Roberto Alomar has developed a flair for silencing the taunts of a hostile crowd. It is a talent that no doubt will be tested again this week in Yankee Stadium.
The Baltimore Orioles, boosted by the play of their resilient second baseman, eliminated the defending A.L. champion Cleveland Indians in the opening round of the playoffs and advanced to the championship series for the first time in 13 years. The opposition will be the New York Yankees, and Alomar undoubtedly will be the primary target of booing fans when the best-of-7 series begins Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.
So what else is new?
Ever since he spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck on Sept. 27, Alomar has been forced to endure the wrath of fans in opposing ballparks. It first happened in Toronto, and Alomar responded with a 10th-inning homer to clinch a playoff berth for the Orioles.
It happened again in Cleveland, and Alomar once more delivered, this time with the winning home run in the 12th inning of Saturday’s clinching 4-3 victory.
“Now we’re expecting two more out of him,” said Orioles reliever Jesse Orosco, referring to the ALCS and the World Series. “He did the clincher in Toronto and the clincher here. Get ready, Robbie.”
Alomar expected the boos in Cleveland, and Indians fans didn’t disappoint. Each time he stepped to the plate Friday and Saturday, Alomar was insulted by seemingly every one of the 44,000 people at Jacobs Field.
Then, when his 12th-inning drive off Jose Mesa landed in the center-field seats, the stadium became so silent you could almost hear Alomar’s spikes hit the dirt as he circled the bases.
“They tried to get on me to try to put pressure on me. I just went out there and played baseball,” Alomar said. “I didn’t worry about them booing me - I just went out there and played the way I know how to play.”
Few people picked the wild-card Orioles to unseat the mighty Indians, who compiled the best record in the majors for a second straight season and won seven of 12 games from Baltimore during the season.
The Orioles were down to their last strike Saturday when Alomar delivered a game-tying single in the ninth inning, and in his next at-bat he applied the pivotal blow.
The Orioles won the game despite striking out 23 times, going 1 for 12 with men in scoring position and letting a pop-up drop in the infield. They won despite an uncharacteristic gaffe by Cal Ripken, who overran second base and was tagged out trying to get back.