By CHUCKIE MAGGIO
The chant rang through Silver Stadium on 1984’s Summer Solstice, a scene Rochester baseball fans would likely pay triple to hear today.
“USA! USA! USA!”
Rochester was the next stop on the United States baseball team’s Olympic tune-up circuit as the Americans prepared for the Games of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles. Forty days before the U.S. played Chinese Taipei at Dodger Stadium, the Olympians defeated the Red Wings 8-1 on June 21.
University of Southern California first baseman Mark McGwire was a star on the team exclusively comprised of collegiate players. Fourteen years before McGwire dueled Sammy Sosa in a home run chase for the ages, he unloaded a two-run homer over the right field fence to extend the Americans’ third-inning lead to 6-0.
Cal State Fullerton catcher Bob Caffrey also homered for the U.S., which collected 11 base hits and received nine innings of five-hit ball from Fresno State ace John Hoover and North Carolina hurler Scott Bankhead.
“We have a good team,” McGwire, who led the NCAA that season with 31 homers, remarked to the Democrat and Chronicle. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t win the gold medal.”
The Americans ultimately fell to Japan in the final, but the show they put on in Rochester was a sign of stellar baseball to come.
Of the 20 players on the team, 18 ended up being first round selections in the MLB Draft. The U.S. outscored its preliminary round opponents 30-2 and hit eight homers, batting .353.
Barry Larkin did not appear in the game at Silver Stadium but was the only future Hall of Fame player on the squad. McGwire hit 70 homers in 1998, breaking Roger Maris’s 37-year-old record, and slugged 583 in his major league career. After years of suspicion, McGwire admitted in 2010 to using performance enhancing drugs during his career and was not voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his seven years of eligibility.
The Red Wings and Olympians didn’t take the game’s result to heart. Rochester manager Frank Verdi told the D&C he “wanted them to win,” while Olympic manager Rod Dedeaux admitted that if the sides played 10 contests, the Red Wings would win nine of them.
Rochester center fielder Dallas Williams didn’t get the memo that this was just a friendly exhibition. The fact that the Red Wings were on a ten-game Triple-A losing streak didn’t help matters in his “unpatriotic” postgame interview.
“I’m only speaking for myself, but I didn’t want to come out here and lose 8-1,” Williams commented. “We didn’t put on a very good show for these guys.
“They probably came in here and said, ‘If those guys are AAA, we’ll be in the big leagues in a short time.'”
E- Ashford, Hernandez 2, Bonner, Snyder LOB- Olympians 9, Rochester 7 2B- Rodriguez, Clark, Sanchez 3B- Mack, Alfaro HR- McGwire, Caffrey SB- Snyder, McDowell
|John Hoover (W)||5||3||1||1||2||2|
|Don Welchel (L)||2||5||6||4||1||4|
T- 2:37 Attendance- 3,516
Also on this day: Bill Kirkpatrick lost a perfect game in the seventh inning but scattered just four hits as the Red Wings collected a 2-0 road win over Charleston in 1974… Rochester picked off three Syracuse Chiefs in a 5-1 victory in 1986… Benny Distefano broke a 5-5 tie with an eighth-inning home run to lift Rochester to a 6-5 win over Pawtucket in 1991… Howie Clark hit a two-run home run in the first, one of 16 Rochester hits, as the Red Wings topped the Pawtucket Red Sox 7-3 in 2000. The win was just Rochester’s eighth in 41 games at McCoy Stadium.