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Hayes fondly recalls three-homer game

Hayes fondly recalls three-homer game

Before the manager of the Alexandria Aces, the Louisiana-based entry in the independent United Baseball League, goes to the ball park most days he makes a few stops. He drops into local businesses, politely inquires whether there's a need for outside help handling human resources, employee benefits, group health or worker's compensation issues. He leaves a business card.

Because, you see, when former Phillies star Von Hayes isn't just a manager. He's also a partner in FirstSourceHR, a company that provides those services to small and mid-size companies.

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"I hope they'll recognize the name and I'll get a call back," he said with a laugh.

There's a good chance prospective clients will remember him. After all, he also played for the Indians and Angels in a 12-year big league career. He played in the postseason for the Phillies in 1983 and in the 1989 All-Star Game. He had his fair share of big games, including two that remain part of Phillies lore, games he'll always remember.

On June 11, 1985, against the Mets at Veterans Stadium, he became the first player in history to hit two home runs in the first inning. And on August 29, 1989, at San Francisco's Candlestick Park, he hit three home runs against the Giants.

And both those games, as it turns out, have interesting back stories.

He wasn't even supposed to start that 26-7 win over the Mets, for example. He was 1-for-18 in his previous six games and a left-hander was starting for New York. He understood the logic, but went in to talk to manager John Felske anyway. "I said, 'Skip, I know I've been struggling. But I'm not going to learn anything if I'm sitting down. I'd like to try to work my way through this,'" he recalled. Felske not only went along but proposed that, even though he normally batted third, that he should lead off in order to possibly to get an extra at bat. It was the first time he'd ever done that in the big leagues.

"The first time up, I didn't even use my own bat. I grabbed Jeff Stone's bat because it felt a little lighter to me. And I hit a home run," Hayes said. "I hit it pretty good, but it barely got out of the ball park. It was what we call a paint-scraper. Well, we ended up batting around. So I came up the next time and they had changed pitchers. They went to Calvin Schiraldi. I came up with the bases loaded. And I hit another one. And this was another one that I thought I had hit really good and it barely got over."

With that, he had accomplished something no hitter before him had done.

"The third time I came up I grabbed Jeff Stone's bat again, but this time I grabbed it with my bare hands. I didn't have my batting gloves on. And it had a hairline crack in it. So that explained why I thought I'd hit both of those balls really good and they barely got out. So I put that bat down and, believe it or not, I didn't use it again," he added.

P.S. The Hall of Fame asked for the bat. And Hayes sent them one. Just not the one he actually used.

"Originally, I kept it. If you're going to send a bat to the Hall of Fame, you want your name on it, right? So I sent them one [of mine] and it was there for quite a few years," he admitted sheepishly. "Then, about three or four years ago, I went to the Hall of Fame. Mike Schmidt invited me for a fantasy camp, took me as a coach. They took me through [the museum] with a group of people so I could look at my accomplishments. That was one of them and they were talking to the people. And at that time, I fessed up. I said, 'I've got to admit to something. That's not the bat I hit them with.'"

Later he sent them the actual artifact.

His big day four years later also started with a slump. And a painful injury. He had fouled a pitch off his toe the night before and head athletic trainer Jeff Cooper had to drill a hole in the nail before the game.

"Lenny Dykstra walks in and everybody is kind of watching. When that pressure releases, it hits the ceiling. So everybody kind of laughed," he recalled. "I said, 'Maybe that will help me break out of this slump.' Because I was kind of struggling. Lenny was there and he said, 'Me, too, dude,' So we started talking and I said, 'I'll tell you what, Lenny. We're both kind of scuffling here. First one to get three hits, we'll call it a beer.'"

In his first two at bats, Hayes homered off Don Robinson. As the game wound down and he was approaching his last time up, he reminded Dykstra of the wager. "And he said, 'Oh, yeah, that's right, dude. OK, sure.' The score was 6-1. I said, 'I think I'm gonna drop a bunt down.' He kind of laughed and says, 'I hope you don't. Not with what the score is. But if you drop a bunt down, I'll give you two beers.' I said, 'What if I swing away and hit another home run?' He said, 'I'll double that. I'll give you four beers.'

"So the last time up they bring in Craig Lefferts, who I don't think I'd ever gotten a hit off at that point of my career. But I was seeing the ball extremely well that game and he left a slider out over the plate and I hit my third one."

Making the game even more special was the fact that he grew up in nearby Stockton and had a lot of family members and friends in the stands.

Hayes is 54 now. He's been a successful manager in the Oakland farm system and also managed in the independent Atlantic League. He was out of baseball in 2012. He wanted to get back in. "But not with both feet," he said. So the three-month UBL season is perfect.

He lives in the Midwest to be close to his children. His ex-wife Stephanie moved to Illinois, where son Conner is a junior in high school. "He's taller than me and runs a lot faster than I ever did," Von said. "He plays a little baseball but he's getting stronger and bigger and plays wide receiver on the football team. I think he puts a little too much pressure on himself baseball-wise. I probably passed down those pressure genes to him, because I think I did the same thing."

Daughter Taylor attends the University of Chicago and is also a good athlete, having been part of back-to-back Florida high school teams that won back-to-back state championships in the highest classification. "She's a brainiac. I don't know where she got that from," he joked.

It hasn't been all laughs, though. "There were a couple years there after the divorce that were a little tough, but things are starting to pick up," he said. "I'm keeping this baseball thing going. I'd really like to try to get back in with somebody. I still enjoy working with the guys.

"Keep on plugging."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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