los Angeles Dodgers teammate, in a June 1998 game at Fenway Park, left him hurt and disturbed enough to fire off a few verbal shots at the Boston Red Sox ace. Martinez knocked Piazza from the three-game series with a fastball that bruised his hand, leading to an angry exchange and accusations of revenge.

Piazza reportedly didn't get along with Martinez's brother, Ramon, when they were paired in Los Angeles. Told that the New York Mets' catcher believed the inside pitch was a form of payback, Pedro Martinez cursed Piazza.

Which led to last night's potential reunion in the second inning. Martinez was the American League's starter. Piazza, batting seventh in the NL lineup, was moments away from strolling to the plate.

Thoughts of last year's incident were inevitable, but tempers never flared. They never got the chance. As Jeff Bagwell struck out swinging for the second out, AL catcher Ivan Rodriguez threw out Matt Williams trying to steal.

So much for the drama. The New York Yankees' David Cone replaced Martinez to begin the third inning, and one of the game's most intriguing matchups never materialized.

"I never said it was intentional," Piazza said. "I think a lot of it was just animosity on my part. No one likes getting hit. It was my first series in Boston. I thought he broke my hand. I was obviously frustrated, but I never said I thought it was intentional. I just said that probably because in the American League there's a designated hitter, so he takes a little more liberties."

Take me out, coach

AL manager Joe Torre marveled at how many of the players on his roster had no qualms about leaving the game early if it meant freeing up space for others.

"I asked Cal [Ripken] when he wanted to come out," Torre said, "and he said, `I've played in so many of these, get somebody in there who hasn't.' It's great that these guys are All-Stars for more than just their ability."

Surhoff is his man

Another Oriole received his share of plaudits. Toronto outfielder Shawn Green chose B. J. Surhoff as the player he most looked forward to being around.

"You can tell what a pro he is," Green said. "You can see why he's such a good hitter."

Green, who batted .327 with 25 homers and 70 RBIs in the first half, also had one of the best stories to tell from his first All-Star experience. It involved his brush with greatness -- a conversation with legendary hitter Ted Williams.

"Ted Williams said he really likes the way I hit. That's the biggest compliment I ever received," Green said. "Maybe he was just being nice, but I'll think of it the other way."

Banned in Boston

Surhoff said he had wanted to sign with the Red Sox as a free agent after the 1995 season before agreeing to a three-year deal with the Orioles.

"We made a couple of phone calls here but they were rescinded," he said. "There was no dialogue. I was disappointed in their decision-making process because they said they wanted another guy and wouldn't even talk to me."

Sosa's Fenway memory

Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa holds a fond memory of Fenway Park. This is where he hit his first major-league home run, on June 21, 1989.

In only his sixth major-league game.

Off none other than Roger Clemens.

That was the only homer Sosa, then an unknown 20-year-old, would hit as a Texas Ranger. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox one month later.

"He was throwing about 100 miles an hour," Sosa said of Clemens. "When I hit it, it was like a dream come true. It made me real proud of myself. From that day on, I said, `I can play this game.' "

Torre's warm reception

Torre has his own memories of Fenway and they date much later than Sosa's. Torre's first game this season after returning from prostate cancer was played in Boston, and he received a warm ovation when taking the lineup card to home plate.

"It was quite emotional," Torre said. "I hadn't planned on taking the lineup card but our PR director, Rick Cerone, said, `Why don't you?' Then I asked my guru, [bench coach] Don Zimmer, and he said, `You've got to take it out there. You've got to.'

"I took it up there and it was something. People getting on their feet. This is supposed to be a rivalry, where the Yankees are hated, and I was very moved by the reception."

First-time party

There were 24 first-time All-Stars, six short of the record set in 1988.

Of those 24, 17 of them represented the NL: Kent Bottenfield, Jeromy Burnitz, Paul Byrd, Sean Casey, Alex Gonzalez, Luis Gonzalez, Vladimir Guerrero, Brian Jordan, Jeff Kent, Mike Hampton, Mike Lieberthal, Jose Lima, Kevin Millwood, Dave Nilsson, Ed Sprague, Billy Wagner and Scott Williamson.

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