Says Expos general manager Jim Beattie, "Hitters aren't afraid of the inside pitch. You see a lot of guys hit on the hands—they're swinging, not looking to protect themselves." Indeed, in the last week Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez and Jim Leyritz were each hit on the hand.
Surprisingly, as hit batsmen become more common, fewer seem to be retaliating by rushing the mound. That's due in part to baseball's strict policy of suspending fighters, but it's also a sign that hitters have come to expect a bruising now and then. "As long as they're not throwing at my head, I don't care too much if I get hit," says Milwaukee outfielder Jeromy Burnitz. "It doesn't really hurt that bad."
Closing the Kingdome
Charmless in Seattle
When an era comes to an end, as the Mariners' 22-year Kingdome residency did with a 5-2 win over the Rangers before a sellout crowd of 56,530 on Sunday, people tend to recall only the positives. Alas, until a 19-year-old kid named Ken Griffey Jr. arrived in Seattle in 1989, the Kingdome had no positives. Beginning with the team's birth in '77, the Mariners went 14 straight seasons without a winning record—years when, as rightfielder Jay Buhner remembers, "it was so quiet, you could hear the fans talking about you." When Seattle acquired him in '88, Buhner had to give up Yankee Stadium for the Kingdome. "It was a total downer," he says.
As Sunday's swan song approached and the team completed preparations for its move into the $515 million Safeco Field on July 15, Mariners faithful were invoking some of the defining moments of the old ballpark. There was the earthquake-delayed game against the Indians in 1996, the power outage of '94 and the two pop fouls that hit speakers and never came down. On Guaranteed No-Hitter night in 1990, Seattle lefty Matt Young allowed no hits for all of 1⅓ innings. On June 5, 1979, what would have been Willie Horton's 300th home run struck a cable and dropped for a single instead.
"There was always something weird," says Dave Heaverlo, a lefthander with the Mariners in 1980. Heaverlo earned a place in Kingdome lore when he allowed a home run to the Athletics' light-hitting Bert Campaneris. "The press asked me how he hit it so far," recalls Heaverlo. "I told the truth: The air conditioner must have been blowing out."
That's a fitting epitaph for the Kingdome, which will be razed after the 1999 NFL season to make room for a new football stadium. For despite some bright moments—two Mariners no-hitters, Gaylord Perry's 300th win, the miracle season of '95—Seattle's old concrete hulk was an ill wind that blew no good.
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