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BASEBALL
Peter Gammons
July 28, 1986
PREVIEW OF A FALL CLASSIC?
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July 28, 1986

Baseball

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PREVIEW OF A FALL CLASSIC?

Nearly a month ago, NBC's Tony Kubek observed: "All last year we heard that a Dwight Gooden comes along once in a lifetime. Now we've got Gooden and Roger Clemens at the same time." What made this year's All-Star Game so special was that it presented the matchup of two of baseball's most meteoric stars.

No one expected that a three-inning exhibition would result in many conclusions about their relative abilities. But the smokeout did yield some comparisons and whetted appetites for a Red Sox-Mets World Series. Their velocities are similar: Gooden's top pitch was clocked on the Astros' JUGS gun at 98 mph, while Clemens's was recorded at 99 (equaled only by Clemens's idol, Nolan Ryan) on a pitch to Ryne Sandberg. Clemens hit the high 90s more consistently in the three innings, and his fastball had more movement up in the strike zone. "No one in our league throws as hard as Clemens," said Darryl Strawberry. Gooden has the better curveball, but Clemens has a slider. "If Gooden had a slider, I might retire," says Mike Schmidt of the Phillies.

Several National League players openly marveled at Clemens. "He and Gooden are very much alike—roses," rhapsodized Cincinnati's Dave Parker. Lost in the excitement of the duel was the performance of the Dodgers' Fernando Valenzuela, who now shares with fellow screwballer Carl Hubbell the distinction of striking out five straight All-Stars.

THE INDIANS' UPRISING

How dramatic is the turnaround of the Indians? If they can draw 500,000 to Cleveland Stadium in the second half's 37 dates—they drew 818,203 in the first half—they will actually make money....

The Indians have even found another power hitter, Cory Snyder, who hit eight homers in his first month with the team and demonstrated a rightfield arm equal to that of Toronto's Jesse Barfield....

Still, the most surprising story out of Cleveland is that of knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, who at this time last year seemed at the end of his career. "He's got the best knuckleball in the game," says manager Pat Corrales. "It's just a matter of his learning to control it." Maybe Candiotti and Phil Niekro should throw batting practice between starts, because the Indians have lost eight straight to the Rangers' Charlie Hough and are 1-10 against knuckle-bailers in 1985-86....

The prayers and thoughts of the entire baseball community are with Kansas City manager Dick Howser, who is to be operated on this week for the removal of a brain tumor. Howser is one of the game's most popular and respected people....

A's batting coach Bob Watson, who played with Boston in 1979, took a look at Jim Rice's new singles hitting style and said, "I've never seen anyone hit so far back on his heels. It's amazing that anyone could take so small a stride and still hit the ball hard." The switch came about because Rice was weary of grounding into double plays. It worked. At the All-Star break he was batting .334 and had hit into only 11 DPs, but he had only nine homers to go with his 29 doubles....

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