Texas Rangers outfielder Butch Davis carved out a piece of Camden Yards history yesterday and all he got to show for it was a headache.
Davis, who never hit a home run in 31 at-bats with the Orioles in brief minor-league call-ups in 1988 and 1989, got the first inside-the-park home run in the 142-game history of Oriole Park during the Rangers' 11-4 pounding of the Orioles.
But Davis' third-inning gallop around the bases will be remembered most for its conclusion. Just as Davis was about to reach home plate, Harold Reynolds' relay throw hit the helmet-less center fielder in the head.
Contacted at his hotel after the game, Davis, who left the game in the seventh, reported that his bruised head was still a little sore, but he was otherwise OK.
If nothing else, Davis, 34, a career .242 hitter going into this season, ensured himself a piece of that 15 minutes of fame Andy Warhol said everyone would someday have.
"I've never seen anything like that. I don't know how to explain that. That was definitely a weird play," said Texas third baseman Dean Palmer, who had a two-run homer of the conventional, over-the-fence variety in the fourth.
"That's a first," said Texas first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who also homered in the fourth. "That's going to make every highlight show for a while."
With one out in the third, Davis slammed a drive to the deepest part of the park, sending center fielder Mike Devereaux back on the run.
Devereaux seemed to settle under the ball and position himself for a leaping catch near the wall, but he lost it in the sun, with the ball bouncing off his left forearm, just below his glove.
Devereaux, who was not charged with something even rarer than an inside-the-park homer -- a four-base error -- said he saw the ballmost of the way.
"You can't catch something that you can't see, and it was a prayer trying to catch the ball," Devereaux said. "I lost it in the sun the last 15-20 feet, and I was glad that it didn't hit me in the face."
After hitting him in the arm, the ball rolled away. In the meantime, Davis was in high gear on the base paths, losing his helmet as he ran. Texas manager Kevin Kennedy called Davis the team's best and fastest runner; last year he tied for the International League lead in triples with nine.
Devereaux retrieved the ball and fired it to Reynolds, the cutoff man, as Davis was being waved around third by coach Dave Oliver.
"I didn't really think he [Oliver] would send me, but I didn't know where the throw was," said Davis. "You just have to hope things come together there."
Reynolds' throw sailed but was on target for the plate, arriving at precisely the same moment Davis came sliding in with his third homer of the year, and the 15th inside-the-park homer in Texas history.
"When Dave waved him in, Butch had just started coming around third," said Kennedy. "We took a big chance there, but it turned out to be a big run."
The throw hit Davis on the left side of his head, in the temple. He lay at the plate stunned for a couple of minutes before getting up and returning to the dugout.
His run tied the score, and set the stage for Palmeiro and Palmer to break the game open in the next inning.
"I felt kind of bad about it, but I don't throw the ball that hard anyway," said Reynolds, who said he spoke with Davis later in the game. "It's not a good feeling when something like that happens."
Davis handled two singles in the bottom of the inning, but had no more chances in center field before he was lifted in the seventh for defensive purposes.
After the game, Davis said that to get an inside-the-park homer, one has to "go hard, because you never know what will happen and you've got to have a lot of things go your way. [It takes] hard running."
Sometimes a hard head doesn't hurt, either.