Ichabod Crane lurched his way toward the plate Saturday night at Anaheim Stadium and received the kind of frenzied applause this place normally reserves for rock stars and evangelists.
Actually it was Doug DeCinces who made his way, slowly, very slowly, toward home in the first inning with two out and Juan Beniquez on second base. Beniquez had doubled off Indian starting pitcher Neal Heaton earlier in the inning.
DeCinces resembles the fictitious resident of Sleepy Hollow from his laborious gait, the product of numerous back injuries, right up to his crooked nose.
The big applause? Washington Irving fans perhaps?
The applause was for that 20th century marvel, the electronic scoreboard, and the welcome news it brought to pennant-conscious Angel fans.
Minnesota 4, Kansas City 1, 5th inning.
“I looked up and I could see the score,” DeCinces said. “Of course I was pleased to see it. ‘
Though the noise prior to his at-bat wasn’t intended for him, the noise that followed his double to left field, which scored Beniquez and started the Angels on their way to a 12-3 rout of the Indians, was.
When DeCinces came up for his second at-bat in the third inning, the deafening roar started again.
Gratitude for a job well done the first time? Or was it admiration for a man who has persisted through two stays on the disabled list this season due to a bad back?
Minnesota 5, Kansas City 2, 6th inning.
No matter. On a one-strike pitch from Heaton, DeCinces hit his 15th home run of the season, driving in Beniquez and Brian Downing, to make the score 4-0.
When he approached the plate in the fourth inning, the loud applause he received was genuinely for him.
DeCinces responded with a pop fly to right field.
Not exactly a storybook ending for someone who, because of back problems, has participated in only 106 of the Angels’ 148 games, but it was the end Saturday night.
After his fourth-inning at-bat, DeCinces felt a pop in his back. He told Manager Gene Mauch, who then removed him from the game, for the umpteenth time, for “precautionary reasons.”
“It makes me nervous when he grimaces like that coming out of the batter’s box,” Mauch said.
DeCinces appeared anything but nervous as he talked to reporters. Clad in Bermuda shorts, he said he felt all right now and that he would play today.
Relaxed is how Mauch would like to see DeCinces. In fact, he would just like to see him on the field. DeCinces collected his ninth game-winning RBI and is perhaps the Angel’s best clutch hitter.
But twice this season, from May 10 to June 3 and July 17 to Aug. 13, DeCinces has been on the disabled list.
“Our offense is there,” Mauch said. “We need every ingredient. Injuries have taken a toll on our offense. When it’s intact, there’s runs to be scored.” Twelve of them last night. Unfortunely for the Angels, the Royals also had some runs to score--Kansas City came back to win, 6-5, in the 10th inning.
Which all might make the Big A’s big applause and DeCinces’ big performance kind of ordinary. Perhaps even take a little shine off the win? Perhaps take away some of the momentum it could give the Angels?
Or does it?
“We can’t wait around and see what they are going to do,” DeCinces said of the Royals. “We have to take our game to them. Be aggressive. The last couple of nights we’ve done that.
“I think we have momentum now because of the way we’ve been dominating teams. That’s the kind of domination I like.”