Baseball: Eisenreich turns an acorn into an oak: Flying Phillies steal an important march on the battling Blue Jays as an unsung hero seizes the limelight

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The Independent Online
JIM EISENREICH, the quiet one in the Philadelphia Phillies' Animal House, suddenly gave this World Series a very different aspect when he connected with a Dave Stewart fastball for a three-run homer in the third inning and the Phillies held on to win 6-4 in Game Two and take the best-of-seven Series back to Veterans Stadium tonight all square.

Stewart, the Toronto starting pitcher, showed once again that though he may be unstoppable in play-off action, he is less than dominating in World Series play. The former Oakland player won the American League Championship MVP award as he extended his play- off record to 8-0 with two victories over the Chicago White Sox, but he is now a mere 2-4 in his three World Series appearances.

While the Phillies found Stewart a relatively easy touch, the Toronto bats that had hammered Curt Schilling in Game One were finding the left-handed Philadelphia starter, Terry Mulholland, a much tougher proposition, going down in order for the first two innings.

But Stewart brought about his own downfall by walking the first two batters in the third, giving up two base hits that scored a couple of runs. But then he seemed to have regained the initiative as he got two quick strikes against Eisenreich.

'I had a strange feeling before the game that I could hit a home run,' Eisenreich said, 'but all I was thinking about at the time was to try to bring the man home from third.' Stewart threw him a high fastball. 'I don't know how I got my bat to the ball, but a squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.'

The squirrel-like Eisenreich seems a poor fit in the Phillies clubhouse of longhairs and tobacco- juice spitters. But unlike some of his team-mates, for whom the striking of wild-side postures is little more than a motivational technique, the right-fielder knows all too painfully what being an outcast really means.

Soon after he broke into the major leagues with Minnesota in 1982, Eisenreich discovered that the condition that had been misdiagnosed since childhood as hyperactivity was in fact Tourette's Syndrome, a neurological disorder which causes erratic, involuntary muscle movements, facial tics and sometimes repeated, uncontrollable use of profanities.

He began to spend more time on the disabled list than he did on the field, and even dropped out of baseball altogether for two years from 1984, as he sought the combination of tranquillisers that would keep his condition under control. He has now discovered the right medicine, which he takes every night, and also the ability to laugh at himself. 'While everyone else is getting up for the game, I'm going down,' he said.

'I don't think of it as being a long journey,' he said of his trek from despair to World Series hero. 'We all have ups and downs in life, and hopefully I've had my downs. But I'll cherish this moment as long as I live.'

Although Toronto could not quite recover the five-run deficit - despite Joe Carter's two-run homer in the fourth - some of their defensive work was still breath-taking, with the second baseman Roberto Alomar showing once again why he is said to 'get to the ball quicker than Cinderella's sisters'.

But Philadelphia, too, showed their defensive qualities as their centre-fielder Lenny Dykstra, on top of his pressure-relieving solo homer in the seventh, twice ran into the outfield wall to make leaping catches. 'Plays like that can make the difference,' Dykstra said. 'I stopped some rallies, changed the momentum. That's the key to winning, man.'

(Photograph omitted)