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Ward gets in trouble again in the ninth, leading one observer to suggest that this time maybe Gaston should bring in Mussina. But Ward gets out of the jam, and the Jays win 6-5 to hold on to first place. Toronto's Paul Molitor, one of the hitting heroes, is asked if he thinks it's important that the Blue Jays be in first place on Labor Day, the possible target date for a players' strike. "The thought has crossed my mind," he says. Borders, when asked about his cut, pulls down his lower lip to reveal a sizable gash. Thank you for sharing that with us, Pat.
Wednesday, Yankees at Tigers
For this afternoon game we are sitting at the left hand of a god, Ernie Harwell, in the WJR radio booth. This is a good place to sit not only because you get to listen to Harwell but also because the radio booth in Tiger Stadium is so close to home plate that you can just about read the home plate umpire's ball-strike counter. Listening to Ernie is always an education. In his three-inning stint we learn that Yankee starter Mark Hutton is the fifth Australian to play in the majors, that John McGraw employed Arlie Latham as baseball's first full-time third base coach, in 1909, and that the 1940 Nashville Vols of the Southern Association made only one roster change all season.
We also learn that the Tigers are in dire need of pitching help. The Yankees rough up starter John Doherty and reliever Mark Leiter—Al's brother—for 10 runs in the first five innings. The scoring binge renders academic Travis Fryman's double, homer, single and triple in his first four at bats—the first cycle by a Tiger since Hoot Evers did it in 1950.
We had to leave the game early to catch a flight to Toronto. Listening to the conclusion of the 12-7 Yankee victory on the radio, our driver is disconsolate. "I am a die-hard Tigers fan," says Darrell. "But the Tigers are dead."
Wednesday night, Orioles at Blue Jays
We're hooked on good radio announcers, so tonight we're sitting behind the WBAL team of Jon Miller and Fred Manfra. They poke fun at the SkyDome (comparing it to the villain's lair in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice) and at the subdued fans. "There are close to 50,000 here," says Miller. "Most of them enjoying the game in quiet solitude."
The game goes into extra innings tied 4-4, and, predictably enough, the Jays win in the 10th on, unpredictably enough, an error by Ripken. The 5-4 victory, which keeps the Jays a half-game ahead of the Yankees, marks the 13th time since the final weekend of the '89 season that Toronto has beaten Baltimore in its last at bat.
John Olerud, who homered in the fourth to raise his average to .403, was walked in his three subsequent trips to the plate. That's one of the reasons he may continue to challenge the .400 barrier—by walking so much, he'll have fewer official at bats, thus statistically improving his chances. Another reason is Olerud's demeanor, which is close to Zen-like. He truly seems unfazed by the .400 hoopla. "To be honest with you," he says, "I can think of ways of improving myself at the plate. There are certain pitches I could be handling better." Which brings up the possibility that Olerud actually slumped during the first half of the season; he's batting .439 since the All-Star break.
Olerud uses a bat that only a handful of players use: an Adirondack 433B, 32 ounces, 34½ inches. Olerud's 433B is unusual because it is 1) an unfinished bat, which a few batters favor over a lacquered one on the theory that it puts more English on the ball, and 2) perfectly tapered, which means the contour follows a direct line from the barrel to the handle. Sometimes you're the Adirondack 433B...