Monday, April 12, 2010

Laird's first hit made Leyland "break out in a rash"

Gerald Laird was waiting at the mound when Jim Leyland came out to change pitchers in the ninth inning on Sunday.

"I think I'm getting poison ivy," the Tigers' manager said, scratching his wrist. "I'm breaking out in a rash."

"What do you mean?" the puzzled Laird asked.

"You just got a hit," Leyland replied.

When you start a season 0-for-17, you've got to be able to laugh at yourself.

And Laird did.

"I heard the boos in my last couple of at-bats," admitted Laird, who had singled in the bottom half of the eighth to finally end his hitless streak.

"But that's the way it is. Fans are fans. I wasn't getting the job done."

"I really felt for him," Leyland said Monday. "But that's baseball. Lloyd McClendon (the Tigers' hitting coach) said one year he started 0-for-23."

And McClendon hit .625 in 11 postseason games for the Cubs and Pirates. As a kid, he belted five home runs on five swings in the 1971 Little League World Series, earning the nickname "Legendary Lloyd."

To my knowledge, nobody has yet called Gerald "Legendary Laird."

The fact that the Tigers won five of their first six games, helped ease Laird's personal pain a little.

When Laird's long-awaited first hit finally came, the Comerica Park crowd gave him a sarcastic standing ovation. "I think at least some of them were happy for me," he said, putting a positive spin on the situation.

"I had fouled a ball off my foot so it hurt to run and all the way to first base I'm thinking, 'Oh no, what if I get thrown out?' " Laird said.


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