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Foiling the fakes
MLB going high-tech to stop bogus HR ball claims
Posted: Wednesday August 19, 1998 12:48 PM
What if Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa or Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 62nd home run and more than one fan claimed to have one of the most valuable baseballs in history? Major League Baseball officials are taking to steps to prevent bogus claims. They intend to provide extra security personnel in the outfield seats if one of the sluggers gets to 60.
And they have considered marking a supply of balls with individual numbers and a secret stamp that shows up only under a special light. That's exactly what baseball did in 1974 when Hank Aaron chased Babe Ruth's career home run record. The first base umpire would keep a stash of balls bearing a stamp that could be seen only under infrared light. That umpire, not the home plate umpire, would supply the balls whenever Aaron batted.
By the way, commissioner Bud Selig intends to pick up the chase in person if someone gets to 60. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn was not in attendance when Aaron hit No. 715.
Banks looks back
On July 2, Arizona relief pitcher Willie Banks watched a television movie about Hall of Famer Satchel Paige. He was awestruck by Paige's old-fashioned, windmill delivery. Banks is a guy trying to stick with his seventh team. So he figured: What the heck, I'll try it.
Ever since then Banks has pitched like a Hall of Famer himself. He has thrown 18 consecutive shutout innings since going to the Satchel Paige imitation. At one point, he retired 22 consecutive batters. Banks could be Arizona's second reclamation project. Closer Gregg Olson has looked like . . .well, Gregg Olson. He's converted 14 straight save chances. Olson's fastball is up to 94 mph and that wicked curveball he had back with the Orioles in the early '90s is once again rolling off the table.
A miscalculation on Myers?
If the San Diego Padres claimed Randy Myers on waivers just to keep him from the Atlanta Braves, they were dead wrong. A Braves source said the team had no intention of putting in a claim for Myers. Atlanta's reports had Myers throwing in the mid-80s and getting hit hard.
The Braves decided they were better off sticking with Kerry Ligtenberg. And now Ligtenberg is as hot as any closer in the game. Over the past seven weeks he's allowed only one run in 20 1-3 innings, gone 12-for-12 in save situations and held opposing batters to a .130 average. Not bad for a Prairie League graduate who was traded for a shipment of bats and balls.
The Todd Zeile-for-Bobby Bonilla part of the Mike Piazza trade is costing the Dodgers, who were burned thinking Bonilla could play the outfield. It took only two weeks for Los Angeles to realize that Bonilla, who has been slow to recover from off season wrist and Achilles heel surgeries, is too heavy and too immobile to play left field. Now manager Glenn Hoffman, who wanted to give rookie Adrian Beltre a long look at third base, has a tough choice: Turn Bonilla into a $6 million backup or cut into Beltre's development . . .Hall of Famer Don Sutton told Greg Maddux last year there would never be another 300-game winner. Maddux, who looked for No. 200 Tuesday night, said recently, ``Milestones aren't big to me. I'm on extra credit in this game. I really am. As long as I think I can pitch well, I'll continue. If I'm throwing like Dennis Martinez is at 43, I'll still pitch. But 300, that's at least six more years of pitching good. At least. And I mean pitching good. We'll see.'' . . .Alex Rodriguez could break Rico Petrocelli's AL record of 40 home runs by a shortstop before September. Ernie Banks' major league record of 49 is still within Rodriguez's range . . . Texas is concerned about another late-season meltdown by hard-working catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who has lost some of his pop at the plate. Over his career, Pudge has batted .303 in games before August 1 and .260 after.
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