A well-traveled Lee Stevens homers just days after a most frightening trip
“I’d have to say this was probably close to the longest homer I’ve ever hit. We don’t have ‘tale-of-the-tape’ in the minor leagues.”
-Lee Stevens, California Angels
Box score: May 23, 1992
Hitter: Lee Stevens.
Pitcher: Rick Sutcliffe.
Distance: 430 feet.
When it happened: Top of the third, one on, one out.
Final score: Angels 6 – Orioles 2.
Lee Stevens hit the Warehouse, but he did so on one bounce.
Stevens’ third-inning shot landed on Eutaw Street – the third such home run in Camden Yards’ brief history – and missed the Warehouse on the fly by 33 feet. With the hit, Stevens took over the title for longest home run at Camden Yards, a 430-foot blast that traveled three feet farther than a Chris Hoiles homer to left field earlier in the 1992 season.
Stevens’ Eutaw Street home run ended his 0-for-20 drought against the Orioles, but the player’s struggles at the plate paled in comparison to recent events his team faced.
The May 23 game was the Angels’ first win since a bus accident two days earlier on the New Jersey Turnpike left manager Buck Rodgers with a fractured rib, broken left knee, and an elbow fractured in six places. Nearly a dozen team members were injured in the accident, which occurred as the Angels traveled to Baltimore following a series with the New York Yankees.
Said Stevens: “It was hard getting on that next bus. Every time we hit a little bump we were all jumpy. I was terrified.”
John Wathan, who filled in as manager while Rodgers was on the mend, told the New York Times that it was important to play soon after the accident.
“It is probably as important as getting on our next bus without fear,” said Wathan. “You have to jump back in the saddle. We had our accident and now hopefully that will be it.”
Wathan kept things light following the Angels’ 6-2 victory.
“There’s nothing better than a win and a crabcake,” he joked.
Including the May 23 Angels – Orioles match-up, 46 home runs had been hit in just 22 games at Camden Yards. When it came to long balls of the Eutaw Street variety, they tended to occur during multi-homer innings.
–Mickey Tettleton’s Eutaw Street home run, the first in Camden Yards’ history, was part of a back-to-back-to-back series of long balls.
–Kevin Reimer stroked his Eutaw Street homer two batters after teammate Ruben Sierra went deep.
-And Stevens homered two batters prior to Gary Gaetti.
As for Stevens, who joked,”We don’t have ‘tale-of-the-tape’ in the minor leagues,” his stay in the majors would be brief. The Angels traded him to the Montreal Expos following the 1992 season, and he was released by his new club in the spring.
Stevens reemerged in Major League Baseball in 1996 after a vagabond existence that included a two-year stop in Japan with the Kintetsu Buffaloes. He played 27 games for the Rangers in ’96 after being named that year’s MVP of the American Association while playing with the Oklahoma City 89ers.
Stevens won a championship with the 89ers in 1996 and led the team with 32 home runs. His teammates included then-former O’s Craig Worthington, Rene Gonzalez, and Jack Voigt, and future Orioles Fernando Tatis and Rick Helling.
Although he never became a true power hitter in the majors, Stevens, a first baseman/outfielder/designated hitter throughout his career, did record five straight seasons of 20 or more home runs starting in 1997.