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Cameron's creed- Team still first, record second
NEW YORK -- With four home runs in the game already and a chance to break the record, Mike Cameron chose to follow baseball decorum instead.
That's just the kind of guy he is -- and why so many people in baseball were happy for Cameron, now known for so much more than being the player who replaced Ken Griffey Jr. in Seattle.
After homering in his first four at-bats Thursday night at Comiskey Park, Cameron came up in the ninth with a chance to become the only player to hit five in a game.
When Chicago's Mike Porzio threw three straight balls in a 15-4 game, Cameron let a hittable pitch go by for strike one, following the age-old practice of not swinging at a 3-0 pitch in a blowout.
"It wouldn't be too good for my team if I swung 3-0," Cameron said Friday before his Seattle Mariners played the New York Yankees. "That's not the way you play the game with that kind of lead in the ninth inning."
After fouling off a 3-1 pitch, Cameron lined an opposite-field drive that had fans thinking he had hit it out. But right fielder Jeff Liefer made a running, backhanded catch at the front of the warning track.
"Fortunately he threw me a strike and I had an opportunity to go for No. 5," Cameron said. "I have respect for the way the game is played."
White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said Friday he wouldn't have had a problem with Cameron swinging 3-0 but was impressed that he didn't.
"He's got a chance to do something no one's ever done," Williams said. "It's our guy's fault he got to 3-0 in the first place. I thought it was Mike Cameron showing his class."
Cameron always has been popular, playing with an infectious joy similar to a young Griffey before the trade that sent Junior to Cincinnati for Cameron and three other players.
That attitude was one reason why even some of the White Sox, including owner Jerry Reinsdorf, were pulling for their former teammate Thursday night. The White Sox dealt Cameron to Cincinnati after the 1998 season.
"It's amazing. I've never seen anything like it," Liefer said. "I saw Bob Horner on TV wen I was a kid, but I was too young to really realize what an accomplishment it was."
Even his former teammates in Cincinnati took notice, watching highlights of the game before taking the field half in Los Angeles.
"I tell people all the time that my favorite all-time teammate is Mike Cameron," said Reds third baseman Aaron Boone, whose brother, Bret, teamed with Cameron to hit back-to-back homers twice in the first inning Thursday -- the first time that's happened in the majors.
"He was really kind of starting to come into his own as a player when he came over to us. He's continued to get better in Seattle."
Cameron couldn't carry over his success to his first at-bat Friday night, grounding out in the first inning against Ted Lilly.
Cameron's teammates left a homemade silver slugger bat, wrapped in aluminum foil, in his locker Friday, to go along with the King Cam crown he was given the night before.
They spent most of the flight from Chicago talking about Cameron's place in history and congratulating one of the most popular players on the team.
"Everybody has loved him from the minute he got here," Seattle catcher Dan Wilson said. "He'll probably always be remembered for that trade to some extent. But he's done a lot of other good things to make his own reputation."
Few players ever had a game like Cameron did Thursday night, including Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Griffey.
Cameron became only the 13th player in major league history to homer four times in a game and the first since Mark Whiten did it for St. Louis in 1993. Rocky Colavito had been the last to do it in the AL, on June 10, 1959, for Cleveland.
"That must be what Sammy and Barry feel every night," Cameron said. "I felt it for one night. I'm not saying I'm going to hit 50. But I still haven't fulfilled my full potential yet."
The 29-year-old Cameron had never hit more than two home runs in a game before. He began the night with five homers in 91 at-bats this season, and hadn't homered since April 15, a span of 41 at-bats.
In fact, as his average dipped to .238, he visited an eye doctor last week. A sinus infection was causing vision problems, and he got contact lenses.
But he wasn't wearing them Thursday night.
"I guess his vision has been corrected now," Aaron Boone said. "I might have to give him a call and see what he's done so I can get going like that."
After Chicago's Jon Rauch hit Ichiro Suzuki to lead off the game, Boone and Cameron homered, with Cameron's shot just eluding a jumping Kenny Lofton. With two outs, Boone and Cameron did it again, this time off reliever Jim Parque.
Cameron wasn't done, hitting a solo shot to left off Parque in the third. With two outs in the fifth, he went deep again on a 2-1 count, joining the likes of Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt as players with four homers in a game.
"On one particular night, I was as good as anybody in the game," Cameron said.