There were 12,891 fans scattered about Comiskey Park on Thursday night. In years to come, hundreds of thousands will swear they were there to see Seattle's Mike Cameron tie a major-league record by blasting four home runs against the White Sox.
Cameron, a former Sox outfielder, belted two home runs in Seattle's 10-run first inning. Bret Boone, batting immediately before Cameron, also hit two home runs in the inning, the first time in major-league history teammates had hit two home runs apiece in the same inning.
The Mariners salvaged the last game of the three-game series with a 15-4 rout. Sox starter Jon Rauch was touched for eight runs, five earned, on six hits in one-third of an inning. Former Sox pitcher James Baldwin (3-1) was credited with the win for the Mariners.
"I wasn't thinking about anything," Cameron said after the biggest night of his career.
"It was like MJ when he hit those six threes against PortlandI just shrugged my shoulders and told my teammates, 'I don't know what's going on.'"
Cameron came into the game in a 4-for-37 slump and with one RBI in 11 games. He hadn't homered since April 15, a span of 41 at-bats. Boone had been struggling as well.
"A thing of beauty," Cameron said of the back-to-back homers with Boone.
He became the 13th major-leaguer and the fourth American League player to hit four home runs in a game. He also robbed Sox outfielder Magglio Ordonez of a bid for a grand slam with a leaping catch in the bottom of the third.
"Mike put on a pretty good show," Sox manager Jerry Manuel said. "You have to applaud the young man. You have to be excited for Mike. He's a tremendous young man. He gave us everything he had when he was here."
The four home runs came on consecutive at-bats over five innings. In Cameron's fifth at-bat, in the seventh, Sox reliever Mike Porzio hit him in the hip with a pitch. In his final plate appearance, in the ninth, Cameron lined out deep to right field as Jeff Liefer made a leaping catch on the warning track.
"I still don't know how Liefer caught that," he said. "I thought I'd get at least a base hit."
Cameron received a standing ovation from the Comiskey Park fans as he trotted to the Mariners' dugout. "This couldn't have happened at a better place," he said.
And he had a light-hearted reaction to his night of fame.
"It's something to go next to my name besides being traded for Ken Griffey Jr.," he said, smiling. "I'm king of the hill today."
After Ichiro Suzuki was hit by a pitch leading off the game, Boone homered. Cameron followed with a 405-foot blast to dead center off Rauch.
Two outs later, Boone homered on reliever Jim Parque's first pitch. Cameron then worked the count full on Parque before homering to center again.
There had only been 39 previous instances of a player hitting two home runs in an inning. Eric Karros was the last to do it, on Aug. 22, 2000, for the Dodgers. Mark McGwire was the last AL player to do it, on Sept. 22, 1996, for Oakland.
Mark Whiten was the last player to homer four times in a game, doing it on Sept. 7, 1993, for St. Louis in the second game of a doubleheader. Rocky Colavito was the last to do it in the AL, on June 10, 1959, for Cleveland. Mike Schmidt of the Phillies was the last player to hit homers in four consecutive at-bats, against the Cubs in 1976.
Boone and Cameron became the first Mariners to homer twice in an inning. It was the second time in team history the Mariners have hit four home runs in one inning. The first time was on Sept. 21, 1996, in the third inning against Oakland.
Baldwin pitched seven innings, allowing four runs on seven hits.
"It's just like you're going against your best friend, but now you're not going against him in the backyard, you're going against him in front of a crowd," Manuel said before the game. "So you have to do all you can to make sure he doesn't get the best of you.
"If [Baldwin] had to win one game, this would be the game he would want to win. If we wanted to win one game, this is the game we would want to win."