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RBI Leader Gonzalez Doesn't Miss Bright Lights of the Maris Chase

July 08, 1998|JASON REID

In most seasons, Texas Ranger outfielder Juan Gonzalez would be the focus of national attention.

Gonzalez leads the major leagues with 101 runs batted in, only two fewer than Hank Greenberg's all-star break record. He is batting .293 with 26 home runs, and also ranks among the American League leaders in multi-hit games, total bases, doubles and extra-base hits.

His performance is among the main reasons the Rangers are battling the Angels for the AL West title.

But because of the race to break Roger Maris' single-season home run record, Gonzalez hasn't dominated the spotlight. The focus has been on Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals, Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs.

Some might be envious, but not Gonzalez.

"No, no, no, that doesn't worry me at all," said Gonzalez, who made his second All-Star game appearance, his first as a starter.

"You know, this is a different thing, trying to hit home runs. [McGwire] is the big guy right now in baseball, and I enjoy watching him. I'm just trying to drive in my [runs]."

That's something Gonzalez does quite well.

Gonzalez--the 1996 AL most valuable player--has driven in 144 and 131 runs, respectively, the past two seasons.

And he has played in only 267 of a possible 324 games during that span. He also hit 47 homers in 1996 and 42 homers last season.

"I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates," said Gonzalez, the Rangers' all-time leader in homers and RBIs. "I can't drive them in if they don't get on [base]."

Lou Gehrig set the AL single-season RBI record with 184 in 1931. Hack Wilson established the major league mark of 190 in 1930.

The Rangers trail the division-leading Angels by 1 1/2 games with play resuming Thursday. Gonzalez said that breaking the RBI record is important to him--but not as important as winning the division title.

"I'm in the race for the RBI record, but that isn't on my mind every day," he said. "We've got a chance to win it, and that's what I want."


Gary Sheffield wanted to take a rest during the break for the All-Star game, but Dodger officials persuaded the outfielder to represent the team.

And after spending two days in Denver, Sheffield said he was glad he did.

"It's always good to see guys you played with and your friends from around the leagues," said Sheffield, who participated in his fourth All-Star game. "It's a long, long year, and you don't always get a chance to spend time with the guys."

San Francisco Giant outfielder Barry Bonds is among Sheffield's closest friends in baseball, and they shared many stories about their respective seasons during the event.

And the All-Star game also served as a reunion for six members of the Florida Marlins' 1997 World Series championship team. Sheffield was joined on the National League team by San Diego Padre starting pitcher Kevin Brown, Giant closer Robb Nen, Houston Astro outfielder Moises Alou, Arizona Diamondback outfielder Devon White and Marlin shortstop Edgar Renteria.

"Just being here for the last couple of days kind of hit me hard, seeing the guys from last year's team in different uniforms," Sheffield said. "Just think what we could have done if they [management] would have kept the team together instead of breaking us up right after we won.

"We had a chance to be like the [Atlanta] Braves, but they wouldn't let that happen."



Single Team

1983--13, American

1992--13, American

1998--13, American

1946--12, American

1949--11, American

1954--11, American

Both Teams

1998--21, American 13, National 8

1954--20, American 11, National 9

1992--19, American 13, National 6

1949--18, American 11, National 7

1934--16, American 9, National 7

1983--16, American 13, National 3

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