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Alomar -- What a Homer

Baseball: Streaking Cleveland catcher wins it for AL, 3-1, with two-run shot off Giants' Estes.

July 09, 1997|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cleveland Indian catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. declined when asked to participate in the All-Star home run derby Monday.

"I'm not a home run hitter," Alomar said. "To me, you have to hit 30 or more home runs a year to be a home run hitter and I haven't accomplished that yet."

Alomar may never challenge for a home run title, but no one can say he's not a home run hitter after he belted a two-out, seventh-inning home run to lead the American League to a 3-1 victory over the National League in the All-Star game at Jacobs Field on Tuesday night.

"MVP, MVP, MVP," the 44,916 fans chanted in unison as Alomar crossed home plate.

Alomar, who has a 30-game hitting streak, one short of the Indian record, drilled a 2-2 pitch from San Francisco Giant pitcher Shawn Estes over the left-field wall as the American League ended a three-game losing streak.

"I had a double in the [1995] World Series to tie the game and that was great," Alomar said. "But to have a home run in your hometown in the All-Star game is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

"I was flying around the bases. I don't think I've ever run so fast around the bases. I just wanted to get home and congratulate my teammates and have fun."

Alomar's home run overshadowed a second-inning duel between Seattle Mariner pitcher Randy Johnson, who leads the majors in strikeouts, and Colorado Rocky outfielder Larry Walker, in contention for the triple crown.

Johnson threw his first pitch over Walker's head as a gag because Walker chose not to face him in a game June 12.

Walker responded with humor, turning his helmet around and moving from the left side of the plate to the right for one pitch.

Voted the MVP, Alomar became the first player to win the award in his home park.

Alomar, who wore a black ribbon over his heart, dedicated the game to his grandmother, Tonee Valazquez, 96, who died last weekend in Puerto Rico. Alomar and his brother Roberto didn't attend the funeral.

"She wanted both Robbie and myself to be here," Alomar said. "She would be very happy for me. She was like an angel watching over me. I'm dedicating the rest of the season to her."

Alomar, whose career has been slowed by injuries, said he draws strength from his grandmother.

"She prayed a lot," Alomar said. "What I learned from her was never to give up. I had back surgery and I was supposed to be out the whole year, but I came back."

Alomar, who set a club record by hitting a home run in five consecutive games earlier this season, became the first player to hit a home run in an All-Star game in his home park since Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves did in the 1972 game at Fulton County Stadium.

"What could be a better gift for him and our family?" Roberto Alomar said.

"You stand up there and everything you see looks like a beach ball," said Sandy, batting .375. "I really can't explain it. You stay back and every pitch is in your hitting zone. When you're hitting well, you stay behind the ball and make contact. That's what's been happening for me all year."

Estes said he made a good pitch to Alomar.

"Well, I kept his hitting streak alive," Estes said. "It was a change-up low and away, but he got it. He guessed right and he hit it.

"It sounded good, but I wasn't sure it was out until I turned around and then it was, 'Oh Geez.'

"I wouldn't have picked anybody to hit a home run off of me, but I'm happy for him that he did it. It's a great time for him playing at home with the hitting streak and the fans obviously love him."

All the runs Tuesday were scored on home runs.

Atlanta catcher Javier Lopez belted a home run in his first All-Star at-bat, drilling a 2-2 pitch from Jose Rosado in the seventh inning to tie the score at 1-1.

Edgar Martinez, hitless in five previous All-Star at-bats, led off the second inning with a home run into the left-field bleachers against Atlanta's Greg Maddux.

"It was a memorable night," Martinez said. "What could be better than having your first All-Star game hit be a home run off Greg Maddux? It's something I'll always remember."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

GAME AT A GLANCE

National: 000 000 100--1 3 0

American: 010 000 20x--3 7 0

Winning pitcher: Jose Rosado

Losing pitcher: Shawn Estes

Save: Mariano Rivera

Home runs: Edgar Martinez (AL), Sandy Alomar (AL), Javier Lopez (NL)

MVP: Sandy Alomar (AL)

* GAME REPORT: C4

* SHAKING THINGS UP

An eight-team division that would include all teams in the Pacific and Mountain zones is still being considered for 1998. C5

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