All-Star oddities are part of the fun

  • Larry Henry / Sports Columnist
  • Sunday, July 8, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – The manager missed a perfect game. And was sick about it.

“Unbelievable,” snorted Dan Rohn, the Tacoma Rainiers skipper.

Rohn had to miss Saturday’s Tacoma-Calgary game to attend a coaches meeting of the U.S. team that participated in the Futures Game Sunday at Safeco Field.

In his absence, Rainiers pitcher John Halama hurled the first nine-inning perfect game in the 99-year history of the Pacific Coast League.

Rohn called Cheney Stadium every two innings to find out how his team was faring. All he got was the score and the phone slammed in his ear. He had no idea that Halama was making history.

Rohn was eating dinner later that night when the Tacoma trainer called to tell him about Halama’s feat.

“You’re (kidding) me,” he said.

The trainer assured him that he was serious. Then Rohn got several phone calls in a matter of minutes to confirm it.

The last one was from Halama, who had recently been sent down by the M’s to work on some things.

“He was very emotional,” Rohn said.

It was the second splendid performance in five days by a Rainiers pitcher. On Tuesday, Brett Tomko pitched a no-hitter.

“How many times do you get a no-hitter and a perfect game in the same week?” Rohn asked.

Like, never.

So, did Halama get to sleep in Sunday?

Nope, the Rainiers had an afternoon game and he had to report at 10 a.m. to do his running.

Chris Bosio, the Rainiers pitching coach, attended that same meeting with Rohn, but hustled back to Tacoma to watch the game. He sat in the stands with Benny Looper, the M’s director of player development.

Once the game got into the fifth inning and everyone realized what was happening, Bosio said the crowd started to get into it. But neither he nor Looper uttered a word. “It was a clear day,” Bosio said, “and I wanted to make sure no rain came down.”

You could excuse Bosio if he had flashbacks. On April 22, 1993, he wrote his name into the Mariner record book with a no-hitter against Boston in the Kingdome. “What better time for John to do it than in his own backyard and just before the All-Star Game,” he said.

What better time, indeed?

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    Three weeks ago, Jamal Strong was sitting in the San Bernardino clubhouse when a package arrived at his locker.

    He immediately opened it and was pleasantly surprised to find that he had been selected to appear in the Futures Game during All-Star weekend. “I had no idea,” he said.

    That’s what you get when you terrorize the pitching in two Class A leagues in half a season. Strong started the season in the Midwest League, then was promoted to the California League on June 1. He was hitting .382 through 31 games.

    Sunday, he was still pinching himself. Shocked to be here? That’s putting it mildly.

    “It’s a dream come true,” he said, as he jumped in and out of the cage during batting practice.

    Every time he turned around, there was another TV camera crew wanting to interview him. As the only Mariner farmhand selected, he was easily the most popular player on the field.

    Then when the teams were introduced before the Futures Game – pitting the top 50 minor leaguers – Strong got the loudest round of applause. “I was amazed,” he said after the game in which he went 0-for-1. “Being the only person from our organization, I knew there would be some fans (cheering for me), but nothing like this.”

    As he entered the clubhouse Sunday morning, he found his nameplate above a locker that is next to where Mark McLemore dresses. Strong would like to take up permanent residence in the M’s clubhouse sometime in the next two years.

    “Hopefully,” he said, “when I come into spring training next year, they’ll take a good look at me.”

    Jamal, you keep mistreating pitchers like you have so far, they’ll have no choice.

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    Ex-Mariner Gaylord Perry hasn’t missed any meals since retiring from the game.

    The Hall of Fame pitcher is easily packing 300 pounds, most of it in the middle portion of his body.

    Perry was the manager of the U.S. Team in the Futures Game Sunday.

    The only thing bigger than Perry on Sunday was Safeco Field.

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    Bosio was reflecting on his first spring training with the Mariners, 1993.

    It was also Lou Piniella’s first year as Seattle manager. The M’s started Cactus League play with 11 consecutive losses before Piniella blew.

    “I can still see Lou flipping the (food) table over in the clubhouse,” Bosio chuckled.

    Then he laid down the law, saying the M’s were going to play hard and play aggressive.

    “I said, ‘All right,’ ” Bosio recalled. “That’s why I came here.”

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    Tug McGraw was a character when he pitched.

    He still is.

    The former relief pitcher, who appeared in the Legends/Celebrity softball game, was jokingly ranting afterwards about the evils of the designated hitter.

    “If you’re a kid and in your neighborhood there’s a coach that tells you you’re going to be a designated hitter, call the FBI and the CIA and turn him in as a communist,” he growled. “Get him out of the neighborhood. And if you can’t do it peacefully … “

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