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5/2/02, Revisited

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Probably the high point of what would turn out to be an incredibly disappointing 2002 campaign. I guarantee you won't see another Win Expectancy chart like this one for a long, long time.

Biggest Contribution: Carlos Guillen, +35.7%
Biggest Suckfest: Ruben Sierra, -3.9%
Most Important Hit: Guillen single, +35.7%
Most Important Pitch: N/A
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): 0.0%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +56.5%

(What is this?)

Even ignoring for a moment Mike Cameron's spectacular feat, this was still a memorable game. The Mariners put up a ten-spot in the top of the first, icing the game in front of nearly 13,000 bitter White Sox fans before the home side so much as got the chance to swing a bat. Bret Boone became the first player in AL history to homer twice in the first inning and, moments later, Mike Cameron became the second, the pair having gone back-to-back twice and ensuring that their names will be printed in the history books long after they retire. And Jeff Cirillo went deep, an extraordinary accomplishment itself. Really and truly speaking, this may have been the last time that any of us could feel legitimately proud of being Mariners fans. The last hurrah for a talented-yet-declining roster, if you will. Only now are we beginning to pull ourselves out of the mud.

The beatdown was so complete that immediately following the game, Jon Rauch and Jim Parque - who had combined to allow 14 runs in 6.1 innings of work - were demoted to AAA Charlotte. The White Sox had entered the day red-hot but left in a tailspin, dropping from the top of the AL Central to 13.5 games behind by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the Mariners continued winning games at a torrid pace until a late-summer slump knocked them out of contention. But even in October, they could look back on May 2nd with fond memories.

(Other random trivia: Larry Poncino, Clint Nageotte hater extraordinaire, was the third base umpire for the game.)

Obviously, even with the massive first inning, it was Mike Cameron who stole the show, as the fans realized by the third (by which point he had three home runs) that something special might take place. He was as locked in at the plate as anyone I've ever seen in my life, drilling balls over the wall just as quickly as the White Sox could throw them. With at least another two at bats coming before the end, it began to dawn on everyone that Cameron could become just the fifth player in Major League history to blast four homers in a single game.

Bottom three, Magglio Ordonez steps up to the plate with the bases loaded. He hits a long fly ball to straightaway center, where Cameron reaches over the wall to rob Ordonez of a grand slam in what was then a 12-0 ballgame. Typical.

Cameron would come to the plate again in the fifth and take Parque deep for his fourth consecutive home run. At this point the few fans in attendance could be thrilled by the fact that they had witnessed history firsthand, but...but could there be more? There were still another four innings to go, after all, meaning that Cameron was due for at least another plate appearance. With two on in the top of the seventh, he got it.

And was promptly beaned by Mike Porzio.

Chicago wasn't happy.

A chorus of boos rained down onto the playing field, as it looked like Cameron might not get another chance to become the first player ever to hit five homers in a game. However, White Sox fans underestimated just how bad their pitching really was at the time, for Cameron would, in fact, get another try, with two on in the ninth. For the next few minutes, everything else around the baseball world stopped, as everyone focused intently on each Porzio pitch and Cameron swing (the at bat, along with the one before it, was picked up live by ESPN).

Not a sound. And then - crack. Could it be? Cameron's long line drive chased Jeff Liefer back to the track in right, and everyone watching rose to their feet, mouths agape.

Mike Cameron became the first player in Major League history to narrowly miss his fifth home run in a game with a flyout to the wall.

And that was that. You couldn't help but feel a little disappointed, despite Cameron having accomplished something of which many of his peers couldn't even conceive. His teammates were certainly enthusiastic, though, as they awarded him with a crown, a cape, and a silver bat in the clubhouse after the game. Cameron himself was also in good spirits:

"I've had an asterisk by my name as the guy traded for Ken Griffey Jr. Now maybe I'll have another asterisk."

As it turned out, that would be the unmistakable high point of Cameron's season - he ended the night with a 1.012 OPS, but hit just .232/.326/.405 the rest of the way (albeit with tremendous defense). Yet few would remember his summer slide, as it was that unbelievable performance on a chilly May night that stuck in our minds.

And he didn't even make the biggest contribution on the team.