At 39, Dunston in middle of it all

DH at bottom of order gets Giants going with two-run homer in fifth

World Series

October 27, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Shawon Dunston kissed the ball goodbye. Then he rounded the bases and kissed his son, Shawon Jr.

Eighteen seasons without a World Series title. So many chances, so many disappointments, so much frustration adapting to his new role in recent years. All that looked like it might vanish with one heroic swing.

Locked in a scoreless tie with the Anaheim Angels last night in Game 6 of the World Series, the San Francisco Giants received a two-run fifth-inning jolt from the hitter they stuck at the bottom of the order.

As the designated hitter, Dunston didn't even need his glove. This probably would have eaten at him earlier in his career, when he was the rocket-armed shortstop with the Chicago Cubs. He was an everyday player until 1998, when Giants manager Dusty Baker had to tell him those days were over.

Dunston recalled that conversation yesterday. He recalled how Baker sat there and told him how he wasn't Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell or Mickey Mantle.

"He went on and on with all these Hall of Famers," Dunston said. "I said, `What are you getting at?' He said, `You're nowhere near them.' It really hit home. It took me a whole year to understand what he was saying. ... He said, `Until you accept your role, you'll never like it. When you accept it, then you'll be a good one.'

"Right now, I'm really enjoying it."

Dunston hadn't hit a home run since April 15, when he came off the bench at San Diego and hit career homer No. 150.

At 39 years and 218 days, Dunston became the sixth-oldest player in major-league history to hit a home run in a World Series game. The oldest was Enos Slaughter (40 years, 162 days) for the New York Yankees in 1956.

After playing in a career-low 72 games this season, he was asked yesterday about retirement.

"I still want to play," Dunston said. "But I'm just going to talk to my wife and kids and leave it up to them."

"I'm not sure if they really want me to be home yet," he added, jokingly.

Dunston left the Giants as a free agent after the 1998 season, signing with the St. Louis Cardinals. He came back in 2001, and it was sometime in May when he told Barry Bonds he (Bonds) was going to break Mark McGwire's single-season home run record.

Bonds told Dunston he was crazy, so Dunston told Bonds he had better buy him a car if it happened. Sure enough, Bonds hit 73 home runs, surpassing McGwire's mark of 70 set three years earlier.

After the season, Bonds bought Dunston a new Mercedes.

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