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Langston Is a Friend in Need, 9-4

May 29, 1994|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TORONTO — Mark Langston and Dick Schofield have been best friends for years. They take their families on vacations together and check up on each other during the season.

Their personalities are so similar and they know one another so well that their wives wonder at times if they are related.

Langston honestly believed that he knew everything there was to know about Schofield.

Not anymore.

Schofield stunned not only Langston, but the sellout crowd of 50,509, hitting a grand slam that paved the way for the Toronto Blue Jays' 9-4 victory over the Angels on Saturday.

"Believe me, that was the furthest possible thing I thought in that situation," Langston said. "I was so sure he was going to take that first pitch. There was no way in the world I thought he'd swing.

"I went with a hunch.

"Obviously, it was a big mistake."

Schofield, swinging at the first pitch he saw from Langston in the second inning, sent the fastball soaring 417 feet into the second deck of the Skydome.

It was Schofield's first home run in two seasons, and his first grand slam since June 14, 1987, when he still was playing for the Angels. For Langston, it was only the second grand slam he has yielded in his career, spanning 339 games and 2,357 innings. The other one was by Darnell Coles on May 31, 1986, when Langston was with the Seattle Mariners.

"I can't believe this," Langston said. "Darnell was my roommate in 'A' ball, and Dick's one of my closest friends.

"If I ever get the bases loaded and a friend of mine is at the plate again, I'll walk him."

Said Angel pitcher Chuck Finley: "Well, I guess if you give up a slam, you might as well give it up to a friend.

"Then again, the more you give up, every hitter will want to be your friend."

Schofield, who took over the starting shortstop job a month ago, had faced Langston 38 times in his career before Saturday. All he had to show for his efforts were four singles and six walks for a .125 batting average.

So it wasn't exactly as if Schofield was cocky when he stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. All he knew was that Langston was having control problems. Langston had already walked No. 6 hitter Ed Sprague, surrendered a double to Mike Huff--who had only two extra-base hits this season--and walked catcher Randy Knoor, who was batting .108.

"My biggest fear was to go up to the plate and start smiling," said Schofield, who last faced Langston five years ago.

Schofield guessed that Langston would simply throw the first pitch over the heart of the plate.

"You guys," Langston said, gesturing to reporters, "probably would have put a nice swing on it."

Said Schofield: "I probably won't hit another one like that for another five years. Now I know the ball is juiced."

Considering that Schofield had dinner plans with Langston later in the evening, could he keep himself from beaming while circling the bases?

"I couldn't do that to him," Schofield said, "but I did wonder who was going to buy dinner."

The Angels came back in the third inning with three runs against Juan Guzman (5-5), but Langston gave up another run in the fourth inning, set up by Devon White's leadoff triple, and two more in the sixth inning that put the game out of reach.

"That frustrated me more than the grand slam," said Langston, who is 2-3 with a 5.72 earned-run average. "The team battled back, and I wasn't able to keep it close. Really, I don't understand it, because that's as good stuff as I've had all year.

"Physically, I'm all the way back from my (elbow) surgery, but now it's time to pitch. I've got to pitch better than this."

Langston has three months to plot his strategy for the next time he faces Schofield.

"Next time," Langston said with a smile, "I'm going to have to rough him up.

"It's that simple."

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