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ALL-STAR GAME FLASHBACK : Right There With the Best : Fred Lynn's 1983 Grand Slam Might Not Have Been Ruthian, but It Was Close Enough to Land in the History Books

July 07, 1989|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

You come to Fred Lynn seeking knowledge about the one and only grand slam hit in baseball's All-Star game.

You know Lynn delivered it in 1983, at Chicago's Comiskey Park, while he was with the Angels.

You let Lynn take care of the rest.

Leaning back in a chair in front of his Tiger Stadium locker, Lynn can tell you anything you want to know about the blast that earned him the most-valuable-player award in the 50th anniversary All-Star game.

He remembers the inning: the third.

He remembers the count: 1 and 2.

He remembers the pitcher: Atlee Hammaker.

He remembers the pitch: hanging slider.

But most of all, Lynn remembers where the first grand slam in All-Star history landed.

Right next to where the first home run in All-Star history had landed.

"They played the first All-Star game at Comiskey, and (Babe) Ruth hit the first home run," Lynn says. "They showed me where he hit it. Mine was about five seats from it.

"It's kind of weird. His was the first home run, mine was the first grand slam and mine almost landed right where he hit his."

Lynn smiles, preparing his listener for the punch line.

"I guess," he finally says, "that means I have Ruthian power."

Five decades and five bleacher seats apart, the home runs live on as two of the American League's proudest All-Star moments. Ruth's ground-breaker, a two-run homer, provided the American League with the margin of victory in a 4-2 win over the National League in the 1933 inaugural game. Lynn's slam, the key blow in a 13-3 American League triumph, broke a string of 11 consecutive All-Star victories by the National League.

"That was my ninth game and I hadn't won one yet," Lynn recalls. "It was getting pretty tiring. We'd had some tough losses, some extra-inning losses.

"It was big that we won that one, but it was bigger still because we blew them out. After that, the mystique about 'the National League jinx' was broken. Since then, we've won our share of games."

But at the outset, the 1983 game had the look of another AL disaster. The American Leaguers committed two errors in the first inning, including one by Angel first baseman Rod Carew, who failed to catch a throw from Toronto pitcher Dave Stieb and later said he lost the ball in the sun.

"Oh my gosh," Lynn remembers thinking. "Here we go again."

But Stieb got out of the inning by striking out Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy and Mike Schmidt and by the third, the American League actually led, 2-1, courtesy of a throwing error by Dodger second baseman Steve Sax.

By the fourth, that lead read 9-1, with Hammaker laboring through what he called "probably the worst exhibition of pitching you'll ever see."

Boston's Jim Rice opened the bottom of the third with a home run. Carew singled in another run. And by the time Milwaukee shortstop Robin Yount, the league's most valuable player the year before, stepped up to the plate, the American League had two more runners in scoring position--Cleveland's Manny Trillo at third base and Carew at second.

At that point, National League Manager Whitey Herzog instructed Hammaker to walk Yount, loading the bases for Lynn.

Kneeling on the on-deck circle, Lynn admitted to seeing red.

"Just because it was the right move strategically doesn't mean I have to like it," he said.

Then, worse still, he saw Morganna.

Yes, there she was--Morganna Roberts, baseball's incorrigible Kissing Bandit, in the ever-so-slightly clad flesh.

She had ambushed Lynn in Anaheim Stadium a month earlier and now she was bounding across the Comiskey Park outfield, seeking another target before security guards could intercept her and escort her from the stadium.

"I knew she wasn't coming after me again," Lynn said after the game, "but I put my bats up in the sign of the cross. I'm not superstitious, but I believe in playing it safe."

Superstitious? Lynn? Just because he had gone four for 56, one of the worst slumps of his career, after his first encounter with Miss Morganna?

Finally, order was restored and Hammaker completed the intentional walk to Yount. The bases were loaded. The National League, at long last, was on the ropes.

Lynn dug in and, for the fourth time in his All-Star career, sent a baseball over the outfield fences. History was made and the rout was on.

Herzog and Hammaker should have seen it coming. If only they had paid closer attention to the American League's batting practice session. With one of his warmup swings, Lynn hit a pitch onto Comiskey Park's roof, a titanic shot.

Glen Rosenbaum, the Chicago White Sox batting practice pitcher, was stunned.

"Bet there haven't been four or five hits like that off me," Rosenbaum said. "I know the Bull (Greg Luzinski) hit one once, but I can't remember the others."

So, Lynn was ready. Soon, an Angel was about to go where no other All-Star--not Ruth, not Gehrig, not Mantle, not Mays--had ever gone before.

Lynn, now a 37-year-old outfielder-designated hitter for the Detroit Tigers, ranks the slam among the greatest moments of his 15-year career.

"It was big," he says. "All-Star games are a lot of fun and I've had some success in them--four home runs. My only regret is not having the chance to go for Stan Musial's record of six."

Lynn hasn't been back to the All-Star game since 1983. The time to catch Musial has probably passed him by.

But for one summer night, with one swing of the bat, Fred Lynn was right there with Babe Ruth.

Lynn can tell you about it.

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