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Scary Man
Tom Verducci
September 09, 1996
A mix of power and glower has turned the Padres' Ken Caminiti into one of the most dangerous players in the National League
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September 09, 1996

Scary Man

A mix of power and glower has turned the Padres' Ken Caminiti into one of the most dangerous players in the National League

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Caminiti, his darkly tanned face gone a ghostly alabaster, is lying on the floor of the manager's office in Monterrey, Mexico, hooked to an IV that is hung from the ceiling with a bent coat hanger. It is the second liter of fluids being pumped into his dehydrated body. The first pitch of an Aug. 18 game against the Mets is seven minutes away. San Diego manager Bruce Bochy has left a blank space next to the third base position on his lineup card. "I think I can go," Caminiti says.

"Get out of here," the manager scoffs.

How could Caminiti possibly play? He hadn't slept the previous night. He had been violently ill from something he ate, so sick that when departure time neared for the bus that would take the Padres from their hotel to the ballpark, Caminiti thought, No way I'm getting out of bed. I'm going to miss the game. I'm going to miss the flight. I'll be a resident of Monterrey, Mexico. I don't care.

But bent at the waist, he struggled into the shower, packed his bags and made it to the bus and the ballpark, whereupon Padres doctors rigged the IV just before he was ready to pass out. Now, at 4 p.m. with Bochy off to the dugout, Caminiti announces, "I'm ready to go." Wait, the doctors tell him, we have to check your pulse and blood pressure. But he is gone. He races to the field, runs a couple of sprints, throws a couple of baseballs and tells Bochy, "Let's go."

Famished and wobbly, he wolfs down a Snickers bar before his first at bat. He slams a home run. His next time up, in the third, he bashes a three-run homer. After striking out in the fifth inning, he can barely stand up and has to be tethered to the IV again. He does not return to the game.

"You really had to be there," Bochy says. "He looked so bad—I mean, all curled up in pain on the floor—that I figured he'd miss two or three days. Ken Caminiti is the toughest, most intense player I've ever been around."

"Then, the first day home, he hit a grand slam," says teammate Tony Gwynn. "The next time up he gets a two-run single. In five at bats he had four hits, three home runs, 10 RBIs, three IVs and two Snickers. The guy is amazing."

"That topped it off for me," says Tewksbury. "I'll carry his bags to the plane from now on if he wants."

Talk about your sugar buzzes. After the Snickers episode, the Padres went 10-1 to reach a season-high 16 games over .500. What Montreal Expos outfielder Henry Rodriguez did for O Henry! bars and what Jerry Seinfeld did for Junior Mints, Caminiti has done for Snickers, which has since paid him a nominal fee for promotional purposes. People keep giving him the gooey ingots. And San Diego hitters have come up with a new rally cry to bust out of slumps: Get me an IV and a Snickers.

"This is the way I see it," Caminiti says. "I love to play. We get paid a lot of money to go out and play, so I'm going to play. For me, it's easy to go out there. Playing baseball is what I love to do."

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