Slam bam! _ Alomar's hit delights local fans


By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer CLEVELAND _ Catcher Sandy Alomar has whipped Cleveland Indians fans into one 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-fledged furor. After taking in the game from the bench for the first five innings, the Tribe catcher finally strolled to the plate for his only at-bat of the night with 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 into the left-field bleachers for a two-run home run that lifted the American League over the National League 3-1 in front of the largest crowd in Jacobs Field history, 44,916. Alomar, who entered the game with an American League-leading .375 batting average and a 30-game hitting streak, was named MVP of the '97 Midsummer Classic, the latest accolade earned by the Tribe's four-time All-Star who can 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 the game with fellow season-ticket holder Robert Rusu, an attorney from Canfield. Lane was still ecstatic afterward, smiling from ear to ear as he recalled the action. ``Gosh, it all worked out so perfect.'' Indeed, it's hard to imagine a more perfect scenario than the one that unfolded Tuesday 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. Their parents couldn't attend the game because of her death. ``I've been through a lot in my career, ups and downs and injuries,'' said Alomar, who spent time on the disabled list five years in a row until last season. ``But what I learned from my grandmother is to never give up. She had been sick for a long time, but she kept fighting.'' With his grandmother in his mind and the home town fans on his side, all the ingredients for a special moment seemed to be in place when Alomar stepped to 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 he did it like it should be done. It was picture-perfect.'' Alomar was actually fooled completely by Estes' first two offerings before he made an adjustment. ``I've seen him on TV, so I know he has good stuff,'' said Alomar. ``I took the first pitch, a fastball away. Then he threw me a nasty breaking ball on the second pitch, and I said, `Uh oh.' ``Then, I just told myself to stay back on the ball. And I don't even really know what pitch I hit, a fastball or change-up, but that's what I did. I just stayed back and extended.'' Alomar's screaming line drive travelled an estimated 403 feet, triggering a long, raucous ovation that failed to end even after his teammates pushed him 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 chance to play at home in an All-Star Game.'' Alomar's homer put an exclamation point on what turned out to be a fabulous All-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. ``Everything was well-run, the fans conducted themselves with class ... they proved this is the comeback city.'' The comeback city with the comeback kid. ``It's great for the town and the local community,'' said Kortright. ``And Alomar, he's just having a career year.''

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