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Slam bam! _ Alomar's hit delights local fans

Published: July 9, 1997 12:00 AM

By Allen MoffRecord-Courier staff writerCLEVELAND _ Catcher Sandy Alomar has whipped Cleveland Indians fans intoone continuous frenzy since day one of the 1997 Major League Baseball season.But in Tuesday's All-Star Game at Jacobs Field, Alomar caused a full-fledgedfuror.After taking in the game from the bench for the first five innings, theTribe catcher finally strolled to the plate for his only at-bat of the nightwith the game tied 1-1 in the seventh.And, as has been the case all season long, he delivered.Alomar blasted a 2-2 pitch off San Francisco left-hander Shawn Estes intothe left-field bleachers for a two-run home run that lifted the AmericanLeague over the National League 3-1 in front of the largest crowd in JacobsField history, 44,916.Alomar, who entered the game with an American League-leading .375 battingaverage and a 30-game hitting streak, was named MVP of the '97 MidsummerClassic, the latest accolade earned by the Tribe's four-time All-Star whocan presently do no wrong.Not on the field, or in the eyes of his adoring fans.``It was a great game, and it's so appropriate that Alomar was named MVP,''said Joe Lane, a funeral home owner from Mineral Ridge who attended thegame with fellow season-ticket holder Robert Rusu, an attorney from Canfield.Lane was still ecstatic afterward, smiling from ear to ear as he recalledthe action. ``Gosh, it all worked out so perfect.''Indeed, it's hard to imagine a more perfect scenario than the one that unfoldedTuesday night in Cleveland.Sandy and his All-Star Game teammate and brother, Roberto (Baltimore Orioles),dedicated the game to their grandmother, Toni, who died last weekend. Theirparents couldn't attend the game because of her death.``I've been through a lot in my career, ups and downs and injuries,'' saidAlomar, who spent time on the disabled list five years in a row until lastseason. ``But what I learned from my grandmother is to never give up. Shehad been sick for a long time, but she kept fighting.''With his grandmother in his mind and the home town fans on his side, allthe ingredients for a special moment seemed to be in place when Alomar steppedto the plate.``But I never thought he'd hit a home run,'' said Vince Cipriano of Ravenna,who was discussing the game over breakfast at East Park with his friend,Rob Kortright. ``He's not really what you'd call a power hitter. But hedid it like it should be done. It was picture-perfect.''Alomar was actually fooled completely by Estes' first two offerings beforehe made an adjustment.``I've seen him on TV, so I know he has good stuff,'' said Alomar. ``I tookthe first pitch, a fastball away. Then he threw me a nasty breaking ballon the second pitch, and I said, `Uh oh.'``Then, I just told myself to stay back on the ball. And I don't even reallyknow what pitch I hit, a fastball or change-up, but that's what I did. Ijust stayed back and extended.''Alomar's screaming line drive travelled an estimated 403 feet, triggeringa long, raucous ovation that failed to end even after his teammates pushedhim out of the dugout for a curtain call.``To do this in an All-Star Game in front of your home crowd is very special,''said Alomar. ``It's something everybody dreams of. You only get one chanceto play at home in an All-Star Game.''Alomar's homer put an exclamation point on what turned out to be a fabulousAll-Star weekend for area sports fans and the city of Cleveland.``It's nice to see the city come off as first-class,'' said Rusu. ``Everythingwas well-run, the fans conducted themselves with class ... they proved thisis the comeback city.''The comeback city with the comeback kid.``It's great for the town and the local community,'' said Kortright. ``AndAlomar, he's just having a career year.''

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