|A Measure of fame -
Zaun calls his shot
by Ken Daley - Dallas Morning News
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article originally appeared on the DMN site here:
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - In the village founded upon baseball facts and fables, another fantastic tale was born Monday - The Legend of Gregg Zaun's Called Shot.
Zaun's home run didn't decide the Rangers' 11-9 victory over the Kansas City Royals in the annual Hall of Fame Game. Because the game was only an exhibition, Zaun officially remains without a homer this season. Still, there was no denying that it was one of baseball's rare magical moments, a feat so perfectly entertaining it served as a fitting climax to a remarkable Induction Weekend.
"Other than winning the World Series [with the 1997 Marlins], this was probably the best experience I've had in baseball," Zaun said.
First, consider the setting. Zaun, the Rangers' rarely used backup catcher, was sent in to play right field in the third inning of the game, played before 9,773 at Doubleday Field. It is a splendid little ballpark, built on the site of a former pasture where Abner Doubleday and other Cooperstown schoolchildren are believed to have played the first game of baseball in 1839.
Then consider that, two blocks away inside the stately brick building of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, a rare treasure sits locked inside a glass case. It is the bat Babe Ruth used in the 1932 World Series, when he hit his alleged "Called Shot" home run off Cubs pitcher Charley Root.
Here's how the legends intersected Monday:
The good-natured Zaun quickly earned the favor of the vocal fans sitting in the right-field bleachers. When he came to bat with two out in the fifth inning against Royals starter Jeff Austin, a chant began.
"Call your shot!" implored the fans.
"I actually thought I heard [Rangers manager] Johnny Oates holler it first," Zaun said.
The chant swelled after Zaun took the first pitch for a strike. So Zaun stepped out of the batter's box, turned and dramatically thrust his bat to the sky, pointing toward right field.
Then Zaun slammed Austin's next pitch into those right-field bleachers.
"I can't believe I did it," Zaun said. "I think he threw it right down the middle for me. I just hope the guys on the other side didn't think I was trying to show anybody up."
When Zaun took the field for the top of the inning, he dashed toward the right-field corner in a full sprint, then ran along the warning track toward center, slapping hands with hundreds of fans hanging their arms over the wall.
The Royals were more amused than offended. Kansas City's Mike Sweeney leaned over reporters and said, "You're awesome, Zaunie!"
Austin, who surrendered six home runs in his five innings, said he didn't groove the pitch to Zaun.
"He did it," Austin said. "He really did it. He kind of grinned at me, and I threw a fastball over the plate."
Zaun said he wouldn't be donating the bat to the Hall, not that he was asked for his version of "Wonderboy."
"Hey, I'm getting some hits with that bat right now," Zaun said. "So until I break it, they can't have it."