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Archive for Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Players contend baseballs are harder in postseason

October 22, 2002

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— Barry Bonds isn't the only reason the Giants and Angels are on pace to shatter the record for World Series homers. Players think juiced baseballs have contributed to the longball mania in the Fall Classic.

After close examination and even surgery, several players have concluded the baseballs used in the World Series are more tightly wound, and smaller, than the ones used during the regular season.

"No doubt about it," said Jason Schmidt, the Game 1 starter for the Giants, who surrendered two of the longballs.

The teams combined to hit 11 homers in the first two games. The record for a World Series is 17, achieved three times, most recently in 1977 by the Yankees (8) and Dodgers (9).

For its part, Major League Baseball dismissed the suggestion as somewhat amusing.

"We're not talking about umpires, anyway. That's a good thing," quipped Sandy Alderson, executive vice president for baseball operations. "As far as we know, there's nothing different about this shipment than any other."

Alderson said a shipment of 120 dozen balls arrived for the World Series a week ago, part of a larger order that included regular-season baseballs. The baseballs, made by Rawlings, were tested in Costa Rica and in Missouri, and the Series balls were only different because they received the Fall Classic stamp.

Still, players maintained that a simple visual examination reveals the difference from the regular season although more intense measures were also undertaken by players.

Angels pitcher Al Levine, inactive for the World Series, went into the team lounge during Game 2 Sunday night and, armed with a knife, cut open a World Series ball and a regular-season ball.

"It seemed like it was wound tighter," Levine said, referring to the World Series ball. "Just cutting through it, it seemed harder. Guys were saying how hard it was."

Regardless, the Giants predicted fewer home runs would be hit at Pac Bell Park during the next three games than at homer-friendly Edison Field.

"This ballpark is one of the hardest to hit home runs in," Giants reliever Chad Zerbe said.

"I'm not saying home runs aren't going to be hit, but probably not four, five or six during a game, like there would be down in Anaheim."

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