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July 7, 2003

Crowd roars for deaf Yankee

From: Contra Costa Times, CA - Jul 7, 2003


He may not have heard the buzz in Yankee Stadium as he trotted out to right field to begin Sunday's game or the cheers six innings later when he hit a home run, but the significance of the event could not have possibly escaped Curtis Pride. Not only was Pride, who is deaf, starting in a vital game between division and historic rivals, but he was doing it after having been sent to the baseball scrap heap. The result was a thrill-filled afternoon for a 34-year-old journeyman who does not like to give up.

"It was a great feeling, coming out on the field and seeing all those fans," he said. "There were 55,000 people. That's something I never thought I'd see again. I never could have imagined this. It was like a dream. To be in Yankee Stadium in a Yankee uniform, I'm just glad I got the opportunity."

Since first being signed by the Mets in 1986, Pride has bounced back and forth between the minors and majors. He did not debut in the major leagues until 1993 and never has gained a foothold with a team. He was let go by the Expos in 2001 and landed with the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in Nashville the next season. Despite hitting .296 for Nashville, he was released and, it seemed, forgotten. With no offers from a major league team, he signed with Nashua, N.H., in the independent Atlantic League.

"That was a low point, not being able to get an offer after the good season I had last year," Pride, who can read lips and understand reporters' questions, said. "I had had five years at the major league level and I figured there'd be a team that would want to pick me up. I thought someone would need an experienced player. I was kind of frustrated, but I told myself to stay positive."

Pride went 1-for-4, but the hit was a home run off the Boston starter John Burkett that cleared the center-field fence. After the home run, a prolonged ovation from the fans brought him back out for a curtain call. Because he could not hear the cheers, he had to be told to go out by manager Joe Torre and the bench coach Don Zimmer.

It was his first home run since May 27, 2001, and his first major league hit since June 17, 2001, when he played with Montreal.

With Bernie Williams expected to return soon, Pride will probably not get too many more opportunities in the starting lineup, but Torre has indicated that Pride will remain on the team.

DEVIL RAYS: Lou Piniella said he would dye if Tampa Bay won three straight. Well, Tampa Bay has a streak and so does the manager's hair.

True to his word, Piniella dyed his hair Sunday in recognition of Tampa Bay's first three-game winning streak of the season. But that didn't keep the Devil Rays winning. Tampa Bay fell to the Chicago White Sox 11-3.

The 59-year-old manager added hints of blond on the side with a broader streak on the top for a new look, though not necessarily a more youthful appearance.

Piniella promised last month to dye his hair if his young, last-place team won three in a row at any point this season. Saturday night's 3-2 victory over the White Sox gave the Devil Rays their first three-game winning streak since last September.

MILESTONE: Jack McKeon recorded win No. 800 as a manager. After a series-sweeping 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, the Florida Marlins improved to 30-21 under the 71-year-old McKeon. He is one of 63 major league managers to reach that milestone.

"I'm probably the oldest manager in the history of the game to win 800," McKeon said. "I'll probably get a button from AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) or something. They'll make me man of the year."

TRADE: The Reds tried to strengthen their bench by acquiring infielder D'Angelo Jimenez from the Chicago White Sox for a minor league pitcher. Jimenez, 25, was designated for assignment on Wednesday, after the White Sox overhauled their roster by acquiring outfielder Carl Everett and second baseman Roberto Alomar. Jimenez will be a backup who can play third base, second and shortstop.

The White Sox got right-hander Scott Dunn, 25, who was 3-2 with eight saves and a 3.79 ERA in 31 relief appearances for Double-A Chattanooga.

Copyright 2003 Knight Ridder. All Rights Reserved