BALTIMORE -- There it goes! The old record for home runs in one day is going, going, gone.
Fifty-seven homers were hit in the major leagues Friday night, two more than the previous mark set last Aug. 13. The record is even more impressive because it was set over 15 games compared to 17 for the previous mark.
The Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers contributed nine homers in a 14-10 slugfest. Charles Johnson, who had 16 home runs all last year, hit his fourth in three games.
"I'm not up there trying to hit home runs," he said. "It's just happened."
Before the Orioles and Tigers played Saturday, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer gripped a baseball and noticed that the ink on it was easy to smudge and the leather was "slicker" than usual.
A juiced baseball? Actually, Palmer has a different explanation for the power surge during the first week of the season.
"The hitters are good and the pitchers are trying to acclimate themselves to the umpires," Palmer said. "It's hard to pitch now unless you're good. You look at the pitches last night, in a park like this, they should have been hit. You take hittable pitches in a friendly environment, you're going to hit a lot of home runs."
Detroit hit three homers in the top of the fifth and the Orioles responded with successive drives by Johnson and Mike Bordick. The five homers in an inning tied a major league record.
"The wind was blowing out and there were a lot of pitches up over the plate," Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said. "You do that to big, strong hitters and you get the results that happened here last night. There were no cheap ones."
The 36 homers in the American League were a record for a league in one day, topping the previous mark of 30, accomplished twice in the AL (June 10, 1962, and June 14, 1964), and three times in the NL (May 8, 1970, last July 2 and last Aug. 13).
Texas and Toronto hit seven at The Ballpark in Arlington, and Cleveland's Omar Vizquel hit his fourth career grand slam in the Indians' 14-5 win at Tampa Bay.
Royce Clayton hit two home runs for the Rangers and Mike Sweeney of Kansas City homered twice in the Royals' 10-6 victory over Minnesota.
What's going on?
"Every time the hitters start lighting up the board, everyone starts saying the ball is juiced and they're using corked bats," Hargrove said. "The fact of the matter is these guys are bigger, stronger hitters. They generate a lot of bat speed with strength, and when that happens, the ball's going to go out of the park."
Johnson is leading the way. Although he has a reputation as a catcher whose strength is defense, Johnson is temporarily hitting like a modern-day Babe Ruth.
"I look to make contact and hit the ball hard," he said. "Sometimes you hit the ball at the right angle off the bat and it happens. I heard about all the home runs that were hit last night. Sometimes, the game goes through changes. Maybe yesterday was just one of those things."
Johnson has nearly half of Baltimore's nine homers. Bordick and Belle have two apiece and Cal Ripken has one.
"The thing is, if it was that easy to hit home runs, everyone in the lineup would have four now," Hargrove said. "You still have to hit the ball and get it up in the air to get it out."
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