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Hitting Coach Burleson Takes a Few Rips

For a year of living dangerously, there’s rookie Oakland hitting coach Rick Burleson, who is obliged to tiptoe around several famous Athletics’ players who don’t want his advice.

For example, Rickey Henderson never wants to be disturbed during a game, and rarely the rest of the time.

“Rickey is hard to deal with,” Burleson told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Lowell Cohn. “He doesn’t seek help from me.”

What would Burleson tell him, if asked?

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“I want him to use all the field, not just pull the ball,” Burleson said. " . . . If you want my opinion, he hit 28 home runs last year but he may never hit 28 again.

“He tries to be big like Jose (Canseco) or Dave (Henderson) with the long ball. . . . We had a nice talk one day. ‘You may not want to hear what I’m going to say,’ I told him. ‘You’re going to be in the Hall of Fame someday and you don’t want it to be because of stolen bases. You may want it on your total game. You may not hit 28 home runs again, but you might hit .300 for us.’

“I don’t know how he took it. I really don’t care.”

Add Burleson: He says Canseco has been a “prince” but never asks for suggestions, preferring to study videotapes of himself.

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“He’s not into hitting home runs,” Burleson says. “He’s into hitting home runs 100 feet over the fence. He’s into putting on a show. He’s real smart, has so much ability, unbelievable bat speed. But sometimes he’d rather put on a show.”

Last add Burleson: He says Mark McGwire is the friendliest of the A’s--as long as the hitting coach doesn’t mention hitting.

“He’s elected to stay with what he has,” Burleson said. “He talks to me the least about hitting of all of them. He came to me and said, ‘A writer talked to me about the hitting coach. I didn’t say anything. I don’t want you to say anything.’

“Mark wants to pull. He gives up the middle of the plate. . . . He looks to turn on everything. That’s why he doesn’t hit for average. The organization has accepted that. . . .

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“He had so much to improve. Obviously, he hasn’t.”

Starting the weekend, McGwire was hitting .197.

Trivia time: What player hit the most extra-inning home runs?

Goodfellas: Former Chicago Bear star Stan Jones, reflecting on the anonymity of guards at his induction into the pro football Hall of Fame: “At one point in time, Abe Gibron, myself and a number of guards decided to put our hall of fame in Buffalo, N.Y.

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“We were going to have a bowling tournament. Of course, being offensive linemen, we weren’t going to use bowling balls. We’d just run down the lane and hit the pins with our heads.”

Perks for suits: Handball player Bill Kessler, keeping a diary of the Pan American Games for the Associated Press, says there isn’t much to do between events.

“They have a beach, but it’s like walking on molten lava,” he writes. “You can’t walk through it without shoes. You can’t even walk on it with sandals.

“There isn’t much to do in the village and we’re isolated. . . . There’s nothing around except a hotel where the Pan Am officials are staying. It has a pool but the athletes aren’t allowed to use it.”

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Well, he’s honest: New Angel and former phenom Shawn Abner, acknowledging that he was a bust in San Diego: “If this guy (Jack Howell, traded to the Padres) comes in and gets one hit a month, he’ll do more than I did. I never did nothing, absolutely nothing.”

Trivia answer: Willie Mays hit 22 extra-inning homers. Jack Clark has 18. Babe Ruth hit 16.

Quotebook: New York Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor, arriving six hours late the opening day of training camp: “Don’t blame me. Blame the foursome ahead of me.”


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