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Home Run Derby
There's nothing like a home run race between two monster mashers to spice up the last two months of a season. Detroit's Cecil Fielder and Oakland's Jose Canseco, two of the strongest, most exciting power hitters ever to play the game, should have one of the best blast-offs in years. Through Sunday, Fielder was leading the majors with 32 homers and 91 RBIs, and Canseco was second with 31 and 87. Those numbers could be significantly higher by the time the two go head-to-head for seven games from Aug. 30 to Sept. 8.
Canseco admits that he finds the competition exciting. "[Fielder] is the first thing I look for in the highlights," he says. "If you didn't keep track, you would think he had 40 homers already. Every time you turn on ESPN, there he is, hitting another one. But I think Cecil Fielder and I are going to be dueling for the home run title for [years to come]. We are the [game's] most consistent power hitters. He has got an advantage playing in that ballpark, where the ball flies out. He is going to be very, very difficult to catch this year, and if he gets hot, I have no chance."
Canseco says he tries not to let the race affect the way he plays. "I can't think, Well, he's two ahead of me, so I have to hit two today," he says. "That doesn't work. I would love to win another home run title [he won in 1988], but that's because it enhances our chances to win if I hit home runs and drive in runs."
A's coach Reggie Jackson, who homered on the final day of the 1982 season to tie Milwaukee's Gorman Thomas for the league lead with 39, says, "Sluggers are aware of each other, and if you aren't, other guys on your team make sure you are. I always knew what the other guys [in the home run race] did before the game was over. Guys would say to me in the dugout, 'Say, did you hear Killebrew hit one?' And, 'Say, Reggie, did you know Gorman got two tonight?' You don't have to follow the race. Your teammates do it for you. They can't wait to tell you."
Canseco and Fielder were locked in a terrific home run race last year until Canseco injured his back and hit only three homers after Aug. 2. He finished with 37, third in the league. Fielder had a major league high of 51 homers and 132 RBIs in 1990, and he has fallen off hardly at all this season. Through Sunday he was on target to hit 46 homers and drive in 132 runs. Should Fielder keep up that pace, he would join an even loftier company than the 50-homer club he joined in 1990. Consider:
•Only Babe Ruth (1919, '20 and '21) and Jimmie Foxx (1932 and '33) have led the majors in homers and RBIs in consecutive seasons.
•If he gets at least 49 homers, Fielder would join Ruth, Foxx, Roger Maris and Ralph Kiner as the only players to hit 100 or more homers in any two-year period.
Fielder doesn't really enjoy talking about his homers, but others do. Ted Williams was recently asked by ESPN to name a player he would pay to watch. His first choice was Fielder, whom he referred to in almost Ruthian terms. Williams also said Canseco was the second player he would pay to watch.
Fielder versus Canseco?