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Upper-Deck Home Run Doesn’t Measure Up for Canseco

Times Staff Writer

In describing it, others seemed to do a better job than Jose Canseco, who launched a monster home run in the third inning of Saturday’s fifth American League playoff game.

For instance, Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s reserve first baseman, shook his head and said: “That wasn’t just a home run. It was a home run of biblical proportion.”

And Dave Parker, the A’s designated hitter who was also watching from the bench, said: “I came into the clubhouse after the game and told our equipment man, ‘You can tell your grandchildren about that because you can’t hit them any farther.’

“I mean, when you hit them that far, you can put some real style on your trot. As Jay Johnstone once said, ‘Anything that travels that far should have food on board.’ ”

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How far did the home run that Canseco hit off Toronto Blue Jay left-hander Mike Flanagan travel? SkyDome’s tale of the tape estimated it at 480 feet, but Rickey Henderson, who hit two home runs in the A’s 6-5 victory, said it had to be 600 feet at least.

“Unbelievable,” Henderson said of the towering drive that soared into the top deck in left field, the first home run to reach the SkyDeck level and the longest yet at the SkyDome, surpassing the 435-foot blow that Fred McGriff hit off Dan Petry of the Angels July 17.

“Mark McGwire hit one off the facing of that deck the last time we were here,” A’s pitcher Matt Young said, “but this one took one look at Mark’s spot, spit on it and kept going.”

Said McGwire of Canseco’s home run: “It was awesome for the SkyDome, but I really don’t think Jose hit it that hard. It was more of a fly ball that just carried.”

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Canseco agreed. He watched it again on the clubhouse video and said: “I just missed it. I’ve got to get hold of one tomorrow.”

He seemed to be serious.

“I put a good follow-through on it, but I really didn’t hit it that well. It was an inside fastball that I hit off my wrists more than the fat of the bat.

“I mean, it’s 328 (feet) down the line and this was only a few feet fair and very high. The ball travels well here. It may have gone farther than 480 and it may have been shorter. I don’t think it was as far as you think. It was very deceiving. You mean to tell me that ball would have traveled as far in a night game at Oakland?”

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Toronto catcher Ernie Whitt, when asked what Flanagan had thrown, didn’t call it an inside fastball.

“A bomb,” Whitt said.

Will the home run enhance Canseco’s reputation?

“I have so many reputations that it depends on which one you’re talking about,” Canseco said.

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The crowd of 50,076 had another of Canseco’s reputations in mind when he came to the plate in the third inning. But he found a way to mute the chant, “Steroids, steroids,” as he did while batting .313 in last year’s playoff series against the Boston Red Sox.

Asked where the home run ranked on his all-time distance list, Canseco said 10th or 11th, later amended it to top 20, then thought some more and said, “Pretty soon it won’t even be in my top 40.”

“I mean, I’ve probably hit 10 or 15 longer ones in Oakland alone,” Canseco said. “I hit one there in September of ’85 when I first came up that carried over the seats behind the center-field fence and hit the back wall. That was at night and at least 500 feet.

“If I were to hit it that hard here, it might go through the roof.”

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In a victory that gave the A’s a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, Canseco also drove in a second run with a single to right-center field in the seventh inning.

“That was more satisfying (than the homer) because I beat the defense,” he said. “They were giving me the whole right side, and I was trying to hit the ball there.

“I’m known for my home runs, but I also want to be known as a situation hitter, and I consider that hit one of the most important I’ve had.”

Until he singled twice in four at-bats Friday night, Canseco had stretched a postseason hitless streak to 24 at-bats. He said he has been thinking about his one-for-19 slump in last year’s World Series, but not to the point of putting pressure on himself.

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“We have so much talent here that one guy doesn’t have to carry the load,” he said. “We have so much talent that I see the Oakland A’s as a dynasty club for five or six years.”

Canseco, of course, is a formidable part of that promise. He is coming off a remarkable season during which he missed the entire first half because of a broken wrist, but still hit 17 homers and drove in 57 runs in 227 at-bats.

If his half-season production was projected against his 1988 at-bat total, he would have hit 46 homers and driven in 156 runs.

But batting coach Merv Rettenmund said those figures are too low.

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“When Jose first came back, he was going through spring training and his wrist was still sore,” Rettenmund said. “It won’t be 100% until next year.

“If our eighth and ninth hitters get on base like they have this season, and Rickey and Carney (Lansford) continue to do what they have been, Jose is going to have a whole lot of RBIs. We’re talking 190 maybe. I mean, he can put up numbers faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. They just pile up.”

Rettenmund reflected on a long career and called Canseco’s home run Saturday “the damndest shot I’ve ever seen. It was just suspended up there. I thought it was going to go through the roof.

“The most amazing thing may have been how quiet the stadium got. It was like someone flipped a switch. I don’t think anyone believed it.”

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Among the disbelievers were Canseco’s teammates.

“I got back to the bench, and they were staring at me like I was some kind of robot or abnormality,” Canseco said. “I told them, ‘Hey, I’m human.’

“I mean, it was one run and nothing more. You can’t divide it, you can’t really measure it because it was straight up. If it was my league, you’d score home runs in increments: One run for first deck, two runs for second.

“Hit one in the top deck and the game’s over, A’s win.”

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The A’s won Saturday when Canseco became the first to hit one into the top deck at SkyDome. Canseco is definitely in his own league, but they still had to play the last six innings.


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