We got word Sunday that Mike Cameron was retiring after 17 seasons of largely productive baseball. He hit 278 home runs during that span, four of them in a single game (watch the glory here). A four-homer day is noteworthy for many reasons, of course, but it turns out the Code was involved in this one.
It was recounted in the original draft of The Baseball Codes, but the passage was cut for space considerations. In honor of Cameron, here it is:
On May 4, 2002, Seattle’s Mike Cameron stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning with two on, nobody out and his team leading the Chicago White Sox, 15-4. When reliever Mike Porzio started him off with three straight balls, Cameron knew just what to do—his manager, Lou Piniella, was a stickler for the unwritten rules and had taught his players well.
Cameron watched the fourth pitch split the plate for a called strike. It didn’t even occur to him that he’d already hit four home runs on the day, and couldn’t have asked for a pitch served up more nicely to give him a record fifth. As Cameron proved, however, should players let it, the Code even trumps history.
4 thoughts on “Mike Cameron: Code Over Glory”
Interesting that Cameron comes up in an article about “The Code” considering all the hoopla around the shirt un-tucking tradition he started after wins with the Brewers. I still have not figured out why everyone was so offended by that.
People are offended because it’s showboating. Cameron started untucking as a nod to his father, who would himself untuck after coming home from work. That offers some mitigation for folks predisposed to taking offense at things like this. (Brian Wilson’s cross-armed salute after saving games gains similar tolerance points, because it’s a salute to his own late father.)
The real problem began when shirt untucking stopped being a Mike Cameron thing and started to become a Brewers thing, with guys across the roster picking up the habit. Baseball is a buttoned-down sport, both metaphorically and literally, and some opponents don’t view the practice much differently than they do a guy who pimps his home runs. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun (among others) have been forced to avoid message pitches in response; only they can answer whether it’s worthwhile.
I always liked Cameron. He may have rubbed some wrong because he wore his hat sideways, but I thought he played the game hard and the right way. He always seemed to have solid numbers at the end of the year and since it seemed he was annually rumored to come to Houston, I kept up with him. He never made his way to the Minute Maid home bench, but if he had he would have immediately been one of my favorite Astros.