Rookie homers on first pitch in majors -- off the Big Unit!Posted: Monday June 10, 2002 9:19 PM
Updated: Tuesday June 11, 2002 1:56 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Marcus Thames sure made a sudden impact in the major leagues.
Thames launched a two-run shot against the four-time Cy Young winner in the third inning Monday night.
"I had goosebumps all over," Thames said.
With bench coach Don Zimmer, manager Joe Torre and other Yankees laughing in amazement, Thames came out of the dugout for a curtain call.
"Mr. Torre pushed me out," he said after a 7-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Thames got another big ovation from the crowd of 45,698 at Yankee Stadium when he trotted to his position in right field. While warming up between innings, he dropped a ball.
"I was still thinking about it," Thames said. "Then I caught a hold of myself."
Batting ninth, Thames became only the second player in Yankees' history to homer in his first at-bat. John Miller did it in 1966.
"I couldn't believe it," Thames said. "I walked to the plate and put my head down. If I'd looked at Randy, I would've been more nervous."
Many players have homered in their first at-bat in the majors. St. Louis pitcher Gene Stechschulte (2001) was the last to do it, and Tampa Bay pitcher Esteban Yan (2000) was the last to accomplish the feat in the AL, both on the first pitch.
"The one thing you know is nobody has a scouting report on him," Thames said. "If I was Randy Johnson, I'm going to say, "Here it is, a 98 mph fastball.'"
Which is what Johnson did.
"He could as easily have popped it up as hit a home run," Johnson said. "I got a lot smarter."
Thames struck out swinging in his next at-bat, then flied out and lined out.
After the game, Thames got a shaving-cream pie in the face from teammate Alberto Castillo as he did a TV interview.
"They don't need to see my face," Thames said. "They know it's me."
He was still hoping, too, to get the souvenir ball that landed on the netting that protects fans visiting Monument Park before games.
"I'm going to go out there tomorrow and look around," Thames said.
His first postgame call, he said, would be to his mother, Veterine. She's paralyzed and lives at the family home in Louisville, Miss.
Because of the sudden promotion, Thames said none of his family members or friends were able to make it from Mississippi for the game.
"But everyone will be watching, I know that," he said.
Thames' father, Lester, three uncles and his grandmother were tuned in to ESPN. Lester was a little worried when he saw his son stepping in against Johnson.
"I thought it was going to be three up and three down. Randy's a real good pitcher," he said by phone. "But when I saw him throw a high fastball, I knew Marcus hits those real good."
"I haven't eaten any supper tonight and now I probably won't. I'm too excited," he said.
Thames and pitcher Brandon Knight were recalled from Triple-A Columbus on Monday when closer Mariano Rivera and outfielder Juan Rivera were put on the disabled list.
Thames, 25, was hitting .216 with six home runs and 20 RBIs at Columbus. Last season, he batted .321 with 31 homers and 97 RBIs at Class AA Norwich.
Last year, Thames attended all four of the Yankees' games in the World Series at Bank One Ballpark. He was playing in the Arizona Fall League at the time.
"I still have my tickets somewhere," he said. "We were way up in the upper deck."
Before this game, Thames said he was eager to make his major league debut -- but was aware who he'd be facing.
"Everyone said, 'Big Unit. Good luck,'" he said.