Abreu powers up record 24 homers in first round

Two honorary presidents, two knocks at La Russa

All-Star Game notebook



DETROIT - Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu got the Home Run Derby off to an amazing start when he led off the competition with a record 24 homers in the first round.

How do you top that? Well, you don't, but you have to win more than one round to win the competition, and Abreu - representing Venezuela in the new international format - used up a lot of energy in his first turn at the plate.

America's team

Talk about priceless. The look on Tony La Russa's face said it all after honorary American League president Jackie Autry told Red Sox manager Terry Francona yesterday that "everybody' was rooting for his team in the postseason last year.

"I think everyone in the United States was rooting for the underdog, the Boston Red Sox, so it was really fun and exciting for all of us." Autry said during her opening remarks at the All-Star news conference.

Former Phillies owner Bill Giles opened his remarks by pointing out that the National League has never won the All- Star Game while he has been honorary NL president, then delivered a glowing testimonial while he was introducing La Russa as one of the greatest managers ever.

"Thank you." La Russa said. 'I'll try to outmanage Terry like we did in October."

The laughter died down, but La Russa still had a little sarcasm left for Autry and the huge crowd of international media.

"We were all pulling for the Red Sox." he deadpanned, "and we"re all pulling for the American League tomorrow night."

Home-field edge

The decision to have home-field advantage in the World Series hinge on the outcome of the All-Star Game remains controversial, if NL manager La Russa's comments on the subject yesterday are any indication.

"Terry and I believe that there probably is a better way to arrive at who gets home-field advantage." La Russa said, "to do it during the season rather than play in the All-Star Game. It's an important thing."

The Cardinals had the best record in baseball, but the Red Sox got the home-field advantage in the World Series and pulled off a four-game sweep to end an 86-year title drought.

"Would we have played better [with home-field advantage]?' La Russa said. "Yeah, I think that if we had started the series in St. Louis, maybe we would have lost in five."

He wasn't surprised

Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg said that he was on his way to the airport for a family trip to Lake Tahoe, Calif., when he got the call from Houston general manager Tim Purpura telling him that the National League team needed a replacement for injured Scott Rolen.

The omission of Ensberg was considered the most glaring snub of the All-Star selection process, but he said he wasn't upset.

"I think that Scott Rolen is the best third baseman in the National League." Ensberg said, 'so I had a feeling that either me, or Aramis Ramirez or Troy Glaus would end up being the odd man out."

Around the horn

The United States will be grouped with Mexico, Canada and South Africa next year in the first round of baseball's first World Cup-style tournament. ... Robert White, 38, of Baltimore was the winner of Ameriquest Mortgage's "Key To Your Dreams' sweepstakes, which includes a trip to the tonight's All- Star Game with Cal Ripken and former Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris.

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