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Joyner Finds Happiness in Post-Wally World

June 26, 1989|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | Times Staff Writer

"Wally World" is no more. Its originator and curator, Wally Joyner, said so Sunday afternoon after the Angels' 7-6 victory over the Orioles at Anaheim Stadium.

When Joyner came to Anaheim in 1986 as a baby-faced, 24-year-old first baseman, he took the town by storm. He drove in 100 runs and hit 22 home runs as the Angels came within a strike of making the World Series. He hit 34 home runs and drove in 117 runs the next season.

Not only was a star born, but an entire world. It was "Wally World" and Anaheim Stadium was his personal stage.

But this business of hitting home runs has always been a little foreign to Joyner.

"I'm not a home-run hitter," Joyner said Sunday. "I drive the ball into the alley and drive in runs."

Two years ago, most people would have laughed at that explanation, but not now. The facts back Joyner's assessment.

Sunday, he hit only his second home run of the season and his first in 169 at-bats. It was only his second homer since Sept. 1, 1988, a total of 352 at-bats.

So what's wrong?

Nothing, according to Joyner. Although the home runs aren't coming the way they once were, Joyner said he's content to hit for average and drive in runs.

That thinking has served him well lately. He's hitting .291, up from .236 a month ago, and has hit in 28 of his past 31 games. He's also batting .391 in the past 18 games.

And the third-inning homer and a two-run double in the first inning Sunday pushed his RBI total to 27.

"I think I created some expectations in other people's minds, but not mine," Joyner said of his first two seasons. "I'll probably never hit 34 home runs in a season again. But if I don't hit 34 home runs in a season, if I don't hit 20, does that mean I'm unsuccessful?"

If Sunday's performance is any indication, Joyner has forgotten what it's like to hit a home run.

At the crack of the bat in the third inning, Joyner began running and running hard. He said he didn't see the ball clear the fence in right-center field.

"I was watching the center fielder (Mike Devereaux) and he kept running, so I kept running," said Joyner, who never broke into a home-run trot.

"I guess I haven't had too much practice."

Joyner appears happy to have finally broken out of the slump that reduced him to hitting in the low .200s for the first two months of the season.

"I felt like my best game this year might have been yesterday," he said. "I hit the ball hard four times."

Joyner was three for four in Saturday night's 8-3 victory over the Orioles.

His two-for-four afternoon Sunday included a sharply hit double down the right-field line in the first, scoring Dick Schofield and Devon White to give the Angels a 2-0 lead.

Joyner's leadoff homer in the third started a four-run inning that chased Oriole starter Jeff Ballard.

"I got underneath it," Joyner said. "I got some backspin on the ball, hit it in the air and the ball went out."

Joyner figures if he keeps hitting the ball hard, the home runs will come, maybe not as many as before, but "Wally World" wasn't created in a day.

"Hopefully, those numbers will come back," Joyner said.

But does Joyner ever miss those bygone days of numerous home runs and of "Wally World"?

"No," he said. "I don't know if 'miss' is the right word. It was the right time and place for it to happen. But it's gone."

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