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Prank Doesn’t Suit Park

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a bizarre day anyway, but it turned absolutely zany after the Dodgers’ 4-3, 13-inning victory over the Chicago Cubs.

In a span of perhaps 20 minutes Wednesday afternoon, Chan Ho Park went from pitching savior to hitting hero to clubhouse goat.

Park (5-2) pitched three hitless innings in relief for the victory. And he drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the 13th inning to account for the game-winning run. But in the aftermath of the celebration, it all went awry, leaving his teammates fuming.

Park was sitting in front of his locker, talking about his heroics to reporters, when he suddenly noticed his suit. It was ruined, the pants legs and jacket sleeves cut off. And hanging in its place was a funky disco outfit.

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It’s a traditional stunt that the Dodgers, as well as most other teams, pull on every rookie. They did it to Hideo Nomo last year. They did it to Mike Piazza. They did it to Eric Karros.

Park lost it. He threw his plate of mushrooms into the air. He demanded to know who had ruined his clothes. He slammed a chair against his locker.

He screamed obscenities, then sat in front of his locker, seething. He put on his sunglasses, tossed the disco outfit into the trash and sat staring straight ahead.

Suddenly, it was no longer funny to the rest of the Dodgers. They became upset because he wasn’t playing along. Piazza talked to him, telling him he had to wear the outfit, that it was tradition. Manager Tom Lasorda talked to him.

But Park left for the team charter flight wearing the uniform pants he had worn during the game, along with his warmup jacket and sunglasses.

On a day the Dodgers should have been celebrating, having won for the eighth time in the last 11 games and with a 1 1/2-game lead in the National League West, the incident ruined the mood.

“We talk about camaraderie, then you see this,” Piazza said.

“It’s sad. It’s like tradition is gone. I don’t care if you understand or don’t understand, you got to do it. Everybody does it. I did it. I remember walking through the terminal [in the disco outfit] and having everybody laughing at me. What’s the big deal?

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“I don’t have that many years in the league to talk, but you know as a rookie to keep your mouth shut and respect the veterans on the team. You do what you’re supposed to do. You don’t do something like this.”

The Dodgers, who spent 10 hours 23 minutes playing 31 innings of baseball in a 30-hour span, were a bit on edge, anyway. It didn’t help morale after the game that popular outfielder Milt Thompson was cut, upsetting players.

In a game that lasted 4 hours 59 minutes, following their doubleheader Tuesday, the Dodgers had used 21 players, including all of their position players by the 10th inning, and had left 10 runners on base after the ninth inning.

Finally, they allowed the Cubs to put the game away for them.

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Chad Fonville, who got his first hit since May 21 in the 11th inning, started the 13th-inning rally with a two-out walk. Billy Ashley then hit a bouncer off third baseman Leo Gomez’s glove, and everyone was safe.

With Park coming up next, Delino DeShields was walked intentionally to load the bases.

Cub Manager Jim Riggleman, realizing the Dodgers were out of position players, figured that was a safe move. The thing was, that meant reliever Terry Adams had to throw strikes.

He couldn’t do it.

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Park swung from his heels at the first pitch, then watched Ball 1. Then Ball 2. He squared to bunt the next pitch but pulled back and took Ball 3. Then, with the “take” sign on, he watched as Adams threw Ball 4, forcing in the game-winning run.

Todd Worrell, who saved all five Dodger victories on the trip, then recorded his league-leading 22nd save with a 1-2-3 inning.

And, at that moment, Park was happy.

“That was fun, because I like to hit,” he said. “Sometimes I dream about hitting a homer. Maybe that’s why I swung like that on the first pitch. But the walk was just as good.

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“I’m so happy, especially after yesterday [when he yielded five hits and four runs in 1 1/3 innings]. I felt so bad. I didn’t know if I could come back. It was a great, great day.”

Then Park noticed his suit.

Turned out not to be such a great day, after all.


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