- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO Perhaps Troy Percival and his Anaheim Angels teammates should have waited until after Game3 of the World Series last night to make their juiced ball claims.

Anaheim's Edison Field might have surrendered 11 combined home runs in Games1 and 2 of this series, but San Francisco's Pac Bell Park is unlikely to yield such staggering numbers.

The picturesque ballpark by the bay was the toughest place in the majors to hit a home run this year only 114 were hit, and that's with Barry Bonds playing on a nightly basis.

And if Pac Bell's reputation holds true over Games3, 4 and 5, the Angels' claims of "harder" baseballs being used during the World Series may go down the drain.

"The balls are definitely harder," Percival said Monday, one day after surrendering a 485-foot bomb to Bonds. "When you try to squeeze it, you don't feel the compression you do with the balls you use during the regular season. As soon as I picked up the balls in this series, I knew there would be a lot of homers.

"They're twice as hard as any ball I've ever played with. They're different from any ball I've ever seen. But both teams have to hit 'em."

A handful of Percival's teammates backed his claim; reliever Al Levine (who did not make the Angels' postseason roster) even went so far as to cut in half a World Series ball and one used during the regular season.

No Giants pitchers made any allegations, and Sandy Alderson, baseball's vice president of baseball operations, insisted the 180 dozen balls being used during this series are no different than those used any other time of the year.

"For the last several years," Alderson said, "we have been using commemorative baseballs that are identical to our regular-season balls that are pulled out blank for special stamping, and that's it."

Birthday boy

John Lackey's appearance tonight in Game4 carries special significance for the Angels' rookie right-hander. It happens to fall on his 24th birthday.

"I was born during the World Series," said Lackey, who opposes San Francisco's Kirk Rueter. "It's something I've been doing on my birthday for a lot of years, watching the World Series. It's pretty cool that I'm actually in it and I'm going to get an opportunity to be playing in it."

Lackey will be the third pitcher ever to start a World Series game on his birthday, joining Pittsburgh's Brickyard Kennedy (Oct.7, 1903) and Brooklyn's Johnny Podres (Sept.30, 1955).

Tonight's game should have represented Lackey's World Series debut, but he was needed for emergency relief duty in Game2 when starter Kevin Appier couldn't get out of the third inning.

Despite his three innings of work, Lackey said he has no problem coming back on two days' rest to start Game4.

"I'll be fine," he said. "I usually throw two times in between starts on the side anyway."

Lopez wins TSN award

Baltimore Orioles right-hander Rodrigo Lopez was named AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year by the Sporting News yesterday.

Lopez went 15-9 with a 3.57 ERA in his first full major-league season and was selected in balloting of major league players from both leagues. Blue Jays third baseman Eric Hinske was named TSN's AL Rookie of the Year.

Alex Rodriguez was voted Player of the Year, beating out Bonds, Miguel Tejada and Alfonso Soriano.

Thome wins Clemente Award

Cleveland Indians first baseman Jim Thome was named this year's recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award, handed out annually to the player who combines on-field performance with work in the community.

"As a kid, when I heard about Roberto Clemente, I heard about a tremendous ballplayer," Thome said. "It wasn't until I was nominated for this award that I realized what a tremendous human being he was. It is truly an honor to have my name associated with this great legend."

Extra bases

Four former Giants greats Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal were honored before last night's game, with Mays throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to Bonds (his godson).

San Francisco reliever Jason Christiansen, who is not on the World Series roster, was told by MLB that he could not wear a hat with Darryl Kile's initials and No.57 on it during the series. Christiansen, a former teammate of the late Kile in St. Louis, wore a standard cap last night with one honoring Kile on a dugout shelf.

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