Dodger coach Manny Mota, in full uniform, went scrambling for the ball the moment it cleared the left-center field fence. Mota got a late start, but there he stood, proudly displaying the ball for all to see.
It was the baseball Dodger right fielder Henry Rodriguez hit for his fourth home run of the game, one for every at-bat during an 8-4 victory over the New York Mets.
“I’ve seen 10 million spring training games, 10 million!” Dodger scout Mel Didier said, “and I’ve never seen four home runs in a spring training game.”
Dodger President Peter O’Malley was so excited he asked Rodriguez to sign a dozen balls, with the inscription: 4/23, four homers, Henry Rodriguez, No. 40.
“It was crazy,” said Rodriguez, who batted .405 with a major-league leading seven homers this spring. “When I went up there the last time, Raul (Mondesi) told me, ‘Swing hard. Swing hard. Swing harder!’ ”
Josias Manzanillo, who gave up three homers in one inning to the Dodgers last season, fell behind 3-0 in the count. The next pitch was a fastball. Rodriguez swung. The crowd of 4,110 at Holman Stadium screamed the moment the ball left his bat.
“I knew that one was going to go out,” Rodriguez said, “so I stood there a little bit and watched it. It was crazy.”
Rodriguez barely had crossed home plate when Manager Tom Lasorda hugged him so hard he lifted Rodriguez off his feet. The crowd gave him a standing ovation. His teammates bowed.
Spring training records are not kept, but the Dodgers believe it was the first time one of their players hit four homers in a game since Gil Hodges did it on Aug. 31, 1950 against the Boston Braves.
“The only time I’ve ever seen it, period,” Lasorda said, “was when Joe Adcock (of the Milwaukee Braves) did it in Ebbets Field. He missed a fifth by inches. It went off the top of the wall.”
The team confirmed that Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo will make his major league debut May 2 against the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park. Nomo, the fifth starter, will pitch Thursday for Class A Bakersfield at Rancho Cucamonga. . . . The Dodgers will decide today whether to place third baseman Tim Wallach on the 15-day disabled list. If he goes on the list, Ron Coomer stays with the parent club. . . . The Dodgers released shortstop Rafael Bournigal and left-handed reliever Ed Vosberg, and sent pitchers Chan Ho Park, Felix Rodriguez and Jose Parra and infielder Eddie Pye to triple-A Albuquerque. Vosberg rejected the assignment. . . . Bournigal, who still can be traded or claimed on waivers for 10 days because he was designated for assignment, was the starting shortstop last season at the time of the strike. “The strike killed me,” he said, choking back tears. “We were going to make the playoffs. I was going to have a lot of exposure. Then the strike hits.”