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Yielding milestone home run bodes ill for hurler's future

It won't be long until another couple of pitchers go down in infamy.

Like Ralph Branca, who surrendered Bobby Thomson's shot heard 'round the world to clinch the National League pennant for the New York Giants in 1951, the hurlers who yield the blasts that allow Barry Bonds to tie and then break Hank Aaron's career home run record will be remembered -- like it or not.
Will they be guys who help you win a fantasy title? History tells us probably not.

Tom Zachary, who gave up Babe Ruth's record 60th home run Sept. 30, 1927, had a 186-191 career mark but holds the record for wins in an undefeated season, having gone 12-0 with the 1929 Yankees. The son of a minister who went overseas with a Quaker Red Cross unit during World War I, he broke in with the Philadelphia A's in 1918 and played under the assumed name of Zach Walton to protect his college eligibility.

Boston's Ted Williams went 6 for 8 in a double-header against the A's on Sept. 28, 1941, the final day of the season, to finish with a .406 batting average. He clinched his magical .400 mark by going 2 for 3 against rookie Fred Caligiuri in the nightcap.

Caligiuri, a late-season call-up from Wilmington of the Inter-State League, yielded a single and a double off a speaker in the Shibe Park wall, but retired Williams on a fly to right in his last-at bat. Caligiuri didn't yield a run until the ninth and finished with a complete game, six-hit, 7-1 win in just 1 hour, 21 minutes. But his career consisted of a 2-5 record over just two seasons.

In 1961, Roger Maris hit his record-tying 60th homer off Baltimore's Jack Fisher on Sept. 26 and the breaker off Boston's Tracy Stallard in the season finale on Oct. 1. Fisher, who went 86-139 in 11 seasons, also allowed Williams to homer in his final at-bat in the big leagues the year before. Maris went just 1 for 7 (.143) in his career against Stallard, who also stymied Willie Mays (6 for 30, .200), Willie McCovey (5 for 33, .152) Roberto Clemente (4 for 29, .138) and Frank Robinson (6 for 28, .214).

Fisher and Stallard, who was the losing pitcher in South Park High School graduate Warren Spahn's 363rd and final victory in 1965, both had miserable seasons as members of the early New York Mets -- Fisher going 8-24 in 1965 and Stallard 10-20 the year before.
In 1974, Aaron's victims on the way to passing Ruth for the career home run lead were Jack Billingham of the Cincinnati Reds and Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Aaron caught The Bambino on April 4 with No. 714 at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium on Opening Day, then claimed the record four days later in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

Both pitchers were pretty successful. Billingham, a distant relative of Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson, won at least 10 games for 10 consecutive seasons (1970-79), had 19 victories in both 1973 and '74, and was 145-113 for his career. Downing, called by some "the black Sandy Koufax," never lived up to that billing with a 123-107 career mark. In 1963, he became the first black starting pitcher in Yankees club history and was a 20-game winner for the Dodgers in 1971.

Pete Rose slapped a single to left field off San Diego's Eric Show to become baseball's career hits leader Sept. 11, 1985, passing Ty Cobb. Show, a physics major in college who also loved jazz and would bring his guitar along on road trips, went 101-89 in 11 seasons. Less than two years later, Show fractured future MVP Andre Dawson's left cheekbone with a fastball. Dawson had homered in three of his previous five plate appearances, leading many to believe Show had done it on purpose. Show was found dead in his bed at a drug rehabilitation center in 1994 at age 37.

Mark McGwire broke Maris' single-season homer mark with his 62nd on Sept. 8, 1998, on an 88 mph fastball served up by the Chicago Cubs' Steve Trachsel. One of the slowest-working pitchers in baseball, Trachsel earned the nickname "The Human Rain Delay," previously used on former Seattle Mariners manager Mike Hargrove.

Bonds passed McGwire with his 71st homer on Oct. 5, 2001, off Chan Ho Park of the Dodgers. Park, the first South Korean to reach 100 career wins in the majors, was already used to giving up memorable bombs. On April 23, 1999, he surrendered two grand slams to Fernando Tatis in the same inning and in the 2001 All-Star Game, he gave up a solo home run to Cal Ripken Jr., who became the oldest All-Star to hit a home run and to win the MVP award.


>Second season trends

For some, baseball's all-star break is an elixir. But to others it's a curse.

It's worth checking out the pre and post All-Star Game statistics for those on your fantasy roster, especially the platoon players, when the regular season resumes Thursday after the three-day break.

Among those who thrive after the break are New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano (.294 career batting average before the All-Star break, .329 after), Cleveland Indians catcher Victor Martinez (.286/.323), New York Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado (.271/.292), Oakland Athletics third baseman Eric Chavez (.255/.287), Washington Nationals outfielder Austin Kearns (.257/.276), Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche (.246/.289) and wounded Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling (3.56 ERA/3.34).

The break usually seems to come too soon for Anaheim Angels outfielder Gary Matthews (.274/.254), Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer (.334/.296), Texas Rangers shortstop Michael Young (.307/.291), Seattle Mariners designated hitter Jose Vidro (.311/.284), San Francisco Giants catcher Bengie Molina (.285/.263), Cincinnati Reds outfielder Adam Dunn (.252, 139 homers/.243, 80 homers) and Colorado Rockies pitcher Jeff Francis (4.34 ERA/5.21).


>Start your engines

* Scott Dixon, winner of the two previous Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix races, is one of only two to place among the top 10 in 2005 and '06. Scott Sharp finished ninth each year, despite starting 14th last year and 18th the year before.

* Victory lane at the Grand Prix of Toronto has had a distinctly American flavor. Since 1986, 11 of 21 winners have hailed from the United States -- including California native A.J. Allmendinger, the 2006 champion. But there hasn't been a repeat winner since Michael Andretti in 2000 and '01.


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