10/21/2002 03:02 am ET
Are World Series baseballs livelier?
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Are you ready for some hardball?
In the Anaheim locker room, speculation is making the rounds that the World Series baseballs are harder -- as in, harder to keep in the park. Count on a rebuttal, clarification or assurances from the manufacturing side that may or may not put the guesswork to rest. Whatever the explanation, some Angels players have their own theories.
After going through a five-game ALCS without allowing a single home run, the Angels pitching staff has served up seven of them in the first two games of the World Series.
The Angels themselves have homered four times -- for a record postseason total of 21.
Asked about the trends, left-hander Jarrod Washburn rolled his eyes.
"Have you felt the baseballs? They're so hard," Washburn said. "It feels like they're wound a little tight. I think it's pretty obvious -- even the position players have noticed."
Shortstop David Eckstein concurred.
"I noticed it in the first game," Eckstein said. "Oh, Lord, they're like practice balls. Small and hard. You can definitely tell the difference.
"I can grip them with two fingers. Normally I need to wrap three fingers around a ball."
The Series is tied one game apiece, so no one was suggesting the quality of the baseballs as a telling factor, although some pitchers' egos are getting bruised on both sides.
"I've heard the guys talking about it," said Anaheim pitching coach Bud Black, who himself declined to offer an evaluation.
Troy Percival said of the pitch Barry Bonds drove 485 feet in the ninth inning, "That's the hardest ball I've ever thrown." And he wasn't referring to the mph reading.
"We all have to throw the same ball," Washburn said. "We're all in the same boat."
"I looked at a ball," said reliever Brendan Donnelly, "and I thought I saw 'Top Flight' stamped on it. They seem really hard. I've seen some balls hit the last two days that I was surprised to see go out. (Tim) Salmon's ball in the second. I thought it was a pop up. But it got out."
Salmon, Sunday night's biggest offensive hero, assumed a defensive stance on this topic.
"Aw, those are pitchers talking. As far as I can tell, they're really soft,"
Salmon said. "I don't know ... they're World Series balls. They've got gold paint on them. Maybe it's the gold."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.