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Angels Find Circus Is to Their Liking

Baseball: After 15 innings, 444 pitches and several strange calls, Anaheim prevails over Detroit, 5-4, ending five-game losing streak.

September 08, 1997|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DETROIT — It was a wild and wacky Sunday afternoon in Tiger Stadium, where the game was so long they had a seventh-inning stretch and a 14th-inning stretch; where the strike zone was so big there were 16 called third strikes; and where tempers ran so high the chapel leaders for both teams, including ultra-composed Angel Tim Salmon, were ejected for arguing third strikes.

There was one more oddity--the Angels won. Robert Eenhoorn, in his first plate appearance after being recalled from triple-A Vancouver Saturday night, scored Tony Phillips with a sacrifice fly in the top of the 15th inning, lifting the Angels to a 5-4 victory over Detroit before 20,602.

The Angels ended a five-game losing streak and pulled within four games of Seattle in the American League West, but victory wasn't secured until Shigetoshi Hasegawa, who struck out eight in four scoreless relief innings, whiffed Tiger slugger Tony Clark looking to end a 5-hour 2-minute, 444-pitch affair that featured 14 pitchers and 33 strikeouts.

The final pitch, like so many of home plate umpire Mike Everitt's calls, appeared so far outside that Detroit third baseman Phil Nevin, in the on-deck circle during Clark's at-bat, said it was "closer to me than it was Tony . . . I almost swung at it."

Nevin, the former Cal State Fullerton star, tossed his helmet toward Everitt and then, as Everitt walked through the Tiger dugout to go to his dressing room, Nevin flung a batting glove at the umpire, pretty much typifying how players--at least batters--felt toward Everitt Sunday.

"It was just so bizarre it was almost comical," Salmon said. "It was pretty unbelievable . . . but the umpire was calling them both ways."

Salmon was the victim of one of those strange calls in the 12th inning, looking at a third strike that replays showed was a good eight inches outside. Salmon, who had never been ejected in his five seasons, simply snapped, screaming at Everitt and getting tossed from the game.

Then, when third-base Coach Larry Bowa tried to restrain Salmon, the Angel right fielder heaved Bowa aside and went chest-to-chest with Everitt, about as extraordinary a response for Salmon as Phillips not arguing a called third strike.

"Wow, I haven't done anything like that since I played football," said Salmon, who had an RBI double in the first inning and walked and scored the tying run on Dave Hollins' sacrifice fly in the eighth. "That surprised me.

"That's the first time I've ever gotten into a confrontation with an umpire, let alone being ejected. But with the pressure we're under to win, with two runners on and me not coming through a few times earlier in the game, I think anyone would have snapped."

But Salmon? The mild-mannered outfielder who leads the team's prayer service every Sunday?

"Actually, they didn't have chapel today," shortstop Gary DiSarcina said, "so he was a little upset."

Bowa called Salmon's outburst "unbelievable--I've never seen him like that before . . . it was like a lead weight hit me. I wasn't expecting that."

Nor were the Tigers expecting third baseman Travis Fryman, like Salmon a devout Christian, to get ejected for arguing a third strike in the eighth. It was Fryman's first ejection of the season.

Thirteen Tigers and eight Angels struck out in extra innings, and three Angels went down looking against Detroit reliever A.J. Sager in the 11th. There were heated discussions between several players and Everitt, and Tiger Manager Buddy Bell was ejected in the 15th.

But second-base umpire and crew chief Larry Barnett took offense to the players' complaints, slamming his fist on a table as he addressed reporters afterward.

"How many times have I picked up a newspaper and read about the incredibly shrinking strike zone?" Barnett screamed. "The players can't . . . handle a strike. He started calling strikes in the first inning and kept calling them. Gentleman, there you have the result of calling the strike zone."

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