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Archive for Sunday, October 28, 2001

Splish-splash: World Series was never like this

October 28, 2001

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— At Yankee Stadium, a splash shot usually means a cup of beer hit its targeted outfielder. At Bank One Ballpark, pool ball has a different meaning.

There were no freezing fans bundled in parkas at this year's World Series opener.

For the first time in the history of the Fall Classic, Speedos and shorts were the uniforms of the day as three dozen fans lounged in the swimming pool beyond the right-center field fence, waiting for baseball's championship to unfold before their chlorinated eyes.

"You know what's going to get me in the water when Gonzo hits one," said Steve Brown, one of the guests invited by Miller Brewing Co., which paid $7,000 to rent the pool for Saturday's opener between the Arizona Diamondback and New York Yankees.

And Luis Gonzalez did, though he missed the water, hitting a go-ahead, two-run drive in the third inning of Arizona's 9-1 victory.

While it was 46 degrees at game time back in the Bronx, it was 78 degrees in the Valley of the Sun.

Byron St. Claire, the general manager of Miller's southwest market area, had the task of deciding who got in the pool area and who didn't. There were four Miller employees, 15 retail customers and 20 employees of local distributor Pearce Beverage Co., Brown among them.

"We had an overabundance of people calling for tickets," said Frank Herrera, Miller's senior sales manager for the southwest. "It was incredible."

Gregg Zaun became the first player to homer onto the pool deck on April 19, 1998, and Mark Grace hit the first home run into the swimming pool on May 12, 1998, while playing for the Chicago Cubs. The swimsuited spectator who splashed after the ball tossed it back on the field because it was hit by an opponent.

"I didn't even know it was going to be a home run," said Grace, the Diamondbacks' current first baseman. "I was running the whole way. Finally I got the signal from the umpire that it was out, so I slowed down. But I usually don't hit them far enough to worry about dancing down the first-base line."

There have been 22 splash shots into the pool, which is 415 feet from home plate.

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