05/14/2002 11:46 pm ET
Graffanino a star for a night
Super sub has a career game against Texas
By Jimmy Greenfield / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- It's not often a professional athlete is so touched by his own performance that he giggles. That's right, giggles.
Yet there was Tony Graffanino, shortly after hitting two homers and driving in six runs in the White Sox' 15-4 victory over Texas, entering the media interview room to what, once again, really sounded like giggles.
"Back in the room," he marveled.
To get into the interview room you have to either be: A) the manager of the White Sox; or B) the best player on the White Sox that particular day, which usually means you have to, you know, actually play in the game.
So it's no surprise that Graffanino was somewhat surprised to be in the position of having to face questions about what was, by any standards, one of the outstanding performances by any White Sox player this season.
"It feels awesome," Graffanino said. "It's the best game, probably, of my life. I don't know, I might have had a better one in Little League or high school. Professionally I've never had anything anywhere near this kind of game. It's a lot of fun."
If this game was an isolated event, Graffanino's performance might have stood out even more, but he seems to be doing this on a regular basis since filling in frequently at shortstop, third base and second base over the last 10 days.
With Ray Durham seeing a hand specialist Tuesday to check out a sore left hand that has contributed to a 7-for-44 slump, Graffanino might have to stop checking the clubhouse chalkboard every morning to see if he'll be in the lineup.
"We've got to give him every opportunity to cool down," manager Jerry Manuel said. "No doubt about it. Graff is a good player, he has really matured as a hitter. Even from last year he seemed to be the kind of guy who stayed with his swing the entire season.
"He always gives you quality at-bats despite the time off he has between starts or appearances."
Graffanino is used to questions about how he prepares for games in which he may not do much more than pace the dugout steps, but has he thought about what it might be like to be a starter?
"I'm not even thinking about it," Graffanino said. "I've been getting some pretty consistent playing time, I've gotten a chance to feel pretty good at the plate. Things are just working out."
In his last four starts Graffanino is 8-for-15 with three homers, quite a feat considering had hit only four homers with the Sox in his first 350 at-bats.
"I know I'm definitely not going to hit homers," he said. "I just really try to get on base, I try to work the pitcher a little bit, get on base and if I have situations where I have to move a guy or whatever, that's what I try to do.
"I play the game the right way, the way it's supposed to be played. Do what I'm supposed to do, really."
Don't think his teammates don't notice.
"Everyone loves Tony," Paul Konerko said. "He works hard. I mean, he's gotta work harder than anybody because he never knows when he's going to get in there. He plays five positions, including the outfield.
"I think he'd probably catch if he had to. It's good to see good things happen to good people and that's what he is."
That attempt to do things the right way is why he wasn't even thinking of hitting for the cycle when a triple would have given him the rare feat in the seventh inning. Instead, he hit his second homer of the game to put the Sox ahead 12-4.
"I didn't even realize until I got to the dugout and somebody asked me would you have kept going for third," Graffanino said. "And it still didn't cross my mind."
After the homer he returned to the dugout and was practically shoved out onto the field to give the 17,503 fans at Comiskey Park a curtain call.
Why did he do it? Well, that's what the best player on the field does from time to time.
"I felt really silly but it was cool," Graffanino said. "Again, I'm glad I went because it was awesome."
He also wouldn't mind getting back to the interview room.
"Thanks for inviting me," Graffanino quipped as he walked away from the bright lights.
Jimmy Greenfield covers the White Sox for MLB.com and can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.