Blue Jays infielder Omar Vizquel hits a double in the eighth inning against the Yankees in New York, N.Y., Sept. 19, 2012. With the hit, Vizquel passed Babe Ruth on the all-time hits list at 2,874. (MIKE SEGAR/Reuters)
NEW YORK - Atop his locker sat a Baby Ruth candy bar -- peanuts, caramel and chocolate-flavored nougat, dipped in chocolate -- inside a silver wrapping.
Leaning against his locker was his black Hillerich & Bradsby Louisville slugger C-243 model, 34 inches, 31 ounces, since retired.
And in front of the locker standing on one leg, with one leg resting on his chair was a man with more hits than Babe Ruth.
“I started switch hitting at age 20, only eight months before I made the majors,” said Blue Jays infielder Omar Vizquel after he collected two hits to pass the Great Bambino on the all-time hits list as Toronto fell 4-2 to the New York Yankees Wednesday afternoon, the opener of a day-night doubleheader.
The Jays dropped the night game 2-1 when Yankees left fielder Ichiro Suzuki capped a 7-for-8 day with a run-scoring single to left field off rookie Aaron Loup with two out in the eighth.
The Jays have lost six of the past eight as they lurch to the finish. Lefty Ricky Romero pitched six innings in the night game, allowing one run.
No matter the uniform, Vizquel always had the ability to flash an impish smile with a devilish glint in his eyes above his solid eye black.
“Who knows?” Vizquel told reporters, “if I had started switch hitting earlier I may have had 3,000 hits.”
“It makes me feel so little,” Vizquel said. “to even compare myself to The Babe ... it’s an amazing feeling to be able to do it here in the house that The Babe Built.”
Well, actually Ruth was credited with building the original Yankee Stadium. That was two houses ago, before the Yanks moved into this starter house in the Bronx which drew 39,859 fans in the afternoon and 39,997 at night.
Vizquel singled to right field in the fourth inning off lefty Andy Pettitte, tying Ruth, and later turned around to the other side of the plate and doubled off right-handed reliever David Robertson to knock in a run. It was his 2,874th career hit and moved him into 40th place on the all-time list.
Ruth still leads in home runs 714-80.
There is a saying in bullpens around the majors as the starting pitcher departs. “Good luck, now go out there and compete,” a pitching or bullpen coach will say. Did Jays right-hander Henderson Alvarez compete Wednesday afternoon? He was down 1-0 after 10 pitches, 2-0 after 12 and behind 3-0 to the Yankees after 15 ... After that, Alvarez put up six zeros. He allowed five hits -- two after the first inning -- and struck out a career-high seven batters ... “Everything was up in the first inning, changeup, fastball,” said Jays catcher Jeff Mathis ... Suzuki singled to open the game, went to third on a Nick Swisher single and scored on Robinson Cano’s double over the head of centre fielder Colby Rasmus ... An Alex Rodriguez grounder made it 2-0 and a fly ball by Curtis Granderson made it 3-0.
The Jays were held scoreless until the eighth when Brett Lawrie doubled off reliever David Robertson and Adam Lind singled. Pinch hitter Kelly Johnson slapped a single to left for the Jays’ second hit in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position. An out later, Vizquel doubled to right for his milestone hit, cutting the lead to 3-2. An out later, Rafael Soriano retired Rajai Davis on a liner left fielder Suzuki stabbed ... Yanks lefty Pettitte, making his first start in the majors since June 27 when he was hit with a liner off the bat of Cleveland Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman, breaking the veteran’s left fibula. Pettitte pitched five scoreless innings and not once did the Jays try to bunt for a base hit.
Suzuki stole four of the seven steals the Yanks had against the Jays ... Romero worked six innings, allowing one run on seven hits and five walks, striking out five in his 99-pitch outing. He’s 0-13 in his last 15 starts, lowering his earned-run average to 5.72 ... The Jays managed three singles ... Lawrie made back-to-back outstanding plays on Jayson Nix and Casey McGehee in the fourth. Then he robbed the same two hitters two innings later ... Jays shortstop Adeiny Hechevarria won a eight-pitch at-bat with David Phelps, singling up the middle for Toronto’s first run in the second ... Rasmus threw out Nix at the plate in second, Chris Stewart then knocked in a run.
OH MY OMAR
In late July we told Vizquel he was 12 hits away from tying Ruth. Vizquel said: “Isn’t that crazy, myself and Babe Ruth ... I didn’t know he had that many hits.” Did he ever envision passing Ruth in New York? “The manager had a lot to do with that,” Vizquel said of Farrell. The manager made out the lineup. Vizquel swung the bat, a bat he is retiring (the same one he used for two hits against the Boston Red Sox on Sunday) ... Vizquel wound up with the ball that pushed him past Ruth. He has a few souvenirs from passing Harold Baines, Jesse Burkett and Brooks Robinson on the all-time hits list ... While he said he’d retire at the end of this season, Vizquel said Wednesday he might consider a return if someone offered him a guaranteed contract on a 25-man roster next spring. “Sometimes I get mad I can’t play my position. I was a shortstop all those years. Now there are guys with better arms, better range,” said Vizquel. ... What is more important for the future Hall of Famer? His 11 gold gloves, his hits or playing at the age of 45. “I’d say the hits, I struggled hitting from the left side and people wondered if I’d stick. I proved them wrong.” ... Vizquel credited Seattle Mariners minor-league instructor Bobby Tolan for teaching him how to switch hit with 7 a.m. sessions before he moved to double-A Vermont and triple-A Calgary in 1988 ... Besides Tolan, Vizquel learned from the likes of Vic Davalillo (“The hit king of Venezuela”), Charlie Manuel, Kenny Lofton and Dave Winfield with the Indians ... Vizquel knows what to expect when the season ends Oct. 3. He went through it 20 years ago playing for Caracas in Venezuela. “I played one game in each city, after the final out I choked up and everyone hugged me.” ... Vizquel should be in the starting lineup Oct. 3 against the Minnesota Twins -- he has more people to pass.