Record books take another hit by Baines

Veteran sets all-time mark for home runs by a DH

July 18, 1999|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Move over, Don Baylor.

Harold Baines has now hit more home runs than any other designated hitter in baseball history.

Baines passed the former Oriole in grand style last night in the sixth inning when he rocketed a 443-foot shot to deep right-center field that bounced in the last row of seats and onto Eutaw Street.

It was home run No. 220 as a DH for Baines and the 11th-longest homer in the history of Camden Yards.

The streaking Baines has 369 career home runs, tying him with Ralph Kiner for 46th place on the all-time list.

Baines' blast last night off Montreal's Dustin Hermanson in a 2-1 victory before a sellout crowd of 47,988 came just one night after the pride of Maryland's Eastern Shore soared past Hal McRae for the most career hits (1,556, which he increased to 1,558 last night) by a designated hitter.

When asked if there were any special meaning in passing Baylor, Baines said, "No. If I don't hit, they send me home. I'm just riding this all out."

Baines is on a 6-for-9 tear in the past two games, with two homers and three RBIs. He has raised his average to .355.

The man who often shuns the spotlight took a curtain call after he hit the record-breaking home run.

"If I didn't come out, they [teammates] would have pushed me out," he said.

Baines even was willing to make a reference to a possible place in the Hall of Fame someday.

"If it happens, it happens," he said after refusing to discuss the Hall of Fame before the game.

Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks made a case for Baines going into the Hall of Fame.

"The guy was a super outfielder before he hurt his knees and had to DH. It's not his fault he got hurt. Guys like Billy Williams and Willie McCovey finished their careers as DHs and they made the Hall of Fame," Hendricks said.

Baines went by Baylor after a rare moment occurred for him in the Orioles' clubhouse earlier last night.

Baines let his always-present public guard down for a few seconds and said, "Sure, I get nervous sometimes, but I never want to let it show."

Has Baines gone a little soft at 40?

Is the man with nerves of steel and all the emotions of a rock a bit human after all?

Can the player some teammates call "Sleep" really get a tad worked up at the plate once in a great while facing pitchers throwing 95 mph and higher?

The respective answers to those three questions are no, yes and yes.

But don't try to get Baines to go into a long dissertation about becoming the most successful designated hitter in the history of baseball.

"Sure, it was nice to break the record but I prefer to talk about those kind of things when my career is over," Baines said.

He would rather talk about his father, Linwood Baines, who was a talented first baseman in the amateur leagues and worked as a brick mason.

"I got my quiet personality and approach to life from my dad," Baines said. "He was exactly the same way. He comes here to the ballpark a lot and watches me play."

With dad often in the stands and his home still in St. Michael's, Baines said he wants to finish his career with the Orioles.

"This is my home, why wouldn't I want to go out here?" he said, scoffing at talk that he could be traded to a pennant contender and have a chance to play in the World Series. "I wish people would let me speak for myself."

Hitting the heights

In the past two days, the Orioles' Harold Baines has taken over the all-time lead for hits and home runs by a designated hitter:

Homers by DH ....................Hits by DH

H. Baines 220 .....................Baines 1,558

D. Baylor 219 ......................McRae 1,555

C. Davis 194 .......................Molitor 1,457

H. McRae 145 ....................Baylor 1,209

P. Molitor 113 .....................Davis 1,134

Pub Date: 7/18/99

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