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May 3, 2002
The Daily Prospectus
Around the...uh...Wait a MinuteThose of you expecting a trip around the National League's performances to date will have to wait another day. There's a long-standing rule in this space that says when a player hits four home runs, we write about it.
Anyway, as you probably know, Mike Cameron hit four home runs last night in his first four at-bats, becoming the 13th player to hit four bombs in one game and the sixth to do so in four consecutive at-bats. Cameron came to the plate two more times in the game, being hit by a Mike Porzio pitch in the seventh and flying to deep right field in the ninth.
To me, the story is in that last at-bat. Cameron came to the plate with pretty much free rein to make history. The Mariners were ahead 15-4 in the game, the only reason anyone was still at the park was to watch Cameron bat, and he was again facing Porzio, an independent-leagues refugee against whom right-handed batters had slugged .725 to that point in his major-league career.
If Cameron had thrown caution to the wind and gone up there hacking, no one would have questioned him. How many times does a player get a chance like this?
With perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something no one has ever done, with his teammates and the remnants of a damp, cold crowd begging him to do it...Cameron took the 3-0 pitch for a called strike.
At that moment, I had as much respect for Mike Cameron as I've ever had for a ballplayer. He wasn't going to force the issue, or gimmick an attempt at becoming a hero. He was playing the game right, and for that, he deserves a ton of credit.
Two pitches later, he threw a jolt into everyone by driving the ball deep to right field, and into the glove of Jeff Leifer. His shot at being the one and only was gone.
The record books will note that Mike Cameron hit four home runs on May 2, 2002. They'll indicate that the home runs came in four straight at-bats, and that in the first inning, Cameron and fellow Mariner Bret Boone became the first teammates to ever hit back-to-back homers twice in an inning.
What the books won't record is the way in which Cameron finished the night. That's worth remembering, too.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.