Royster Hits 1st Slam, Wojna Gets 1st Win

Times Staff Writer

Jerry Royster had just done the first-ever postgame interview on the big screen television at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, and some man, who probably had just watched his first baseball game, said: “Wow! There goes Mr. Home Run Himself.”

And Babe Ruth was Mr. Single.

Truthfully, it was quite shocking that Royster, a slender infielder, hit his first career grand slam home run in a 6-1 Padre victory over San Francisco Friday night, a night of absolute firsts.

This was also Ed Wojna’s first major league victory.


This was also Royster’s first home run of the season.

This was Royster’s first comment: “What kind of pitch did I hit?” Royster said. “You’re asking a non-home run hitter. I guess it was a fastball. But as a baseball player, you dream about it. But the dream is always two days before you play, not when you’re standing there at the plate.”

Here’s how his dream came true: There were two outs, with the Padres leading, 2-1, in the eighth inning. Giant pitcher Greg Minton had just intentionally walked Graig Nettles to get to Royster, and loaded the bases in the process. Minutes before, Royster had just gotten off the phone with his wife, who had gone to the hospital to have her neck examined.

She said the doctor had told her she was fine.


He said he had to go hit.

On an 0-and-1 pitch, he lifted the ball over the fence in left.

As he trotted around the bases, his teammates gathered around home plate, waiting to congratulate him. Garry Templeton got to him first.

Only then had he realized this was his first grand slam.


“I’m just a utility infielder,” he would say later.

He had gone to do the postgame show earlier, and the broadcaster, Bob Chandler, told him they’d be doing the show on the big screen. A fan, who had caught the home run, saw him on the field and ran down and gave Royster the ball.

“That’s a first,” Royster said.

Meanwhile, Wojna was thrilled in the clubhouse, although he tried to restrain himself, saying he had been more nervous during his first major league start last weekend in San Francisco. The only gripe with Wojna, who have up just three hits and one run, had been that he didn’t work fast enough, and, consequently, made it harder for the fielders to concentrate.


“It must’ve taken 45 minutes for the first two innings,” Manager Dick Williams said. “He ruined a lot of cocktail hours.”

Kevin McReynolds had ruined the Giants with two RBI singles early in the game, and Tim Stoddard and Craig Lefferts combined to shut out the Giants in relief of Wojna. And Friday night’s pitching matchup was interesting only because the principals were so different in background. The Giant starter was Vida Blue, age 35, who is making a comeback after spending a year away from baseball because of drugs. He is 3-1 this season, and actually struck out 10 Padres last weekend in San Francisco, the first time he’d done that since 1977 when he pitched for Oakland.

It should be known, too, that in that game, he was throwing his fastball at 95 m.p.h. in the opening inning, at 94 m.p.h. in the sixth. He has had control problems because he says he hasn’t pitched all that much.

Also, he has nerves of steel.


“No, I’m not nervous (about starting),” he had said. “Nervous is standing in front of a federal judge when he’s got a rifle in his hands.”

Wojna gets nervous. He has a right to be so. He is 24. Friday night was only his second major league start, and he hadn’t exactly made himself famous in the minors, where he’d been 4-5 this year with a 3.89 ERA.

He certainly looks out of place in the Padre clubhouse, too. He sits in Greg Booker’s old locker (Booker was sent down to Las Vegas to make room for Wojna), and there is no nameplate above his locker. Also, his chair says No. 51 (Booker’s old number). He wears No. 26.

But he’s got much talent, according the Padre pitching coach Galen Cisco. He throws a regular, good old fashioned curve ball, the kind you don’t see much any more in this age of sliders and cut fastballs. He had started a week ago in San Francisco, but hadn’t used the curve ball much because of the Candlestick Park gusts.


He planned on using it Friday.

Actually, he had a nice outing, considering he gave up just three hits and one run in six innings. The run came on Bob Brenly’s solo homer in the second, and, although he got into a jam in the third (two walks and a hit batter), he kept escaping.

“He’s got very good movement on his fastball,” Cisco had said earlier. “The key is for him to get it over the plate and let the natural movement take over on locations. . . . This is the best approach until he gets a little more comfortable. I mean, wouldn’t you be hyped if this were your second time (starting)?”