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Valentine takes a dig at dirt

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 23, 2000


NEW YORK -- The World Series turned a bit dirty Sunday.

Mets manager Bobby Valentine said the dirt in front of home plate at Yankee Stadium seemed to be "extremely soft" on Saturday, implying the field was intentionally tailored that way with Andy Pettitte on the mound.

"It may not be tonight with Roger (Clemens) pitching," Valentine said before Sunday's game. "I'm not sure."

There were several times in the opener when the Mets hit balls into the ground that didn't roll much.

Yankees manager Joe Torre denied there was any intent and said the weather is the reason for any inconsistency.

"We don't play around with it," Torre said. "It is what it is. We don't do it for one pitcher as opposed to the other. The Dodgers used to do that, so that's probably why he's mentioning it. ...

"It's the same. We don't try to do anything different. We just try to get it consistent, and it's been tough. We've had problems where the ball hits in front of home plate and just stays there. That's basically what happened."

FALL CLASSIC: Sunday afternoon was filled with plenty of dissection of and discussion about Saturday's 12-inning thriller. "It was a great game to watch," said Mets reliever Rick White, who had a prime seat in the bullpen. "That's what you expect World Series games to be."

SIGN OF THE TIMES: The opener was the 12th Series game to go 12 innings. The only game to go longer was Game 2 of the 1916 Series between the Red Sox and Dodgers, which lasted 14 innings. But while Saturday's game took a record 4 hours, 51 minutes to complete, the 1916 game lasted 2:32. Babe Ruth pitched all 14 innings for Boston; Sherry Smith went 131/3 before giving up the winning hit.

JUST FAMOUS: Jeff Idelson, an official at the Hall of Fame, asked Jose Vizcaino if at the end of the Series the Hall could have the bat he used for the winning hit in the opener. "Take it now," Vizcaino said, delighted that the Hall would have interest.

JACK IN THE BOX: Yankees fan Jack Nelson had a chance to catch Todd Zeile's sixth-inning blast just before it hit the top of the leftfield wall in the opener. It was just that he knew better. "If we touch that ball and we catch it, it's a home run and the Yankees are down 2-0," Nelson said. It was during the 1996 playoffs that a young fan named Jeffrey Maier became famous by catching a similar ball hit to rightfield by Yankees star Derek Jeter.

HOOPLA: Turns out Clemens and Mike Hampton had gone head-to-head before Sunday's game. The two play basketball together during the winter in the Houston area. "The guy never stops," Clemens said. "He runs up and down the floor. Makes me dizzy. He's a great competitor."

FAITH IN ARMANDO: Even though Armando Benitez blew his sixth post-season save Saturday, the Mets say they still have faith in him.

"It's like an airplane ride," Valentine said. "You never hear about the safe landings. You only hear about the one that the wind gets and the wing touches the ground or catches on fire when it hits the runway after 2,633,000 safe landings."

BOSS ALERT: George Steinbrenner has thus far been keeping a relatively low profile during the Series. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was asked about The Boss' disposition after Game1. "I'm sure there were some ups and downs for him, for me, for everybody that's a Yankee or Met fan throughout that game," Cashman said. "You know at the end of the day he had a smile on his face because we got Game 1 under our belts."

MISCELLANY: Jeter extended his Series hitting streak to 11 games with a second-inning single. ... Mets reliever John Franco is the 29th player 40 or older to participate in the Series. ... Both teams will work out at Shea Stadium today.

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