ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Orioles missed out on Ron Gant last year and he became a National League All-Star. But the Orioles could have another chance at getting him, he said, when he becomes a free agent after this season.
"Most definitely," Gant said. "Peter Angelos is one of the type of guys who is going to go out and get good players and try to put together a good ballclub. I'm sure my name will come up more than once there pretty soon."
Gant broke his leg in a motorcycle accident before the 1994 season, and when the Atlanta Braves bought out his contract, he became a free agent. The Orioles were one of the last teams in the running for the power-hitting outfielder, but were beaten out by the Cincinnati Reds.
"The Giants and the Orioles needed a player who could play right away for them," Gant said. "I wasn't able to do that, because of the injury."
Johnson-Nomo is striking match
There is great anticipation for tonight's duel of starting pitchers Randy Johnson and Hideo Nomo, who lead their respective leagues in strikeouts. The hairy, 6-foot-10 left-hander with the streak of nastiness against the guy from Japan with the nasty delivery and split-fingered fastball.
Strikeout king Nolan Ryan said: "It's really great for the game. If you ask me, Randy Johnson is the premier pitcher in the game today. Let's put it this way: If I wasn't involved in baseball at all, I'd be watching."
American League manager Buck Showalter acknowledged that part of the reason that he's starting Johnson is that four of the first five hitters in the National League lineup are left-handed -- Lenny Dykstra, Tony Gwynn, Barry Bonds and Fred McGriff. The scene at Camden Yards two years ago, when Johnson threw a fastball over the head of John Kruk, was recalled often yesterday.
"It's an unfair advantage," said Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza. "He'll do to everybody what he did to Kruk. We were laughing about it, and I said, 'Yeah, the right-handers will take care of him.' Yeah, right. We've just got to get him out of the game. Let him throw his three shutout innings and try and get the next guy."
San Diego plays Seattle regularly in spring training, but Gwynn sits out games when Johnson pitches. "Why get into a rut in the spring?" he said rhetorically. "I consider him the most intimidating pitcher in baseball today, and most guys don't want to face him."
NL manager Felipe Alou was asked if Nomo would have been the starting pitcher had Atlanta's Greg Maddux been available, and he answered instinctively, "I don't think so . . ."
But then Alou looked out at the crowd of reporters and realized that this was Nomo's coming-out party and tried to amend his words, continuing, "I don't know, I don't know." The room reverberated with laughter.
Managing by the numbers
AL president Gene Budig introduced Showalter by saying that he looked like an accounting professor -- which, of course, Budig had been at one time.
Showalter, who works under the strain of expectation from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, walked to the microphone. There's a chance," he said dryly, "that I'll maybe be teaching accounting here shortly."
No doubting Thomas
Chicago first baseman Frank Thomas won the Home Run Derby, hitting seven of the eight longest homers by the eight contestants, and beating Cleveland's Albert Belle, three homers two, in the championship round. Thomas' longest blast went 470 feet.
Boggs is believer in history
Yankees third baseman Wade Boggs on the AL East: "Injuries have played a large part in what's gone on. Baltimore's had its share of injuries, and naturally, we have. Boston hasn't had too many injuries and done what they needed to do, going out and getting some help."
Boggs was asked if the Yankees had a chance to catch the Red Sox. "Chance?" he said. "1978. I'm sure they asked the same question in 1978."
That year, the Yankees came back to catch the Red Sox and win the AL East. "We're only eight games out," he said. "They [the '78 Yankees] were, 13, 14, whatever it was."
Uncle Rick proud of Zaun
Former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey, now managing Triple-A Albuquerque, was in the NL clubhouse yesterday, visiting with some old friends. Dempsey said he talked with Orioles rookie Greg Zaun, his nephew, the day before he got his first major-league hit.
"He was wondering when he was going to get a chance to play," Dempsey said. "He's a good little catcher. He's going to help their pitching staff a lot. . . . He's a scrappy little guy with a lot of energy."
Dempsey admitted that when he saw Zaun in high school, saw he small he was, he thought his nephew faced a long, hard road to the majors. "But, heck, I wasn't the biggest guy in the world, either," Dempsey said.
Martinez learns plane truth
Martinez was on a plane, flying back from Cleveland to Seattle for the break, when he called his wife to tell her what time his flight was landing. She told him that someone from the Mariners had been trying to reach him with the news he had been added to the All-Star team. Martinez's plane landed in Seattle at about 7 Sunday night, and five hours later, his red-eye flight departed for Dallas.
Puckett on sliding scale
Kirby Puckett, the AL's starting right fielder, is batting eighth. "I think they're trying to tell me something at these All-Star Games," Puckett said. "I went from hitting first my first year. I hit second one time. Third. Fifth, sixth, seventh. Now I'm eighth.
That must mean this is my last All-Star Game."
Warning: labor stuff
A number of players said that they couldn't see either side doing anything to lead to another strike this year. San Diego's Gwynn remembered last year, and all the excitement that had been generated over the homers being hit by Matt Williams and Ken Griffey.
"I've never seen people that excited over the game of baseball," he said. "You had so many things going on, with Williams and Albert Belle and Griffey and Thomas and Bonds and Piazza doing things that hadn't been done in a long, long time. Then, to cut it all off like we did left a bad taste [for the fans]. People were angry, and they had every right to be.
"From a player's perspective, we did what we felt was the best thing to do. Looking back on it, was it? I don't know. I don't know, especially under the circumstances we had last year. It was one of the best seasons we've had in a long time. . . . You just can't play with the American public's feeling right now."
Around the horn
Toronto second baseman Roberto Alomar said the death threat against him July 2 "distracted me for a few days. You think about it. But I don't think about it now. I don't know her." . . . The former AL players beat a team of former National Leaguers in a three-inning, Legends of the Game contest. Former Yankees second baseman Willie Randolph doubled home Bert Campaneris with the game's only run. . . . Ozzie Smith was the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, given for sportsmanship, community involvement, and an individual contribution to his team and baseball. . . . Houston second baseman Craig Biggio thinks the team to beat in the National League right now is the Atlanta Braves. "They're really hot right now," he said. . . . Alou managed AL starting pitcher Johnson in the minors. "He was fun to manage," Alou said, "to watch him throw some pitches to the screens [behind home plate]." . . . Chicago Cubs closer Randy Myers suggested to everyone who would listen yesterday that Major League Baseball should let Nomo throw nine innings. . . . Griffey, voted to the AL All-Star team but unable to play because of a broken wrist, was a no-show for the workouts. The Braves' Maddux, scratched because of a strained groin, did arrive to join in the festivities. . . . Kent Brown, Major League Baseball's interpreter for Nomo, admitted to the Los Angeles Times that he embellished Nomo's answers to questions to make them more