The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 11, 1997 · Page 34
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 34

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Sunday, May 11, 1997
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D2 SUNDAY, MAY 11, 1997 SPORTS THE SALINA JOURNAL T COMMENT T AUTO RACING HAL BOCK The Associated Press Martin makes it two in a row Pitching at a big premium in big leagues Understand first of all that there are very few pitchers. Not in the Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax blow-away-batters sense. Not in the Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Jim Palmer let's-see-you-hit- this sense. There are throwers, guys who somehow get by. They are impostors. But except for an occasional Greg Maddux or Randy Johnson, there are very few pitchers. The number crunchers tell us that scoring is down and so are home runs. But that's more a function of climactic conditions than a matter of quality pitchers. Call it April's arctic factor. Generally, though, as weather becomes more tolerable, hitters have flourished. The result is runflation created by pitchers whose earned run averages routinely drift between 4.00 and 5.00 per game. So we have 11 home runs in a game between Cleveland and Milwaukee and a 12-11 game between the New York Mets and Colorado, Little League results created by throwers, not pitchers. And we have Roger Marls' record of 61 home runs teetering in the balance, bracing for another annual assault. Ken Griffey Jr. set a record with 13 homers in April, one less than his father hit in 1987, his best long ball season. Less vulnerable, however, has been the .400 plateau last achieved a lifetime ago in 1941 when Ted Williams batted .406. Since then, there have only been occasional flirtations with .400, most recently by San Diego's Tony Gwynn, who led the National League in 1994 with a .394 average. That one needs an asterisk, though, because it was achieved in a strike season with baseball shut down after Aug. 12. Because of that, Gwynn did not have to labor through the most draining dog days of summer when punishing heat challenges the mind and spirit. Limited to 110 games in 1994, Gwynn had 165 hits in 419 at-bats. Three more hits and he would have reached .400. Come that close and you can almost taste it. Gwynn, a seven-time batting champion, believes the goal is achievable, but not by him. "Sooner or later, it's going to happen," he said. "Who does it and when he does it, who knows? It would be nice if it were me, but I don't see it happening. My time is past." It should be noted he was batting .382 and coming off a three-hit game when he said that. "It's going to take the right guy, especially in August and September," Gwynn continued. "That's when you've got to hit. You need a lot of infield hits and I'm not getting many of those lately. You have to get a pure hitter. You need a lot of luck to achieve it, but I still think someday it's going to be done." The man may be right. When he was at .382, Gwynn wasn't even leading the league. Not close. Larry Walker was batting .433 and Jeff Blauser was at .402, the same number David Justice was hitting to lead the American League. Now just for fun, suppose Gwynn had those three extra hits in 1994 and reached .400. Then he would have needed only 10 more — in the same 419 at-bats, of course — to break Rogers Hornsby's single season batting average record of .424, set in 1924. Hornsby's magical season is among the dozen records celebrated by author Victor Debs, Jr., in his new book, "Still Standing After All These Years." It is a mathematical fact of life that adding points to a batting average is easy early in the season and more difficult later when at- bats add up. Hornsby defied that theorem. His average was a Gwynnian .382 at the end of June. By the end of August, two months later, it was at .434. This is a function of getting three hits on an almost daily basis, except for the days when he had four. There was a three-game stretch of 9-for-12 in mid-July, a month when he batted .464, and another stretch of 13-for-14 in August, when he hit .509. Hornsby's task was made more complicated by the fact that he was not playing for a great team. His St. Louis Cardinals, managed by Branch Rickey and equipped with a less-than imposing lineup, finished sixth that season, 24 games under .500. He also had a back injury that cost him eight games in September. Through all of this, Hornsby did have one important thing working for him, though. There wasn't much pitching then, either. Driver sets NASCAR speed record while holding off Earnhardt By EDDIE PELLS The Associated Press TALLADEGA, Ala. — Mark Martin figured some people would doubt whether he really was back after winning on a road course last week. The questions should have ended Saturday after Martin held off Dale Earnhardt down the stretch and set a NASCAR speed record by averaging 188.354 mph in the Winston 500. The previous record of 186.288 mph was by Bill Elliott in winning the Winston 500 in 1985. The victory on NASCAR's V PRO BASKETBALL fastest track over one of its best racers came on the heels of a win at Sonoma, Calif., that snapped Martin's 42-race winless streak. It was Martin's second Winston 500 victory in three years and, he hopes, a sure sign that he is back in top form. "This means that last week wasn't a fluke," Martin said. "It had been a long, long time since I'd won one and there were times we didn't think we'd win another one. I don't know if I'll win another one now, but the car sure is running great." The Roush Racing Ford held out by 0.146 seconds over Earnhardt's Chevrolet. They were followed by Bobby Labonte, John Andretti and Jeff Gordon, who combined for an exciting five-car dash to the finish line over the final nine laps. With a sixth-place finish, defending series points champion Terry Labonte took the lead in the driver standings by 39 points over Gordon. Dale Jarrett fell from first to third after finishing 35th. The race was run two weeks late, but the wait appeared to be worth it. With the sun shining and temperatures in the 70s, a crowd of about 140,000 saw the Winston series' first caution-free race since 1992. Some racers credited the lack of accidents to a more relaxed feel because of the delay and the fact they were racing on Mother's Day weekend, traditionally a dark weekend in NASCAR. Whatever the case, it made for a good race and reminded people that Talladega Superspeedway is known as stock car racing's fastest track as well as its most dangerous. "Apparently, all the drivers didn't want this to be their last race," Martin said. "There are many more for us out here, and only one of us can win this thing." Martin set himself up to do it when he took the lead after a group of drivers made pit stops with 34 laps left. Earnhardt came out seventh after the stop, but slowly moved to second with four laps to go. But once he was lined up behind Martin, he had nowhere to go. "I had my eye on him," Martin said. "He made a couple of good runs at me. But after a while, I saw he was going to have trouble. By the end, I thought it would be a surprise if he could muster up a pass." The Associated Press Driver Mark Martin celebrates his victory in the Talladega 500 on Saturday. Utah moves 3-Head on The Associated Press Utah's Karl Malone (32) drives past Lakers forward Robert Horry for two of his game-high 42 points. Malone's 42 points, 18 for 18 from the line, lift Jazz to 110-95 victory By The Associated Press INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The shooting spark that eluded Karl Malone in Game 3 ignited Saturday at the start of Game 4 as he scored Utah's first four points. The fire never went out. Malone scored 42 points and set a playoff record by making all 18 free throw attempts as the Jazz defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 11095 to take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals. "I missed some shots early, but I wasn't going to hang my head. I was just going to keep it going and see what happened," said Malone, who was 2 of 20 from the field Thursday night. "Then I caught fire like you always look to. Even the other night the shots felt good, I just missed them all." Bryon Russell added a career playoff-high 29 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz, who could advance to the conference finals with a victory Monday night when the best-of-7 series resumes in Salt Lake City. Shaquille O'Neal had 34 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Lakers, who scored the game's first basket and then played catch-up the rest of the way. He had just 11 points before being ejected in the fourth quarter of Game 3. "It's not that we didn't match the intensity, but Russell got open and put the shot down," O'Neal said. "We must win three in a row. We have to go there and lay it on the line. Anything is possible." Utah had nowhere to go but up after shooting 28.8 percent '(14-of- 66) in a 104-84 loss Thursday. While missed 18 shots, John Stockton went O-for-6. . • ' After Thursday's debacle,' the Jazz kept room service at their hotel hopping. ' "Everybody congregated in my room and we were sitting around looking like little puppy dogs over how bad we played," Malone.re- called. "We ordered everything.qff the menu and we sat around and talked about it." •••-' Malone's shooting still wasn't great Saturday (12-of-27), buVhe was perfect in 18 trips to the free- throw line. The old record of 17-of- 17 was done three times, the last by Indiana's Reggie Miller in 1993 against New York. Russell, who blossomed in the 1996 playoffs, contributed timely 3-point shooting, going 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. "That had to be the best game I ever played, but it's still nofbver with," said Russell, a native ofS*an Bernardino who played at Long Beach State. "Our defense turfted it around. We came out and played hard, blocked out and started running. When we get running, everything gets going for us." Stockton also improved, w'it$ 11 points and 11 assists, to go |w,i'th Jeff Hornacek's 14 points, .i^' 1 a team, the Jazz shot 45 percent..,, The Lakers trailed by 13 points in the fourth quarter, then rallied on the 3-point shooting of rookie Kobe Bryant and Eddie Jones./.Bryant's 3-pointer launched nine straight points that drew .the Lakers within 89-85 with 7:02 remaining. Jones added a three- point play, then Nick Van>Exel stole a pass intended for Stockton and fed Jones, who hit a 3-poihfer. Then Malone took over. ' ' Payton playing iron-man role for Seattle Sonics guard averaging 46 minutes a game in series with Rockets By JIM COUR The Associated Press SEATTLE — A leg-weary Gary Payton will keep playing the entire game — or as much of it as possible — for the Seattle Super- Sonics. As Payton goes, even a tired Payton, so go the Sonics. "If I give the ball to Eric Snow, he can't get a shot," coach George Karl said Saturday. "Gary Payton can get a shot. Gary has the great talent where he gets the shot all the time." V AUTO RACING PAYTON And playing virtually all the time — an average of 46 minutes against the Houston Rockets — doesn't bother him much. "Right now, we can't worry about fatigue," Payton said. "If we lose two more games, we're out." The Rockets can take a 3-1 lead over the defending Western Conference champions today in the Key Arena. Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Houston. Payton, Seattle's All-Star point guard, played all 48 minutes in the Sonics' disappointing 97-93 loss to the Rockets on Friday night. The Sonics were outscored 15-4 in the final 6:22 and made just five of 22 shots in the fourth quarter. Payton scored 28 points, but was 11 for 25 from the field. He's had a total of eight assists in the two games Seattle has lost to Houston. Payton's left-handed jump shot in the key with 4:20 left was Seattle's lone basket after the Sonics led 89-82. Shawn Kemp sank two free throws with 2:25 left that gave Seattle a 93-91 lead. Kemp, who also had 28 points, was 1 for 7 and Payton l-for-4 shooting in the last period. Payton's 46-minutes is only 30 seconds more than he averaged in Seattle's five-game opening-round series victory over Phoenix. Karl has a dilemma because he has no backup point guard with Nate McMillan out for the series with torn cartilage in his right knee. "Yeah, I see him getting tired," Karl said of Payton, but said he has no choice but to continue playing Payton. "Who are you going to get to replace Nate McMillan? They don't make these guys." The Rockets are going at Payton with a pair of big guards, Mario Elie and Clyde Drexler, to tire out him out. It's working. "They're trying to beat me up and keep the ball out of my hands," Payton said. Still, Payton believes the Sonics can come back and beat the Rock- ets just like they did against the ' Suns. Seattle won Game 4 in Phoenix and Game 5 at home', "., "There's nothing easy for us,'" Payton said. "We put ourselves, in these situations. We'll be fine." The Rockets won NBA titles,".', when Chicago's Michael Jordan was playing baseball in 1994 and 1995. They did it with Hakeem, ..• Olajuwon the first year and Olaju- won and Clyde Drexler the second. Now, they're trying to do it with the addition of Charles Barkley. > At Auburn, a heavier Barkley was known as "The Round Mound of Rebound." He's still living up to that nickname. "•" Barkley has retooled his game to accommodate Olajuwon and ] Drexler. Luyendyk grabs Indy 500 pole By The Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS — Arie Luyendyk made the right decision Saturday and completed a qualifying run that put him on the Indianapolis 500 pole for the second time. Luyendyk, the fastest driver each day since practice opened earlier this week, turned a lap over 220 mph on Wednesday. Nobody had come closer than 3 mph to that target as the first of four days of qualifications for the May 25 race dawned. But, after completing three of four qualifying laps on Saturday, Luyendyk's speed was just over 218 and appeared vulnerable, with Tony Stewart, his closest rival, waiting to make an attempt. Luyendyk, the 1990 Indy winner, turned a lap over 219 in Saturday morning's practice. But so did Stewart. "The call was up to me coming out of turn four on the last lap to decide if we were going to keep the run," Luyendyk said. "I had made up in my mind that if I could run above 218 that I would keep it." The gamble paid off. Luyendyk won $110,000 as he turned in four consecutive laps above 218 mph and averaged 218.263 for the 10 miles, a speed that was barely acceptable to the Dutchman but put his Treadway Racing G Force-Aurora on top. "It's too bad I couldn't get into the 19s on this qualifying run," Luyendyk said. "But you have to say to yourself sometimes, 'OK, that's it. That's all I'm going to get out of it on this particular run. So I'll just take it."' Twenty-one drivers, including five rookies, made it into the tentative 33-car starting field on Saturday. Time trials will continue Sunday and both days next weekend, with faster qualifiers bumping out the slowest cars once the field is filled. There was a brief flurry of qualifying when the session opened at 11 a.m., with five drivers completing runs. But that was followed by several hours of practice time as teams worked on finding more speed. V COLLEGE BASKETBALL KU signs juco guard By The Associated Press LAWRENCE — Los Angeles City College point guard Jelani Janisse has signed a letter of intent with Kansas, fortifying a weak spot in the Jayhawk lineup caused by the departure of senior Jacques Vaughn. Janisse, 6 feet 3 and 205 pounds, said Friday he chose Kansas over Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount because he wanted a chance to compete for a national championship. "They are so successful," Janisse said. "1 wouldn't have gotten that anywhere else." Janisse will likely back up Ryan Robertson, who started,; for Kansas last season when '&', wrist injury sidelined Vaughn':,. Janisse averaged 12 poin^. and seven assists last year for 30-6 Los Angeles City. He was, also the most valuable player in the California junior coll^|8* v | state tournament. " $ "He's a very strong defensive;-, player," Los Angeles Cifyjl coach Mike Miller said. "He'll'; be successful at guarding at;.! any kind of player." jl The signing of Janisse proba-jj bly completes Kansas' 1996,-97'i recruiting class, though thejJ school still has one more sehol-<S arship. ';

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