Evans touches all bases in emotional, triumphant return to Fenway


BOSTON -- Yes, it was an emotional experience for Dwight Evans.

Yes, the veteran outfielder did have fun during his first return to Fenway Park.

And yes, the Orioles did win three of the four games over the weekend.

The first two were a given. The other, based on recent past performances, was an upset.

"I loved it," said Evans, speaking of his return, and the results. Each day he had to acknowledge a standing ovation. Each day he got a little more comfortable.

And yesterday, when he hit a line drive down the rightfield line against his old buddy Roger Clemens and didn't stop huffing and puffing his way around the bases until he came across home plate headfirst, his adoring audience loved every step of his trip.

Officially Evans was credited with a triple and a run batted in (Joe Orsulak had singled ahead of him), and scored on rightfielder Tom Brunansky's error. But the reaction couldn't have been greater even if he had hit one into the net atop Fenway's fabled Green Monster in leftfield.

"It tells me that I did a good job and they appreciated it," Evans said after the Orioles' 5-1 win yesterday. "I gave them some thrills -- and they gave them back to me.

"To a baseball player, that is the ultimate sign that you did a good job with the people, and they're remembering you."

Originally, manager John Oates had planned to play Evans in only three of the four games, but the veteran went to his customary rightfield spot for all four games. "We figured that Saturday's day game after the night game Friday would be the toughest for him," said Oates, "but he said he was OK.

"I talked to him again today and he said he was a little tired, but that he wanted to play, and I can understand that," Oates said yesterday, no doubt grateful because the two runs he produced in the second inning were decisive.

One reason Evans wanted to play was because Clemens was pitching. Clemens had worn Evans' No. 24 throughout spring training as a tribute to his friend, and both had looked forward to their first meeting.

"What I'd really like to see happen," Clemens said the day before, "is to have a seven- or eight-run lead so I could throw him some good ones [fastballs] and see if he can get around on them."

Evans didn't "get around" on Clemens' fastball, but his direction was good in two of his three at-bats. Besides the triple, Evans had a pop fly double and hit a long drive to right-center that was tracked down by Brunansky.

After his second hit, which barely eluded the diving Brunansky, Clemens wandered from the pitching mound to within a few feet of second base, where he obviously had a few kidding words.

"I'm not sure exactly what he said," Evans said, "but I think it was something like: 'Is this your birthday?' I couldn't hear the rest of it."

Yesterday wasn't Evans' birthday, just the culmination of a long weekend celebration. The rightfielder had returned -- in style.

It wasn't purely coincidental, and it certainly wasn't the Orioles' proximity in the race, that the series drew 135,482 -- the eighth best four-game series total in Red Sox history.

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