Tejada's victory in derby hits home

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

As Dominicans cheer, shortstop says result could `wake up' Orioles

Baseball All-Star Game

American League 9, National League 4

July 14, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

HOUSTON - Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada played a limited role in the All-Star Game last night, entering the game as a seventh inning defensive replacement, and grounding to second base in his lone at-bat.

But his week was already made on Monday, when he won the Home Run Derby. Tejada said he made some calls back home to the Dominican Republic, and friends told him he had people dancing in the streets.

"They said it was unbelievable," Tejada said. "It's like if we won the Caribbean Series."

Tejada also gave his baseball-crazed country cause to celebrate in 2002, when he won the American League's Most Valuable Player Award. He was invited from his home in Bani to the presidential palace in Santo Domingo, and people lined the streets to greet him.

That award recognized an entire season of work, but Tejada still said winning the home run contest "was a better feeling."

Added as a last-minute replacement for New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi, Tejada set a record with 27 home runs in the contest, including a record 15 in the second round.

He defeated Houston Astros outfielder Lance Berkman in the final, 5-4. Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro also had a strong showing, leading all eight participants with nine home runs in the first round before bowing out in the semifinals.

"I think it's going to help wake up the team," Tejada said. "The way we played in the first half, I think this is the gift I can give the fans. Not only me, but Raffy, too. He put on a great show. And I think it's going to help us in the second half."

Tejada was joking with Texas Rangers third baseman Hank Blalock before the contest began that the AL participants (Tejada, Blalock, Palmeiro and David Ortiz) had Little League numbers compared to their National League counterparts (Berkman, Sammy Sosa, Jim Thome and Barry Bonds).

But Tejada told Orioles trainer Richie Bancells, who was selected to work with the AL team, he had a feeling it was going to be a good night.

Next time, will it count?

Bud Selig got his wish after the 2002 All-Star Game ended in an embarrassing tie. He got the players union to agree to let the game determine home-field advantage in the World Series, on a two-year trial basis.

Yesterday, Selig said he's committed to keeping the format. But AL manager Joe Torre isn't too thrilled about it.

"Bud wanted a meaningful game," Torre said. " ... I'm not crazy about [the winner determining home-field advantage]. To me, the All-Star Game is an exhibition game."

Last year, Torre benefited from the format. Blalock hit a dramatic home run off Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne, giving the New York Yankees the home-field advantage against the Florida Marlins in the World Series.

Ali honored

Boxing great Muhammad Ali was honored as part of the first-pitch ceremony, and when he took the field, the players gathered behind him at the mound for a picture. Ali threw some playful air punches toward Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, and the crowd chanted, "Ali! Ali! Ali!"

Fast fact

The Atlanta Braves had seven All-Stars in 2003. This year, they have one: catcher Johnny Estrada.

The Braves allowed Javy Lopez to leave via free agency and sign with the Orioles last winter because they knew they had Estrada coming. So far, that decision doesn't look all bad.

Lopez is batting .321 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs. The switch-hitting Estrada is at .332 with four homers and 47 RBIs.

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