NEW YORK -- When New York Mets third baseman Robin Ventura was swarmed by his teammates between first and second base last night, he lost the distinction of becoming the first major-league player to hit a walk-off grand slam in a postseason game.
Rule 4.11 of the Official Baseball Rules only refers to a situation where a base runner overruns a preceding runner after hitting a game-ending home run, but the most logical interpretation of that rule pointed to the conclusion reached by official scorer Red Foley and the Elias Sports Bureau -- that Ventura could only be credited with a single and one RBI.
The rule states that if "the batter hits a home run out of the playing field to win the game in the last half of the ninth or an extra inning but is called out for passing a preceding runner, the game ends immediately when the winning run is scored."
The rulemakers obviously didn't anticipate a player voluntarily surrendering a base, but it apparently would have the same result as passing a runner at the same point. Ventura and the other base runners were entitled to go home, but only Shawon Dunston's tie-breaking run counted because Ventura's apparent home run became a single the moment he surrendered the opportunity to touch second base.
Ventura didn't seem to care that he lost a piece of history. The end result was reward enough.
"I saw it go out," Ventura said. "I just rounded first and saw Todd Pratt running back at me. As long as I touched first base, it was all right with me."
Rocker's latest views
Braves reliever John Rocker, locked in a feud with Mets fans, had the last word last night after pitching 1 1/3 innings of hitless relief.
When he came into the dugout after striking out Mike Piazza to end the 13th inning, nearby fans were heckling him.
"I just struck out your best hitter," he said, yelling back.
Later, he said: "I would say the majority of Mets fans aren't even human. I've said how brutal the fans were and how disgusting they were. They were worse than I ever suspected."
Expected Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson was back in the Mets' starting lineup yesterday, a day after leaving Game 4 in a huff and sparking a clubhouse controversy.
Henderson was miffed Saturday night when manager Bobby Valentine pulled him for defensive replacement Melvin Mora at the start of the eighth inning.
His gripe: That Valentine -- caught up in plotting his pitching strategy -- embarrassed him by letting him take the field before removing him from the game.
The veteran outfielder reportedly told teammates, "I'm outta here" and headed for the clubhouse.
He was not in the dugout for a tense eighth inning in which the Braves rallied from a run down and then the Mets recovered to remain alive in the National League Championship Series.
Relief pitcher Turk Wendell implied after the game that Henderson had quit on the team, and a couple of other unnamed teammates criticized his behavior in the local papers.
But Valentine disputed a New York Post report that Henderson had packed up his locker and left the stadium before his teammates returned to the clubhouse after the game.
"I dare say that should be clarified somehow," Valentine said. "I don't know if I can totally clarify it, but I can tell you this: There were no bags packed, without a doubt."
Valentine conceded that he had handled the substitution poorly, explaining that, in the heat of the moment, he had neglected between innings to tell Mora that he was in the game and Henderson that he was out.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Pub Date: 10/18/99