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Jeff Kallman watches the PADRES GO DOWN IN THREE


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Peter Schilling Jr. celebrates WITH THE DUCK OF DEATH


Jeff Kallman remembers THE OL' PERFESSER



Peter Schilling wished THE CHISOX LUCK

Jeff Kallman on the YANKS GAME ONE VICTORY



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…But A Child Shall Bleed Them

ALDS GAME FIVE: Los Angeles Cherubs of Anaheim 5, Baltimore Oriold Farts of New York 3)
(Angels Win Series, 3-2)

Children, H.L. Mencken observed, "have sharp eyes for the weaknesses of the adults set over them." A child in Angel Stadium proved Mencken right enough, at least in the manner by which he met and throttled the New York Yankees Monday night.

In the first game of their now-concluded American League division series, one child (Robinson Cano, second baseman, Rookie of the Year candidate) led the Yankees over the Los Angeles Angels by two runs. In the fifth and deciding game, after an elder Angels' starting pitcher's shoulder betrayed him before the second inning's beginning had finished, a child (Ervin Santana, pitcher) bled the Yankees enough to allow the Angels overthrow of an early 2-0 deficit into a division series-winning triumph. By two runs.
And Santana did it against an opposing elder, Hall of Fame-bound Randy Johnson, who was working likewise in rare enough long relief and pitching the way he might better have done three nights previous, when Garret Anderson flattened him for a three-run homer in the top of the first and Bengie Molina flogged a two-run shot two innings later.

Santana's Monday night special ennobled him in a way he will appreciate when his age threatens to put his spirit in its place, though there is always the chance that his spirit will answer his age with a brushback pitch such as that which he winged upon the occasional Yankee batter. "I don't have to be nervous. It's a baseball game," Santana said, when the game was over, and the trip to the American League Championship Series secured. "I was so excited, we only play for the game to win, and everybody does a good job. Give me the chance and I do my job and we can keep doing."

Santana's initiation into the postseason's bustle bore the simplicity of a basket weave by the fingerless. Bartolo Colon, the Angels' redoubtable top starter and a Cy Young Award candidate, looked from the first pitch like a man barely removed from his wheelchair, a shoulder inflammation compounding the lower back discomfort by the time his count to Cano ran full to open the top of the second.

Like many children, Santana could not resist re-imposing his own burden, children being wonderfully fearless when it comes to creating their own obstacles just to prove they can beat them back all by themselves. He walked Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada back to back, both scoring on Bubba Crosby's base hit (Williams) and Derek Jeter's sacrifice fly (Posada), before Alex Rodriguez finally swished for the side. The much-remarked look in this child's eye resembled a brigadier general plunging into and against the thickest of an enemy ambush, reinforcing Scioscia's resolve that no matter Santana's birth certificate this was no mere toddler carrying the Angels' lance.

The lad inspired prompt enough lancing from Garret Anderson, the Angels's silent assassin, opening the bottom of the second against Yankee starter Mike Mussina. Anderson measured Mussina's around-the-middle service on 3-1 and launched it five rows up the right field bleachers. Molina then swatted Mussina's first pitch to him up the pipe for a single, and Steve Finley worked a full-count walk two outs later. And Kennedy launched the shot that is probably ringing around inside Crosby's and Gary Sheffield's heads even now, driving one high to the right center field wall, Crosby hustling over from center and Sheffield from right, the two Yankees colliding right at the wall as the ball snuck past them and caromed off the wall, eight or nine feet back toward center, and Molina and Finley chugged home, allowing the Angels a 3-2 lead.

The two-run triple allowed Santana room to work with a little more surety, which he needed in the top of the third. He overcame a one-out, line single to left (Sheffield) and induced an opposite field popup (Hideki Matsui) to Anderson in left and a straightaway fly (Cano) to Finley in deep enough center.

But it allowed the Angels a 3-2 lead, and it allowed Santana to work with a little more surety, which he needed in the top of the third, overcoming a one-out line single to left (Sheffield) to induce an opposite field popup (Hideki Matsui) to Anderson in left and a straightaway fly (Cano) to Finley in deep enough center field to keep the lead there. And the Angels bid to fatten the lead in the bottom with Anderson cashing a shallow sacrifice fly to send home Orlando Cabrera (a leadoff single shot right under A-Rod's leftward dive) and, after Molina floated a quail to right that Sheffield could only short-hop, Darin Erstad chopping one to Jason Giambi, fielding it on the grass near first base but missing Guerrero sliding across the plate by inches on the throw.

Mussina's evening was over and Johnson's was on, and Santana in the understated bliss of his youth may have been one of the very few in Angel Stadium who missed the significance of a second consecutive postseason day or evening featuring a future Hall of Fame starter pressed into relief service due to circumstances quite beyond his control. And if Roger Clemens had pitched three magnificent innings to finish an eighteen-inning National League division series winning marathon—ended when another child (Chris Burke) raked a one-out, walkoff bomb off still another child (Joey Devine) —the Big Unit would see the Rocket and raise him one and a third.

Johnson was as perfect in Monday night's long relief as he had not been in starting in New York the previous Friday night. He dispatched the Angels in order in the fourth and fifth to Santana's four up, three gone in the top of the fourth (an infield hit the lone disruption) and three-three in the top of the sixth. Santana in the top of the fifth dodged serious trouble (a leadoff plunk of A-Rod, a followup single by Giambi) with a lot of help from Cano. Shades of A-Rod karate-chopping the ball from Bronson Arroyo's glove in last year's American League Championship Series: Cano ran up the first base line, on a dropped-ball strikeout, and got himself called out for leaving the proper running lane and obstructing Molina's throw up the line to Erstad, prompting Joe Torre to debate and lose before home plate umpire Joe West.
The Angels almost pried one out of Johnson in the bottom of the sixth. Erstad shot an 0-2 pitch up the opposite, third base line, and bounding off the field boxes' fence for a slightly jarring double, the first hit off the Big Unit on the night, but Erstad's over-the-knee slide caused a few moments' shuddering before he shook it off. Designated hitter Juan Rivera, the former Yankee, slashed one to third that invited a diving stop from Rodriguez, but the somewhat looping throw across let Rivera beat the play at first. Finley dropped a clean 0-1, but Kennedy went down on a half-swing/whole strike three, Figgins—usually as pestiferous at the plate as he is in the field—wrung out a walk, and Cabrera threw his bat at the ball to whack one up the third base side, Rodriguez this time throwing no loop but a soft strike to second for the inning-ending force.
Santana's hardening armor was punctured only slightly when Jeter opened the Yankee seventh with a loft over the left center field fence and Rodriguez ripped one hard enough to Cabrera, the Los Angeles shortstop throwing him out squarely enough, but the ferocity of Rodriguez's smash was enough to prompt Scioscia to take no chances, bringing in the temporarily converted starter Kelvim Escobar. The ovation as Santana strode back to the dugout was only slightly more ear-shattering than the one which hit Anderson crossing the plate on his second-inning bomb.
Escobar didn't let Giambi's hello-there double off the right center field wall shake him away from luring Sheffield to pop up to Guerrero in right and Matsui—whose evening's work would include stranding eight of the Yankees' eleven stranded baserunners—popping a ball one pitch high and short to the third base side of the infield, crossing a little foul, and hanging long enough for Molina to take it for the side. But Guerrero's leadoff single ripped up the pipe in the bottom of the seventh lived just long enough for a pop out (Anderson, to right) and two flies (Molina, to center; Erstad, to right center),
The Yankees tried with Escobar in the eighth what they could not do with Santana for five and a third innings, when Posada wrung Escobar for a two-out walk, and Scioscia reached out for Francisco Rodriguez with Ruben Sierra coming up to bat for Crosby. Rodriguez broke two of his customarily dangerous downbreaking sliders for two swift strikes, before Crosby nubbed one off the mound to shortstop, from where Cabrera was only too happy to throw him out.
Johnson yielded to Tom Gordon for the Angels' eighth, with Sierra staying in to play left, moving Matsui to play center. Defying his postseason reputation for self-immolation, Gordon dispatched the Angels three and three and the Yankees had one more try in the top of the ninth. Jeter opened with a one-hop single to left and it was A-Rod versus K-Rod once again, K-Rod proving the master as he got A-Rod to whack one to Figgins at third, making just about the fastest connection to Area Code 5-4-3 an operator could consummate.
Giambi then lined a one-hop single to right, yielding to pinch runner (and erstwhile postseason Yankee-killing Red Sox) Mark Bellhorn, who helped himself to second on defensive indifference before Gary Sheffield chopped himself a high-off-the-plate infield single. But before Sheffield's pinch-runner Tony Womack could get his motors running, Matsui ripped an 0-2 pitch up the first base line onto which Erstad dove hard, flipping the ball to Rodriguez for game, set, division series, and a following night's League Championship Series opener against a well-rested collection of Chicago White Sox.
Among any Angels with any sense of historical rhetoric the temptation must have been powerful to bleat out from under the champagne shampoo, "On to Chicago and let's win there." But the man last known to have pronounced that phrase was answered within moments with a bullet in the Hotel Ambassador's kitchen, the lethality of which was unequaled by anything thrown into any Angel hitter's kitchen. And on to Chicago from there had gone a major political party into a morass whose signature was rapacious Chicago police, behaving against Lincoln Park demonstrators like Hell's Angels on a beer-and-acid soaked bender, under the orders of a legendarily authoritarian machine mayor, whose idea of civil order merely began with a crack on the head—and who happened to be a White Sox fan.
The Angels are on to Chicago hoping to win there, and back home as well, and with the adults among them pulling their oars as firmly as the children pull theirs. Behind them now are the Yankees, dispatched harshly enough to a fifth consecutive season short of a World Series ring, and having to answer to an encephalophonic boss of bosses who makes the ancient Richard J. Daley resemble an absentee landlord.
—Jeff Kallman
Monday, October 10



On the Lake Street bus: “You can’t tell me that the White Sox are predetermined to win. I mean, really, taking out the Red Sox in three games? The White Sox… absolutely no way, man, no way at all. But Selig owes Reinsdorf. I mean, owes him like, probably, a body or two. You know, like some guy’s bugging you, then, POP!, there’s no one bothering you. Reinsdorf could do that. I don’t mean pull the trigger himself, but you know, he’s got the connections. As does Selig. Connections to get the White Sox past the first round. Any. Way. Possible.

“How do I know? The question is: why don’t we all know?”


At a local hardware store: “With the Cardinals it’s simple: you amass the greatest aggregate of baseball talent in the world. They’ll win it all. Watch and see.


While sitting at the counter at a downtown hamburger joint: “People said we weren’t successful when we put a curse on the Braves back in 1991. That unless they removed that horrible logo, asked people to stop with those demeaning chants, they would find misery in baseball. Misery. Not that they would lose. But that they would sustain misery.

“We have achieved our goals. They cannot not win their division title now. People are growing bored, the success is like gorging on meat all day and all night, a pleasure at first, then excess, then damnation. The Braves will win until they meet our demands. They will go to the postseason, watch their team win to diminishing crowds, feel angst and ennui where others feel bliss and accomplishment. They are doomed to their cheap success forever.”


Outside the Metrodome, during the last game of the season: “Red Sox, Yanks, Angels, Cards, Braves, Astros. It’s the same every year, isn’t it: the teams are all the same, except in the two weakest divisons, and then it’s the booby prize team come to try their hand at the flag. That they won’t win. Jesus, this thing’s getting out of hand—it’s like the 1950s all over again.”


At a local tavern: “I make it a point to listen, via shortwave radio, every postseason game on the radio, and then re-broadcast it myself to a group of friends living in Guam, Fiji, the Aleutian Islands. I get to be whatever broadcaster I want, and sometimes I even get to alter the game a bit… give someone else the credit for a win. Like yesterday: I had Brad Ausmus come from first to pitch an inning, had Clemens take first base. Had the White Sox win with Ozzie Guillen batting a few times. Little stuff, keeps my imagination sharp. That’s important when you’re in the Hamm radio field.”


From an elderly gent in a beat up Red Sox cap: “At least the Red Sox didn’t make it. That’s right, at least the God damn Red Sox didn’t make it. The kids that watch ‘em now are spoiled brats. Never seen anyone but God damn Bush wreck so much goodwill in such a short time. Jesus. Made me a White Sox fan in a matter of minutes."

—Peter Schilling Jr.
Monday, October 10


NLDS GAME FOUR: Houston Astros 7, Atlanta Braves 6 (Rocket's Riders Win 3-1)

ALDS GAME FOUR: New York Yankees 3, Los Angeles Angels 2 (Halos and Emperors Tied at 2)

Two future Hall of Famers, a Yankee incumbent and a Yankee, factored large in their Sunday game finales. And their having been brothers under the 'Stripes on many a day or night's conquest was the only thing common between their separate and assuredly unequal finishes. The finish in the Bronx was typical if not textbook of the New York Yankees in the Joe Torre era, and the finish in Houston hours earlier was typical of the Astros in no era.

Watching The Mariano in slightly less than absolute domination form, ringing up six consecutive game-closing outs, the last a hard-induced grounder by Vladimir Guerrero to Robinson Cano at second base, was at least a sight of certain familiarity. Watching Roger Clemens work ten-up, nine-down, three-inning relief in the fifteenth through the eighteenth innings, before his bottom of the eighteenth leadoff swish telegraphed a division series-winning bomb by a.239 hitting rookie with a .352 slugging percentage, had the familiarity of a mongoose walking a cobra home unharmed and under curfew following a dinner date.

And watching the Atlanta Braves leaving the postseason in the first round for a fourth consecutive year yielded an unfamiliar disappointment, their engaging flock of rookies and sophomores—one of whom, Adam LaRoche, had threatened early enough to put the same beyond the Astros' grasp, with a third-inning grand slam over the right center field fence, jumping Brandon Backe after a one-out walk (to Rafael Furcal), a two-out walk (to Chipper Jones, after Marcus Giles forced Furcal at second base), and a first-and-second plunk (on Andruw Jones)—giving the Braves the kind of appeal they have not had for an awful lot of an era in which their regular season division ownerships dissipate in postseason hostile takeovers.

Come Sunday one of the Angels's salient strengths performed just enough like the Braves's salient weakness that the Yankees earned a trip back to Anaheim for a deciding fifth game after the Astros earned a National League Championship Series rematch with the St. Louis Cardinals. And for all the Braves's bullpen vulnerability, for all that you could hear just enough of a quiet gasp among Braves fans as Kyle Farnsworth took over for starter Tim Hudson after a walk and a base hit to open the bottom of the eighth, the Astros did have to earn the shot at the extra-inning encore in the first place. And for all the Braves's Juvenile Jury had done to get the Braves to a 6-1 lead entering that half inning—catcher Brian McCann, whose three-run bomb off Clemens himself proved the biggest of the second game, provided the sixth run with a leadoff bomb in the top of the eighth—it would be the elders on both sides who proved the decision makers.

Elders like Craig Biggio forcing Brad Ausmus at third before joining Eric Bruntlett on a double steal to set up second and third. Elders like Lance Berkman, following Luke Scott's bases-loading walk, wrestling Farnsworth to a full count before ripping a line drive the other way into the left field seats, bringing the Astros back to within a run. Elders like Ausmus, with two out in the bottom of the ninth, sending one over the center field fence, just beyond Andruw Jones's reach, to set up the marathon finish.

And, especially, elders like Clemens, pinch hitting (and sacrificing) for reliever Dan Wheeler in the bottom of the fifteenth, before pitching the final three innings, striking out his first two batters, striking out four in the span, then huddling with Biggio in the dugout tunnel, after his bottom of the eighteenth-opening swish, as one toddler (Chris Burke) stepped in against another (Joey Devine) and hit one into the left field seats. The Astros had emptied their bullpen (six relievers) until Clemens appeared; the Braves (five relievers) had almost emptied theirs, and all it brought was Clemens redeeming his second-game failure and the Braves beginning to look monotonous for their annual opening exit.

The Braves have spared us at least the discomfiting prospect of a potential blood war against the Angels, for whom the Braves may well have sustained a little quiet rage ignited back on 7 June. That was the evening Darin Erstad, the grinding veteran, plowed catcher Johnny Estrada on a play at the plate that blasted the ball out of Estrada's hands, scored a critical enough Angel run, got Erstad a small round of fire even (and astonishingly) from some Angel fans, re-started what proved an interleague series win for the Angels, and got Erstad thrown at in his next at-bat (reliever Horacio Ramirez winging one behind his back) and pitched high and tight in his first at-bat the following evening.

No one could accuse either Yankee starter Shawn Chacon or Angel starter John Lackey of failure several hours later. Chacon had impressed from just about the moment the Yankees liberated him from the Colorado Rockies' discard pile, Lackey had enjoyed a breakout season of a sort once he added a hammerdrop curve ball to his repertoire (he finished third in the league in strikeouts and sixth in earned run average), and the two matched shutouts until the top of the sixth. With two out (Steve Finley sacrificing Juan Rivera to second, following Rivera's leadoff walk; Adam Kennedy grounding out to second but pushing Rivera to third) Chone Figgins, who has bedeviled the Yankees with virtuoso defense at two positions and a bat that seemed to hit only when there was a run to produce, lashed a double to right to send home Rivera, and Orlando Cabrera drove one to the center field gap immediately afterward to cash in Figgins and a 2-0 lead.

The Yankees took a run back in the bottom thanks to Gary Sheffield's two-out RBI single, sending home Alex Rodriguez, and then the Angels went to the bullpen for Scot Shields to keep it there as Hideki Matsui grounded out to Erstad at first. It was Shields's next inning that undid the Angels, pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra singling home Cano and pushing Jorge Posada to third, and Derek Jeter whacking into the play of the night, a hard hopper to Figgins playing third. Figgins struggled just a moment to get the ball out of his glove, then whipped a throw home that caught catcher Bengie Molina just enough right of the line that Molina lunged back to his left as Posada slid in, getting his mitt on Posada's leg a split second before the foot touched the plate but with the ball still in his right hand in front of the mitt. Had Molina been able to get his right hand across or put the ball in his mitt in that fraction of decision he had on the play, Posada might well have been called out.

Kelvim Escobar, the once-and-future starter, shoring up the Angels' bullpen since his return from elbow surgery, when a mid-season swoon compelled a calmly drastic reinforcement, finished well enough for the Angels, pitching his way out of an eighth-inning crisis including a pair of wild pitches setting up second and third, but he got Tino Martinez to pop out to Finley in center to escape. It gave the Angels one more chance to poke a hole in The Mariano that the murderously elegant Yankee closer refused to allow no matter how underpowering his repertoire on the evening appeared in spots to be.

But the Angels and the Yankees flew out to Anaheim for one more round, rejoining their projected fifth game starters, Mike Mussina having stayed in California after his first-game win for just this purpose and Bartolo Colon, who had accompanied his team to New York, flying back Saturday to prepare. Mussina having experienced every other start a small disaster since his return from elbow trouble seems going in to have a slight disadvantage against Colon, the American League's leading winner on the season and adept at finding ways to keep his club in the game in spite of his continuing lower back problems.

The Astros had buried at least one ghost from their past, meanwhile, winning the longest postseason game in baseball history and pushing their own 1986 National League Championship Series-losing sixteen inning game, in the Astrodome, out of the book under that entry. The Braves, for whom redoubtable John Smoltz would not have been able to pitch a fifth division series game, or even a single National League Championship Series game, were left to ponder no few of their too-customary factors and fancies, not the least of which had to include whether Andruw Jones, so touted as a Most Valuable Player candidate, was not just slightly on the overrated side, his monstrous regular season primary offence (51 home runs, 128 runs batted in, a .575 slugging percentage) often obscuring his actual problems (just over half his RBIs came with men in scoring position; only 28 percent came with runners in scoring position and two outs; batting average with men in scoring position: .226) producing with runners in scoring position.

"It never feels good," Chipper Jones lamented when it was over at long enough last, "but I've had a couple of heartbreakers where I could have won the game, but instead ended the season.'' With that sort of education over the time he has worn the Braves' silks, Jones should have received his Ph.D. approximately three seasons ago.

—Jeff Kallman
Monday, October 10



A team that seemed in the postseason by default ran the point home, in the bottom of the second, with two runners on through the gift of walks, when their first baseman stepped forward out of the batter's box before his bat bunted the ball. And it would have been for naught regardless, had he sought a sacrifice and not the beaten-out base hit, because the runner on second, in motion on contact, would have been a dead friar even without the batter's box out.

Robert Fick desperately seeking something, anything to jumpstart his San Diego Padres back home Saturday night, struck a harrowing contrast to Reggie Sanders, the St. Louis Cardinals' left fielder, whose fly out to slight right center field in the top of the sixth was the first time he failed to hit safely with any man on base. But Sanders in the half inning preceding Fick's maneuver had sent home his ninth and tenth runs of a National League division series that came to resemble Cardinals' exhibition games the deeper they went.

And that came after David Eckstein, the Redbirds' resident pest, who had opened the game with a slash hit to the left side and scored the Cardinals' first run courtesy of Albert Pujols's opposite right double, stood in with one on and one out, lined up something down and in from Woody Williams, and hit it down the line and into the left field seats.

That preceded a long double to right (Jim Edmonds), a free pass (to Albert Pujols), and a fastball off the knee (Larry Walker) to load the bases for Sanders, a man who has shown no allergy toward drawing on a full house and no inability to see and raise himself. Sanders drove one off the left field wall, Edmonds and Pujols hurried home, and Williams's evening had ended to somewhat discombobulated lamentations that he had pitched just so well but had hit just none of his proper spots. Which tortured formulation proves only that Joe Morgan as a color commentator flashes a periodic facility for high political office.

"Obviously," said San Diego's Adam Eaton, on the dugout headset, in language less tortured, by a considerable length, "they were hitting 'em where we weren't." Manager Bruce Bochy bypassed Eaton for Williams to pitch Saturday night, based upon Williams's postseason experience; a .500 pitcher lifetime with a 5.74 earned run average down the stretch this season versus a 2-3 won-lost record with a 4.46 earned run average lifetime in the postseason, and it proved only that Bochy was caught between the firing squad and the lethal injection and forced to choose the electric chair.

And, unfortunately for Eaton's side, the Padres were hitting them where the Cardinals were, until yet another mid-to-late game surge that proved insufficient enough, until Ryan Klesko bounced one to where St. Louis closer Jason Isringhausen was. That allowed Isringhausen to throw to first baseman Pujols as if tossing him the first can of beer to pop for the party, tying down a 7-4 win that nailed the second sweep in the postseason's first round, with the Padres never once leading the Cardinals, scoring anything earlier than the fifth inning, or getting anywhere closer than three runs behind.

"It was very crucial for our team, because you've got to continue putting pressure on them," said Sanders on the field after it ended, referring to the absence of any San Diego lead in the three games.

Barely fifteen minutes after Eaton's rueful reflection, Yadier Molina—the youngest of the three major league catching Molina brothers, one of whom was wreaking havoc upon the New York Yankees in Los Angeles Angels silks, the other of whom was a supporting player of value enough in the same silks—stroked a line single down the opposite right field line, sending home Mark Grudzielanek and Abraham Nunez with St. Louis runs six and seven, and ending a pitching skien respectable enough by two Padres' relief pitchers (Brian Lawrence, Clay Hensley), while Cardinals' starter Matt Morris had yet to surrender a single San Diego safety.

After four and a half innings the Padres stood too much further from any demonstration that they were here in the first place for reasons having little or nothing to do with their division's having defined mediocrity down. And the Cardinals at the same juncture had no intention of standing with any expectation that from there forward would the game settle irrevocably into their pockets. If the immediate evidence was Edmonds' running, bounce-off-the-wall catch, at the end of center field, of Padres' shortstop Khalil Greene's parabolic drive, opening the bottom of the fifth, the Cardinals entered the more consequential evidence after the Padres managed to pry two runs out of Morris and company, when Ryan Klesko battled Morris to an eight-pitch, full-count draw, including a foul or three on pitches meant clearly enough to jam him and his ball club, and Morris won the war within the war, striking out Klesko in a bristling swish.

"Don't take anything for granted in this game," said St. Louis manager Tony La Russa on the dugout headset, moments before Morris delivered and Greene swung. "If you do, you get spanked." Moments after Edmonds straightened up from his wall bounce and threw the ball back in to the infield, Joe Randa doubled past a diving Eckstein and into Petco Park's roomy enough left field, the first hit off Morris in four and a thirds innings, and pinch-hitter Eric Young (for Hensley) slapped a single to right to break the shutout. Mark Loretta hit a line drive single to left, one out later, driving home Young, and Brian Giles lined an opposite field single not far from the same spot for first and third, but along came the Klesko-Morris mini-war for the side.

And the Padres continued to present evidence enough that they were in over their heads, particularly when they caught the proverbial breaks, and classically in that regard when Hernandez's leadoff single turned into a broken double play. On Fick's grounder to Grudzielanek at second, Hernandez held his slide long enough as Eckstein came over from short to take the throw forcing him, and it forced Eckstein to throw over his head and thus high past first, allowing Fick to take second base.

But Greene struck out and Randa grounded out and the Cardinals stood nine outs from defrocking the Padres. With Morris's evening's work done and Brad Thompson on the bump for the Redbirds, Dave Roberts, a year ago the thief heard 'round Red Sox Nation, belted a rare enough bomb into the right field seats, with one out in the bottom of the seventh. One strikeout later Randy Flores relieved Thompson and dispatched Giles on a bouncer right back to the bump, and the Padres' defrocking stood six outs away.

By now it was as easy to feel for the Padres in their earnest futility as it was to admire the Cardinals' tenacity, the Padres having ridden on a single hyperachieving early-season month (May) and two months (August, September) in which they barely broke a .500 record, against two other months in which they were anywhere from two (April) to ten (July) games below .500 and 1-1 in the two regular-season October games preceding the division series.

Perhaps overstatement is the better part of concentration. "They battled," said Eckstein of the Padres in a post-game press conference. "They came out and they did not let it be easy for us."

When Hernandez against reliever Julian Tavarez lashed a one-out, opposite field homer into the left field bleachers, closing the score to 7-4, it raised a joyous chorus from a Petco Park audience which must have suspected this an advance toward repeating, in effect, the first-game futility of hanging five runs up when the Cardinals jumped their heroes for an 8-0 lead before the fifth inning was finished. Greene dumped a one-out quail into shallow right and the Cardinals brought in their closer, Jason Isringhausen, and double-switched Sanders out of the game, moving Walker's relief So Taguchi from right to left and sending out John Mabry to play right. And Randa drove a long out to Mabry for the side, and the Padres brought in their closer, Trevor Hoffman, in nothing close to a save situation but wishing to show him once more to the San Diego audience, Hoffman standing to become a free agent this winter and on the record as believing changes on the club are not out of the question.

His entry reminded sadly enough of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a year earlier, in the same series against the same team, but with at least a win to show for their swift enough dispatch, bringing in their closer Eric Gagne, though the game and the season was lost enough, but perhaps as a token meant to honor his hand in getting them there at all. And Hoffman did what he does customarily, pounding three Cardinal outs interrupted by a superfluous single, the audience chorus surging hopefully as Mark Sweeney batted for Hoffman to open the bottom of the ninth.

Sweeney worked Isringhausen for a walk and Loretta slashed a single down the left field line, one out later, setting up first and second with two outs to survive or three runs to tie, depending. And Isringhausen looked for a few moments as though he might falter enough for San Diego comfort, struggling to a full count before dropping a called third strike on a somewhat astonished Giles, with Klesko—batting over .400 against Isringhausen lifetime—checking in.

Isringhausen's 1-1 fastball ran slightly away from Klesko, and the left fielder caught it on the end of the bat, bouncing it once off the plate grass and right up to Isringhausen. And the Cardinals had defrocked the Friars for the privilege of playing for the pennant against whomever survived between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves, a series now standing with the Braves one game away from their too-customary postseason retreat.

"This is a very good team over here that you can't take lightly at all," Sanders said, perhaps with an extreme of generosity, being a calmly intelligent man who is not ignorant of his game's actualities. "As you could see, they fought to the last out, so we just had to continue to put the pressure on them."

But Sanders may also have exposed a vulnerability the Cardinals would be wise enough to address and patch. A better club than the Padres can fight to the last out and win in precisely that moment at which the last out looms, or in time enough before the final three come knocking. That, after all, was how the Cardinals began to get swept in a World Series, a year ago, by a better club than the Padres and a lesser club than themselves.

—Jeff Kallman
Saturday, October 8



The day before, as both clubs hit New York and prepared for a Friday night fight, Randy Johnson was bold or bonehead enough to dare Yankee Stadium fans to boo him if warranted. Paul Byrd, one of the Los Angeles Angels’ starting rotation, called his scheduled duel with the Big Unit “the big diesel freight train vs. the little engine that could.”

And the Little Los Angeles Engine That Could pulled off the Great Train Robbery in the south Bronx, exploding the Yankees like a Gomez Addams model trainwreck before four innings were in the books, with an incendiary 5-0 attack before the first Yankee counterattack was entered on the stationmaster’s abstract.

Johnson could not keep the Yankee Stadium audience from chanting, to some shock, the name of Aaron Small, the midseason callup who landed ten consecutive winning decisions after not having started a major league contest over nine years’ worth of minor league service. Even a Yankee hater could feel only sorrow that it had come to this for one of the greatest and certainly one of the most intimidating lefthanded pitchers baseball has ever seen; even as a top of the fourth-opening double (Erstad) and single (Robb Quinlan, the evening’s third baseman) sent Johnson to the roundhouse and Small in. Small swished Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy and lure Figgins, the evening’s center fielder, into dialing Area Code 4-6-3.

The Angels’s first strike managed to keep a slim veil over the fact that Byrd was not laboring easily at keeping the Yankees at bay. The veil evaporated in the bottom of the fourth, and Hideki Matsui punched the first hole through it, when he opened the inning by hitting a 2-1 pitch about two or three seats away from where Molina’s bomb had landed.

Kennedy then dove for Robinson Cano’s shot toward the hole, turned up a little off balance on his right leg, and the throw sailed past first baseman Erstad as Cano crossed the pad, credited with an infield hit. Williams banged one just past Kennedy diving to his left for a single, Tino Martinez grounded them to third and second, respectively, and with Johnson out of the game Yankee conductor Joe Torre sent up regular catcher Jorge Posada to hit for Johnson’s catcher of choice, Joe Flaherty. Posada’s grounder to Erstad was room enough for Cano to score and Williams to take third. When Jeter singled home Williams and Byrd walked Alex Rodriguez to set up first and second for Jason Giambi, Angels’ gang leader Mike Scioscia reached for Brendan Donnelly.

Giambi shot a bullet past unoccupied shortstop and into short left, sending Jeter across the plate and Rodriguez to third. But a ringer named Figgins, the jack-of-all-trades in center field, stole a run or two from the Yankees, when Sheffield sliced a sinking liner up the pipe. He galloped in on the wet sagebrush, dove, and snapped the ball about a foot from landing and a second before he landed chest first for the side.

Following a leadoff full count walk to Matsui, Cano hit one into the left center field gap, and Figgins scurried to stab it, sliding on the wet grass as he did, hoisting up swiftly and throwing in to Cabrera. Cabrera wheeled, struggling obviously to grip the still-wet ball, and the throw home sailed over Molina’s head and to the backstop. Donnelly was waved off to the siding and Scot Shields was summoned up to the front with a fresh rifle. He fired just wild enough at first for Williams to punch home Cano with a sacrifice fly, before clearing his sight enough to swish Martinez and Posada, but the Yankees now had the only lead they would enjoy during the operation, 6-5. And they had maybe fifteen minutes to enjoy it, when Small finally spent his ammunition and Erstad singled home Rivera (a one-out double) to re-tie it. Pinch hitter Steve Finley (for Quinlan) swished, and Kennedy popped himself into a single, when the ball dropped before Cano, Williams, or Sheffield could meet the ball in short right, sending Erstad to third. And Figgins finally fired a useful bullet from his own gun, after previously haunting the Yankees with his bullet-palming, singling a sinker liner up the pipe to send home Erstad with the tiebreaker.

The Angels fired off two-spots in their halves of the seventh and the eighth, though the Yankees inflicted a little collateral damage when—after Guerrero opened the seventh with a liner to deep left (off Tom Gordon, relieving Small’s relief Tanyon Sturtze), Matsui’s arm strength turning it into a long single—Molina took one on the elbow. That’ll teach them.

Backup catcher Jose Molina pinch ran for his brother and Anderson sent a bounder snickering past Cano for a single into right, sending home Guerrero, but Sheffield’s throw home hit Guerrero’s foot as Vlad the Impaler slide across the plate, the error allowing Brother Molina to reach third. Rivera then grounded one to Rodriguez coming in from third, A-Rod hesitating before throwing softly to Cano at second, but Anderson dropped into a firm slide forcing Cano to hop off the pad a split second before snapping his glove around A-Rod’s throw. Second base umpire Joe West called Anderson safe, appropriately, five Yankees flanking Torre as he argued quietly but fruitlessly.

“He said that [Cano] come off the bag,” Torre said. “That’s all I can tell you. That’s all he told me.”

While he was there, Torre decided Gordon had had enough, bringing in his antique mid-season prodigal, lefthander Al Leiter. Leiter swished Erstad almost at once, and here came Finley, who stayed in the game in Scioscia’s defensive double-switch for the bottom of the sixth, Figgins moving in to third, Finley out to center. And Finley dropped a suicide squeeze bunt that passed the mound as Brother Molina scored, before Kennedy flied out to Matsui to keep it 9-6.

Brother Molina teamed up with Anderson for back-to-back RBI singles in the top of the eighth to make it 11-6, before Jeter sent his distress signal off the end rail of the right field bleachers for 11-7. And Francisco Rodriguez, returning to the ballpark where he first introduced himself to a national audience, in 2002, survived a ninth-inning opening single (Matsui), a forceout at second, and a fly (Williams) bringing Finley over toward the track to take it, landing a sinful game-ending swish on pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra.

Mother Nature threatened to do something for the Yankees after that, and in due course the fourth game of the set was pushed back a day at minimum, suggesting a fat Sunday night television audience, with the Yankee Unlimited facing the early winter roundhouse a very real possibility.

“It’s out of our control,'’ Scioscia said Saturday, when the postponement became official. “We’ll play at midnight if they tell us to play at midnight. We’ll be ready.'’

Once upon a time, the Yankees flicked that kind of opposing confidence aside with all the trepidation of a sunbather flicking away a gnat. Once upon a time.

—Jeff Kallman
Saturday, October 8


Ah, but wasn’t it a lovely year while it lasted?

Yes it was, and it hurts like a grounder off a second baseman’s glove; and, yes again, it will prove rather unsurprising when the hurt wears away, when the mind overrides the heart’s basic desire to scream now. At least it was not at the hands of the Empire Emeritus, this time around. And there was metaphysical gratification beyond the capacity of human words to have spent one year in our lifetime proclaiming the defending world champion Boston Red Sox.

Toast the Chicago White Sox if you must; toast them even through whatever belief you might hold that they are a bristling club which seems often enough to have a capacity to win in spite of their manager, and not always or necessarily because of him. Toast the manner in which their pitching rounded into shape at the right time while the Red Sox’s pitching had little if anything left of compromised goods to deliver; toast the manner in which their offense regrouped as the Red Sox’s proved exhausted after all.

In due course you can analyze the several differences between a championship defense and a round one exit. You can examine that the Red Sox were compelled to front their secondary pitching for what proved the three games of the set with the White Sox, having had to lean on a still-recuperating Curt Schilling to nail the wild card clincher while entering a postseason set with a still-shaky bullpen.

You can question the actuality of Wells’s reputation as a big game pitcher, this bloated fellow who has been known to dismiss fitness as fatuous the day before he had to leave a World Series game with revived back trouble; who has been known to question an injured teammate's will to the guts and the glory, just days before said teammate lands on the season-ending disabled list and he himself ends up on the infirmary roll.

You can rue the moment Terry Francona pulled the infield in and still could not thwart the insurance run squeeze in the top of the ninth, and you can examine the rather splendid wherewithal of Orlando Hernandez out of the White Sox pen Friday, entering on the ropes with the bases loaded and nobody out and hanging the Red Sox with back-to-back popups and a check swing strikeout on the spiritual leader of the Idiots, rather than let them overthrow a 4-3 lead into a potential 6-4 lifesaving advantage.

Why, you can dine evenings on end over the Amityville Horror and Wells’ Bells, and you can spend your evening’s libations trying to fathom what manner of transcendental treachery imposes two game-winning knuckleballs upon perhaps the Red Sox pitcher least deserving of such infamy in proportion to his gallantry. Not to mention wanting to wrap an arm around David Ortiz, left only to watch in the on-deck circle as Edgar Renteria grounded out to end a second consecutive Red Sox season with one very large difference. Big Papi and Manny Being Manny had done rather their usual in the third game, Manny a little extra with that second bomb, and you could not ask for more in that hour.

And if it makes you feel better you can send a bouquet of roses to Los Angeles

And it would keep the soul cleansed if we confer upon those who despise us, for what they perceive our excess of ecstacy, from the moment Doug Mientkiewicz snapped his glove around the ball whose ownership went into certain dispute, their right under present circumstances to have their wintertime jollies and their staccato jeer, AAHHHH, WAIT TILL LAST YEAR.

But always there is hope wafting up from the past, once we purged the ghosts and roasted the devils. Didn’t the Red Sox in 1918 win their third World Series in four years? And we don't exactly have a Harry Frazee now to sell an incorrigible Babe Ruth, even if a Theo Epstein might just mind not at all about swapping an incorrigible Manny Ramirez since he still has a David Ortiz on hand. (But how about re-upping Johnny Damon and a small host of others at least?)

From the moment we saw the Fox Sports broadcast credits crawl toward their finish last fall, hearing Peggy Lee’s huskily feminine urbane warble of “At Last,” what a year it was. The critics and the White Sox may come and may go, the Angels instead may stand rather profoundly to knock the Empire Emeritus out of the cotillion, before they get within proper earshot of the music. But to speak all season in fact rather than fancy of the defending world champion Boston Red Sox is one sweetness that no one may purge from our souls even now.

—Jeff Kallman
Saturday, October 8


ALDS GAME THREE: WHITE SOX 5, RED SOX 3 (Chisox Take Series in Sweep, 3-0)

LITTLE BILL (examining book): “The… Duck of Death.”
WW: “D-d-duke. The Duke of Death.”
LB: “Duck I say…”
—David Webb Peoples, "Unforgiven"

Orlando Hernandez has always been a pitcher of great intrigue. Althogh the Yanks bore me to tears, I made it a point to see El Ducque every time he threw here in Minnesota. For starters, his story is fascinating, and there have been little tidbits dropped into my field of view that stand out: Cuban defector, yoga practitioner (I remember one yoga class where my instructor showed us a picture of El Duque doing sirsasana, the headstand, during spring training), and being the subject of a New Yorker article quite a few years ago, when the Yanks sparkled. He might be a year younger than I am; according to Buster Olney, he might be four years my senior. His high leg kick when throwing is a joy to watch; his inability, as of late, to win games has also been a joy for any Yankee hater.

This is the climax of a dramatic fall the last four seasons. Mr. Hernandez has gone from being El Duque to the El Ducky, finally let go by the Yanks and picked up, with some controversy, by the White Sox. At the start of the season he was spot on Sox; after the All-Star break, he went a sticky 2-7. No one counted on the Duck for anything anymore. Except Ozzie Guillen.

Guillen is turning out to be just the guy to write on hell of an intriguing biography should he win this thing. I thoroughly recommend connecting with a good writer, maybe Robert Creamer, Roger Angell… I’ll even throw my hat in the ring. A crazy, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants type guy, who thus far hasn’t made a wrong decision in the playoffs, Guillen spouts off, foams at the mouth, and is, in general, the most interesting skipper since Sparky Anderson plied his trade in Detroit.

And so, in a story that I hope you’re familiar with by now (please tell me you don’t get your baseball news directly from us), with the bases loaded and holding onto a slim one run lead, Guillen picked up the bullpen phone and said “I need the Duke of Death.”

“Duck,” pitching coach Don Cooper must have said. “The Duck of Death.”

Guillen didn’t hesitate. “Duke, I say.” And Duke he was: Hernandez stepped in with all the confidence in the world, made whatever entreaties to the god of his choice, kissed his lucky coin, rubbed his magic stone, and prompted a pair of lousy pop-ups and then a strikeout to Johnny Damon to end the threat. Just like that. He then went on to pitch two more ice-cold innings, former Twin A.J. Pierzynski aided the cause by driving in an insurance run, and thus, late last night, football season officially began in Boston.

Which is wonderful news, frankly. The Red Sox quickly lost any curse goodwill in the year following, becoming Evil Empire number two, fighting a dull battle with the Yanks all season only to stumble backwards into the postseason. They knocked out a Cleveland team that was infinitely more intriguing. They acted like the Series was now their birthright. They let pumpkinheads like Jimmy Fallon and Ben Affleck be the celebrity faces of the team. They joined the Yankees with being numbers one and two, payroll-wise and annoyance-wise. It’s time for someone else’s curse to end. And I get the feeling that the Chisox will take it—if they take it—with a bit more humility.

The White Sox did everything better in this series: pitched better, hit better, managed better, and, in general, are making the postseason something to watch instead of something to forget about (as another Yankees-Red Sox finale would have been).

Somewhere in Chicago, behind the usual bluster of the bandwagoneers, there are the loyal denizens who have, for years and years and years, trudged to a half-empty New Comiskey to watch their team struggle. They’ve seen Bill Veeck come through, seen games forfeited to Disco Demolitions, watched their old park torn down, and did not, unlike the Red Sox and Cubs, get to pore over dozens of glossy tomes celebrating the indignity of lost season after lost season.

But like the Red Sox before them, this season is a miracle in part because of the stories. Amidst the strategies and statistics, we have to remember that baseball is a drama: sending in Orlando Hernandez with the bases loaded and the top of the order waiting to bat is drama of the highest order. That, to this now-jaded fan, is beautiful. The White Sox are far from blue-collar, and they’re far from seeing their stands filled with the denizens of the neighborhoods surrounding Comiskey II. But I’d give my cat’s right front paw to sit in a chili joint over the next few weeks, catching the games, purging the spirit of Buck Weaver, and toasting the return of the Duke.

—Peter Schilling Jr.
Saturday, October 8



Not very long ago a correspondent asked of the writers who fill these pages, and the gentleman who edits them, whether we guys had ever heard of San Diego. "I know it's not east of the Mississippi," he wrote, perhaps straining to temper his indignation with good humor, "but please turn your eyes to the southwest. Maybe major league baseball is played there. There are rumors you know."

It happens that I live about two and a half hours north of San Diego and have spent hours happy enough along its very much remarked waterfront. Alas they are more than the hours I have spent astride its very much remarked baseball team, but indeed the rumors remain that major league baseball is played out of San Diego. But our correspondent could not have watched the Padres play in St. Louis Thursday afternoon with any eye or ear short of the churchman's straining to uphold faith athwart the pastor exposed a homewrecker.

Finishing their Thursday play a game away from postseason elimination, these Padres played down to their reputation as the National League West champions who owed their station to their division's malcompetence. Their 6-2 loss dropped them behind the Cardinals two games to none, in their division series, and the Padres earned it with the sort of play most worthy of a team that nearly became major league baseball's first to win a division without a regular-season winning record.

No few have made the Padres and their fans a funsie pinata, the gravamen of such sport running the theme of Padres fans demanding respect with little to support it. And no few of those critics have sounded their snorts in language that would be considered obscene among even the dinner table debates of Al Goldstein. But the Padres have outhit the Cardinals and never held a lead in either of the two Busch Stadium games, and they have shown a concurrent and profound inability to cash in the rare moments when the Cardinals afforded them a gift.

Albert Pujols in the bottom of Thursday's first inning was generous enough to kill the first Cardinal stirring of the day with one call to Area Code 6-4-3, apparently borrowing the Padres' lately standard repertoire for ending rallies with runs unscored. And Cardinal starter Mark Mulder gifted them the one-out walk of their shortstop Khalil Greene before throwing in as a bonus the fleeting prospect of his left arm shutting down, after third baseman Joe Randa ripped a line drive right off his bicep, and the bases loaded when he plunked first baseman Xavier Nady, after shaking off the immediate effect of Randa's bullet.

So sotted with gratitude was Padre right fielder Ben Johnson that he let Mulder swish him, and so honored was Padre starting pitcher Pedro Astacio that he was kind enough to ground one right back to Mulder, in an early test of any lingering effects, Mulder throwing steadily enough to first for the side.

"Randa has raked me all season," Mulder said after the game. "So I should have been ready for it."

He proved far more prepared than the Padres and he punctuated it in the bottom of the third, dropping a well-enough executed one-out bunt up the first base line to push Cardinal third baseman Abraham Nunez to third and catcher Yadier Molina to second. David Eckstein, the former teammate to Molina's two sibling catchers on the Los Angeles Angels, and looming yet as a potential postseason pest against the team that let him escape last winter, rapped one to Nady at first with Nunez gunning for the plate, and Nunez slid right beneath Padres catcher Ramon Hernandez's tag as if he had Hernandez mugged, numbered, and angled from the moment he broke so rashly from third.

Astacio was a midseason scrap heap salvage, having been released by the Texas Rangers with a 2-8 record and a 6.04 earned run average after the Atlanta Braves strafed him for six earned runs in four and a third innings in an interleague contest. For the Padres, Astacio from 10 July to the end of the season went 4-2 with six no-decisions, in all of which he pitched well enough to win, landing a 3.20 ERA in San Diego silks. But in Busch Stadium on Thursday it was Astacio (That Nut!, as the New York Post often called him, in his days with the Los Angeles Dodgers) who pitched like a man left with a bicep welt from a bullet liner.

He opened the St. Louis third with a walk to Nunez, then watched with dismay when Greene misplayed Molina's all-but-sealed double play grounder when it bad-hopped, bounding off Greene and into short center field, before Mulder dropped his bunt and Nunez dropped below the tag at the plate. Then he walked Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols, the latter pushing home Molina, before he found bearing enough to swish Larry Walker (a splitter wiggling right down the inner zone wall) and Reggie Sanders (swinging on a low-and-away fastball) back-to-back for the side.

Astacio opened the St. Louis fourth surrendering a single to right by Mark Grudzielanek, the Cardinals' second baseman, and a ground rule double by Nunez to set up second and third once again. And again Molina instigated a fielder's choice, this time slashing one the other way, to Nady at first who threw home without thinking twice. This time Molina cashed in a run batted in, when Nady's throw home sailed high enough for Grudzielanek to rumble beneath Hernandez's safely.

Mulder looked at a third strike with first and third, but then Astacio felt the squeeze immediately, when Nunez blasted for home on the pitch and Eckstein dropped the bouncing bunt up to the mound. And the Cardinals would hang two more on the board in due course, courtesy of the San Diego bullpen, when Sanders rifled a triple down the left field line and into the corner, sending home Edmonds and Pujols from third and first in the bottom of the seventh.

The Padres otherwise spent their afternoon stranding the bases loaded in the second and in the eighth, the second of those after Nady took his second bases-loaded plunk of the day, this time good for a run actually strolling home. They also wasted Greene's leadoff hit in the fourth when Randa dialed 6-4-3; they wasted Astacio's pinch hitter, Damian Jackson, in the fifth, when he dialed 6-4-3; and, they wasted Hernandez's one-out single in the sixth when Brian Giles dialed 3-6-3.

Even when they managed to fracture Mulder's shutout bid in the seventh, they managed to waste baserunners who might have tied the game. Greene opened with a double to the back of the park and Randa singled him to third, and then Nady for a change brought home a run through means other than taking baseballs against his flesh, singling just beyond Eckstein at shortstop and into short left to send home Greene. Backup catcher Miguel Olivo pinch hit for Astacio's relief, Clay Hensley, and alas he restored the Padres to the program, dialing 4-6-3 as Randa took third.

There Randa was stranded, after Jackson (kept in the game in a double switch that moved Astacio out and Giles from center to right) took a plunk from Mulder but pinch hitter Ryan Klesko (for Eric Young) flied out to left center against Mulder's relief, Julian Tavarez. And Jason Isringhausen, relieving Tavarez's relief Randy Flores, shoved the Padres to one side in the top of the ninth with a swish sandwiched between a pair of center field flies.

The series moves to San Diego Saturday afternoon. Maybe major league baseball will be played there. There are rumors, you know.

—Jeff Kallman
Friday, October 7


"…now the slender arc lamps burn.
To reveal our backstreets to the indifferent stars."

—Nelson Algren, Chicago: City on the Make

There is room still for error, for tumult, for the Red Sox to stage another comeback and the White Sox to choke on their pine tar. Room still for Buck Weaver to rise from his grave, stretch, and shake off some of the voodoo into the bats of the Southside crew. Is there drug testing in the postseason? Will Tadahito Iguchi's urine samples reveal the drugs that will asterisk this game forever?

I don't know—no one knows, yet. But I'm guessing that there are Southsiders walking tall this morning, ignoring the clouds and the filthy weather, feeling good in the way that hasn't come for them in years and years, generations, even: that feeling of being a part of a winning ballclub. It's got to be especially poignant for those guys who've been sitting in the nosebleeds all these years, in half-empty stadiums, who scoff at anyone suggesting a curse, who scoff at the Cubs fans and their nice homes and neighborhoods. I've lived in those neighborhoods, with the thin walls and the sounds of the street bleeding you're your living room, mingling with the box fan or space heater, and the game on the box. These guys are existentialists, man. They take their pleasures as they get them, and they know that games like these mean nothing to the indifferent stars, but everything to the guy who buys his peanuts on the cheap in brown paper bags. They know that there's the suburbanites driving in to buy the hundred dollar playoff tickets, the kids with their new hats, who couldn't tell you a soul from the team of last year. But these guys probably don't care, just as they don't care to kill the weeds in the patch of lawn out front. After all, what difference does it make?

Nothing at all. For the last two days—for the last two weeks—the White Sox have succeeded in making this season worthwhile: they are respectable, having pummeled the Indians first to march into the postseason, and now stuffing a pair of games into the arrogant Red Sox, perhaps the newest Evil Empire on the block. Last night's game was another gem: Mark Buehrle stumbled, though only a bit, and the White Sox, who just about everyone said couldn't score more than three runs a game, took advantage of key blunders to steal the win. A kid comes in to make the save, and suddenly that weirdo Guillen doesn't look so bad after all.

These Chisox are impressive. I like that everyone dismisses this team, that somehow there's a stigma surrounding their 99 (now 101) wins, as if these guys are incapable of big games against big teams. Ozzie's a maniac, everyone knows, their stadium is the worst, they're the Seattle Mariners of 2001 (which doesn't make any sense whatsoever as an analogy), they can't hit and Scott Podsednik is overrated. Maybe he is, but I'm at a loss as to why that makes this team less than impressive. They didn't choke, didn't do anything but win 99 regular season games and shoot into the postseason. Now they have a 2-0 lead in the series.

I wish I was there. In Chicago, on the Southside. I wish I had been sitting in a local Coney Island joint sucking on beer and my grease-stained fingers last night, elated with the crowds that had endured the Sox for all these years. Ages ago I wrote this poem to a friend on the back of a postcard, and it sums up my mood this morning:

On a corner
the cop shops, donut halls,
the neon, Comiskey, exhaust.
Walk up three flights, listen
to the fights,
couples trying to remain angry
over the apish El, beer
guzzlers, more cars,
warehouses guard the city.
In the morning, the exhaust is slow
cooked like
a rolling hot dog on Addison.
In Chicago: only a visit
so I send you a hello
on a free postcard.

Nothing great, but then there's nothing great about writing postcards over fried eggs and polish sausage early in a hungover day, as I did then. And today, I'm guessing, is a hung-over day for some of the denizens of the Southside. Premature celebration? No. There will some real barrel-rolling if they take this thing, but for now they'll take what they can get. They deserve it.

—Peter Schilling
Thursday, October 6



Apparently, you can keep Chone Figgins off the bases to your full heart's content, but heaven help you if you do. The Los Angeles Angels' and maybe the American League's most valuable jack-of-all-trades has ways of taking it out of your hide with whatever hide he wears on his left hand.

And if Figgins finds one when you seem to have even a kind of quiet momentum, in taking an almost excuse-me kind of 2-0 lead in the fifth inning of an American League division series game, you may find yourself on the threshold of the kind of nightmare with which Brooks Robinson once bedeviled Sparky Anderson. Especially when the first Angel to bat in the bottom of that inning hits a full count bomb for an exclamation point.

What happened when New York Yankees left fielder Hideki Matsui fired a two-out, fifth-inning torpedo hopper marked run batted in with extra bases, contingent upon reaching the outfield just a few feet inside the left field line, was evidence that Figgins has seen Anderson dropping a paper plate and Robinson picking it up on one hop and throwing him out at first.

Figgins had just caught a parabolic chopper off the plate by Gary Sheffield, high enough to let Alex Rodriguez (a one-out walk) chug and slide home with the second run, and looked Jason Giambi (a double, on a high liner whose lift Steve Finley in center field misjudged before playing it off the wall) back to second, almost taking too much time before whipping the throw to first to nip Sheffield by two hairs.

Now, Giambi took third on a wild pitch and Robinson Cano, the rookie second baseman, who drove in the first Yankee run of the night (after sending home the first three in Tuesday night's series-opening win), sat on deck. Figgins was just enough away from the base and the line with the lefthanded Matsui batting, and he began diving right barely a second after Matsui slashed Angel starter John Lackey's outbound curve up the left side of the infield and toward the outfield grass.

Landing on his stomach as his outstretched glove clamped backhand around the ball, Figgins brought his left knee forward in the same movement, pushed up on his left foot, then planted right, under bended knee, and with his body slightly off line he threw a long curve across to first baseman Darin Erstad, who stabbed the one-hop in an uppercut swing to nip Matsui and end the Yankee fifth.

"Give those guys credit," A-Rod marveled after the game. "Figgins made one of the greatest plays I've ever seen and Erstad made another great play."

One side change later, Juan Rivera worked Yankee starter Chien-Ming Wang to a full count, the rookie righthander's teasing sinkerballs suddenly staying a little bit up as his arm tired and its release angle dropped just so. Then Rivera turned on a pitch that hung up around his belt and gave it a belt over the center field fence, in front of Angel Stadium's ersatz Arizona desert rock fountain.

From that point forward, not an inning passed without the Angels sending at least one man home, while their lately-revived bullpen made certain enough that the Yankees stayed shaken but not stirred. And the Angels' 5-3 win sends their American League division series to Yankee Stadium with a one-all split.

Lackey and Wang locked in a kind of quiet pitcher's duel, with Lackey's cool array of breaking balls keeping the Yankees just enough beyond balance at the plate and Wang's bristling sinkers and sliders keeping the Angels likewise. The sole disruption prior to that Figgins-exclamation fifth had been back-to-back doubles by Matsui and Cano in the top of the second. Both pitchers kept their defences gainfully employed well enough, even before Figgins stole the likely RBI from Matsui, but the Angels missed opportunity enough to see and raise the Yankees before Rivera saw and raised that unsinking Wang service to open the bottom of the sixth.

They had a grand chance to cash in a Yankee gift in the second, after Erstad spanked a two-out single past the mound and up the pipe. Rivera sent a likely double play roller up to shortstop, where Derek Jeter went down to his right and backhanded the ball. Jeter's clean toss to second to start the prospective double play bounded off Cano's glove as Erstad slid to the pad and rolled back toward shortstop. But Cano atoned by bearing down on Steve Finley's up the middle hopper, taking it behind the pad and backshoveling it safely to Jeter to strand first and second.

Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy opened the bottom of the third with a base hit into shallow center, but then he took off on an apparent hit-and-run, with Figgins missing on the swing and Kennedy a corpse when Yankee catcher Jorge Posada fired a clean strike to second. Wang promptly swished Figgins before Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera flied out to Sheffield in right for the side.

One inning later, Vladimir Guerrero took a one-out plunk, but Angels catcher Bengie Molina grounded one right up the middle and right into Cano's glove, Cano having been over to the pad covering with Guerrero running on the pitch. Erstad's bullet line drive out to center brought Williams running it down to kill that prospect.

But once Figgins snuck into Brooks Robinson's haberdashery and Rivera had unloaded, it seemed the Angels' offencive fetters began to dissolve in steps measured but profound enough. The dissolution began when at last they cashed a Yankee misstep, in the bottom of the sixth, when Cabrera's high chopper leading off bumped off A-Rod's glove to give Cabrera first on the house. ("We caught a break with that ball," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia after the game. "I think the lights got Alex at third base.") One out later, Guerrero pushed Cabrera to third with a slow bouncer before Molina swatted a line single up the pipe to send him home with the tying run.

Rivera re-opened the Angels' chop shop in the bottom of the seventh, chopping one off the plate high enough that Jeter had no choice but to wait it into his glove, and the only reason the play at first was close was Rivera tripping as he left the batter's box, but he dove like an Olympic swimmer beating the throw to first.

He came out for pinch runner Jeff Davanon and the Angels came out with their semi-patented Angelball attack. Finley beat out a bunt when it died near the mound and Wang's throw to first pulled Cano covering off the pad, Kennedy bunted the runners to second and third, and, after Figgins flied out to center Cabrera's line single to center sent Davanon and Finley home with the tiebreakers.

Al Leiter, the Yankees' prodigal elder, got Anderson to fly out to Sheffield in right to end the seventh and Guerrero to fly out to Matsui in left to open the Angels' eighth, but he could not get Molina to stay with the plan, when the husky Angels' catcher flied into the left field corner seats. One ground out (Erstad) later, Leiter yielded to Scott Proctor after Robb Quinlan was announced as Davanon's pinch hitter. That prompted Scioscia to pull Quinlan for Casey Kotchman, who grounded out to Cano to end the inning.

But by this time the Angels' bullpen was in service and performing to their customary reputation. Scot Shields took over for Lackey with first and third in the Yankee sixth and got Jeter to force Tino Martinez (playing first base with Giambi as designated hitter, a defencive move behind Wang's sinkerball repertoire) at second to end that inning. Kelvim Escobar, a starter by profession, stepping into the pen during its midseason struggles when he returned from in-season elbow trouble (and a bone spur shaving earlier in the year), retired his following five batters after walking A-Rod to open the seventh, pitching out to arrest him stealing swiftly enough.

And then came Francisco Rodriguez for the ninth, the immediate memory his astonishing coming-out party in the 2002 postseason, a late-season rookie callup who became one of Troy Percival's primary setup men and reeled off a 5-1 postseason record (with 28 strikeouts and a 1.89 ERA) before he had ever recorded a regular-season decision.

Now, however, Percival was allowed to walk to the Detroit Tigers (where he suffered a season-ending elbow injury following some struggles with his new club) and K-Rod had his old job, and his immediate reception from the Yankees, who were the first to taste of him three postseasons earlier, was Posada sending a belt-high fastball into the right field bleachers. It turned out to be an almost excuse-me third Yankee run, with Martinez blasted out on a nasty breaking ball swish, Jeter grounding out to shortstop (and ending his streak of reaching base at least once in 21 straight division series games), and A-Rod slashing one up the third base line for Figgins to pick neat and clean and Erstad to scoop the hop out of the dirt in front of first for the game.

Lackey did not leave the game before putting on a small defencive show in his own right. With one out in the top of the sixth, and Williams on second after Finley misjudged his rising liner for a double, Posada grounded one up the first base line that Erstad smothered well behind the bag. But Erstad lost grip on the ball for moment enough before turning and throwing to Lackey over to cover. The pitcher dropped into a knees-on slide before windmilling his glove and scooping Erstad's short fast throw as his knees hit the edge of the pad.

Who did Lackey think he was? Chone Figgins?

—Jeff Kallman
Thursday, October 6


"Don't shed any tears for Casey. He wouldn't want you to," said Richie Ashburn, who had the honor of calling the Ol' Perfesser "Skip" in the final season of his career. "He loved life and he loved laughter. He loved people and above all he loved baseball. He was the happiest man I've ever seen."

One rests secure knowing Ashburn's wish was probably denied, for a little while, because the laughter Casey Stengel loved was equal to the laughter Casey Stengel provoked, and the latter's source would be here to feed it no more.

Stengel died thirty 29 Septembers ago. In 1975 it was the Monday after the regular baseball season ended, and his funeral was not conducted for a week. "It was delayed that long," wrote his biographer, Robert Creamer, in Stengel: His Life and Times, "because Monday was an off-day during the pennant playoffs then underway in each league, and baseball people traveling west to the American League [Championship Series] in Oakland would be able to attend. Stengel might have enjoyed the humor in that: Funeral postponed because of a game."

The best tribute to Stengel, Creamer noted, was not in the funeral's game plan. "As the congregation waited for the service to begin," he wrote, "there were little whispers of conversation here and there, and then a low chuckle, a muffled laugh, a giggle. They were talking about Stengel, remembering him, telling stories about him, and the bubbles of laughter kept rising all through the church—'as though,' [former sportswriter Harold] Rosenthal said, 'the mourners had completely forgotten the current condition of the guest of honor and the reason they were all there'."

About the only times Stengel never left them laughing were those times at which he would have to inform players of their trade or release, as managers in his day were empowered to do. The players would not laugh but his listeners otherwise would, particularly years after the fact. "Managing the team back then was a tough business," he recalled once, of his years managing the mid-1930s Brooklyn Dodgers. "Whenever I decided to release a guy, I always had his room searched for a gun. You couldn't take any chances with some of them birds."

I never knew him to require such measures in the period which made him my Stengel, though it was a period which some may have believed would acquit him had he chosen to keep a gun at his side to use upon himself. ("If anybody wants me," he would say one night during a particularly arduous road trip, "tell 'em I'm being embalmed.")

My Stengel was not the sesquipedalian tactical maestro who brought his closer (as we would call Joe Page today) in the third inning of a pennant clinching game because, damn the book, he needed a stopper like right now, en route ten pennants and seven World Series rings in twelve seasons, including five consecutive Series rings from the word "You're hired."

Nor was my Stengel the man who hit (in 1923) the first two World Series home runs (one of them an inside-the-park number) in Yankee Stadium history. Nor was he the teacher who nearly collapsed at Ebbets Field's concrete and fold, scoreboard-bisected right field wall, before which he had played in ancient days as a Dodger outfielder, instructing a rookie named Mantle how to play the wall and its angle collection.

My Stengel was the elder whose laughter, his own and his inspired, was like Figaro's, that he and his listener might not weep. Come an' see my amazin' Mets. I been in this game a hundred years but I see new ways to lose I never knew existed before.

Stengel spent portion enough of his seventy-third birthday talking in his customary manner—nonstop, labyrinthian Stengelese—when he suddenly unloaded in Jimmy Breslin's company about an Original Mets' road jaunt West.

We're going into Los Angeles for the first time, and, well, I don't want to go in there to that big new ballpark in front of all them people and have to see the other fellas running around those bases the way they figured to on my pitchers and my catchers, too. Wills and those fellows, they start running in circles and they don't stop and so forth and it could be embarrassing, which I don't want to be.

Well, we have this Canzoneri [Chris Cannizzaro] at Syracuse and he catches good and throws real good and he should be able to stop them. I don't want to be embarrassed. So we bring him and he is going to throw out these runners. We come in there and you never seen anything like it in your life. I find I got a defensive catcher, only who can't catch the ball. The pitcher throws. Oops! The ball drops out of the glove. And all the time I am dizzy on account of these runners running around in circles on me and so forth.

Makes a man think. You look up and down the bench and you have to say to yourself, "Can't anybody play this here game?"

Three guesses which phrase got mangled into one of the earliest watchwords of Mets malcompetence.

Those who call this Stengel theirs as I call him mine choose one or another moment to freeze in a frame as the singular symbol of that team and its kaleidoscopic calamity. For all his sesquipedalic speeches mine own was an instance in which he actually said nothing. Perhaps you had to be there, and I was, sort of. There was no funnier comedy on American television than the 1962 (and 1963-65) Mets, including Bugs Bunny.

First inning, Chicago Cubs versus the Mets, at the ancient Polo Grounds. The Cubs in the top of the first had delivered a bit of a shock when Lou Brock, of all people, became the first since Joe Adcock to hit one out over the straightaway center field bleachers, over 460 feet from the plate. The Mets in the bottom had just been stunned when the aforesaid Marv Throneberry whacked a triple down deep right center field, gunned it safely to third, and got himself called out when Ernie Banks called for the ball, stepped on first, and nodded to the umpire, "Didn't touch first, you know."

The umpire punched a hole in the sky with his thumb. Before Stengel could reach the umpire, intent on punching a hole in the center field clubhouse with the umpire's flying carcass, first base coach Cookie Lavagetto stopped him. "Forget it, Case. He didn't touch first, either."

Well, I know he touched third, because I can damn well see him standing on it.

The next Met hitter was second baseman Charley Neal, an erstwhile Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodger. He banged one off the upper deck overhang for a home run, and before he was three steps up the first base line Stengel hobbled out of the dugout and halted him in his tracks.

The Perfesser* said nothing and merely pointed to first base, stamping his foot. Only then did Neal dare to run toward first, where he crossed the bag in the prescribed manner and continued on to second. He glanced back to see Stengel pointing to second base and stamping his foot again. Manager and bombardier repeated the ritual around each base until Neal crossed the plate unmolested. Then did Stengel return to his seat in the corner of the dugout. The Polo Grounds audience went nuclear.

Only once in awhile might we see the Stengel who had actually managed over a decade worth of Yankees, because only once in awhile did the Original Mets play baseball as though they knew what they were doing. And even then there could not be such baseball without a prelude straight from the discards of Mack Sennett, the second game of an August doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates standing in memory as the perfect exhibit, particularly because I was there to see it at all of six years old.

The Pirates had won the first game and had a 4-1 lead going to the bottom of the ninth and their best relief pitcher, Elroy Face, in on the bump. Early in the game the Mets lost third base coach Solly Hemus for arguing with an umpire; first base coach Cookie Lavagetto moved to coach at third and Gene Woodling, Stengel's former Yankee platoon now reunited with his former boss as a utility player who could still hit a little, was sent out to coach at first. Midway through, Stengel needed Woodling to hit and thus another first base coach.

At Richie Ashburn's prodding, Stengel sent Marv Throneberry, whose earnest but bumbling defense balanced against his occasional offence turned him into a classic antihero. The moment he poked his nose out of the dugout to make for the coaching line, the Polo Grounds audience gave him a standing ovation. And there he stayed, working competently enough, until the Mets got something started on Face in the bottom of the ninth.

Ashburn started with a single, Joe Christopher continued with a walk, and Felix Mantilla—a third baseman whose tireless genius had been to dive exactly the wrong way on any ball grounded or lined his way—singled Ashburn home. By this time, the Polo Grounds rocked in a shift of chants from LET'S GO, METS! to WE WANT MARVELOUS! Stengel called Throneberry back from the coaching line and ordered him to fetch his bat. He stood in against Face and hit one into the right center field seats for the game, 5-4.

This is not to say that Stengel was without his critics, and here we mean not merely the ancient Boston sports columnist, reviewing a season in which Stengel was lost to the hopeless Boston Braves (whom he then managed) thanks to a fractured leg courtesy of a cab driver hitting him as he started to cross the street. The columnist proposed the cabbie receive the city's highest commendation for having done Boston baseball its biggest favor of the year.

Managing the Mets his critics included Hemus, "who was fired," the late sportswriter Ed Linn remembered, "because he ignored Stengel's admonition that coaches should be seldom seen and never heard, and more particularly because he ignored so frequently on the television show conducted by Howard Cosell, an abrasive critic who has gotten under Casey's skin." And, players who chafed under his withering sarcasm when they failed, in a favorite Stengelism, "to execute."

Those critics also included Jackie Robinson, who pronounced Stengel had become so old that he had lost his mental alertness. "I don't want to get involved with Robinson," Stengel retorted to the writers ("my writers") covering the Mets. "He was a great ballplayer once, but everybody knows that he's now Chock Full o' Nuts."

I saw Stengel last at an Old Timers' Day in Shea Stadium, in 1975. After the customary on-field parade of elders, through the bullpen fence came a Roman-style chariot with Stengel in it, waving an antique buggy whip. The chariot pulled to the infield area and Stengel dismounted. He looked almost twice his age (he was 85 years old), his head seemed to sink somewhat into the shoulders of his old Met uniform, the number 37 on his back looking almost twice as large.

He was deprived by then of the only love in his life equal to baseball. Edna Stengel was confined to a nursing home following a round of small strokes robbing her of her competence, Stengel unable in his own ancient age to care for her properly, though he visited her daily when he was home. He spent his final spring training making his customary rounds and wearing their love on his sleeve: "She went crazy on me overnight. I miss her."

Creamer shared a story "that I hope is true": hospitalized for the final time, Stengel lay in bed when a baseball telecast began, including the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (they still showed that pleasing ceremony on regular-season baseball telecasts at the time). Stengel is said to have swung his legs over the side of his bed and stood at attention, his hand over his heart, saying to himself, "I might as well do this one last time."

"A lot of people are going to be surprised that Casey died," Murray wrote. "Because they didn't think he was born. Casey just came walking out of the pages of Grimm's Fairy Tales years ago. He escaped the wicked old witch's oven or jumped the club on Snow White. Disney invented him. Part moose, part mouse, sometimes he was all seven dwarfs . . . He was a genuine American heirloom, like a railroad watch. What Fernandel was to the eternal Frenchman, Cantinflas to the poor put-upon Mexican, Chaplin to tramps, Stengel was to Americana."

It sounds like a man after whom they ought to name a major league ballpark, if not retire number 37 across the major league board. (The number is worn at this writing by seventeen players—all pitchers—including three on teams for whom Stengel once played or managed.) The Mets' new park has been designed but not yet built. Stengel Park, anyone?

—Jeff Kallman
Thursday, October 6

* "The Ol' Perfesser" was not a nickname bestowed upon Stengel in sarcastic salute. He actually was a professor: one summer he was actually invited to teach a class at, I believe, the University of Missouri, and he was awarded the rank of full professor. Hence the nickname's origin, and you can, as the ancient cliché counsels, look it up.


…and not a minute too soon. For this was not a good year.

The old saw reads that you should light a candle instead of cursing the darkness. But my last candle burned down to nothing, or I'm out of matches, so I'm left with the figurative darkness of the 2005 baseball season. Where do I begin? With steroids? With the the drugs that apparently don't just boost muscle, but they boost the sanctimoniousness of writers and former ballplayers. Steroids have made a liars out of both Rafael Palmeiro and Jack Morris. Morris claims that he isn't going to accept a plaque at the Hall of Fame if Palmeiro goes in, because he played by the rules. Of course, Jack isn't going into the Hall and two, being out of the game for nearly a decade, there is no possible way of proving that he did or did not use similar drugs himself. Steroids have made fools out of sportswriters, athletes, senators, commissioners, and nearly anyone else. Hopefully, this postseason they'll vanish momentarily.

Even worse, this year's pennant races turned out to be nothing. claimed that this was one of the greatest races anyone's seen in almost 80 years. I suppose, if your idea of a thrilling race is the Yanks/Red Sox match that ended in a tie, with both parties playing for the gold ring. Oh, and there was Philadelphia and Houston battling for second place, and the chance that the Giants would sweep the Padres to take their division with a losing record. Has baseball been this bad for 80 years?

But that's water under the bridge, as they also say. The water's down there, it's flowing, there's something dead over by the paper mill, but, really, the thing's cleaned up, and it's done. The season as we know it is over, the playoff are identical as last year, except that two of the teams that always lose (the Twins and Dodgers) are replaced by a pair that might not lose, but probably will.

In Minnesota, it's been an especially fierce year. Never in my life have I seen a team's fortunes fall so drastically: the Twins not only failed to live up to expectations, but fared so poorly that it makes one wonder whether or not they weren't a mediocre team these last three years. Now that they have decent competition in the Central, the Twins fell apart in dramatic fashion. And they don't look to get any better for a long time.

Oh, and did I mention that John Bonnes, our local Twins Geek, is hanging it up? Minnesotans are truly a lucky lot for having the likes of guys like John, who's been trudging out near-daily reports on this team that were well-written and thought-provoking, without the usual arrogant tone of the stat-heads or local beat writers. He's hanging it up because he's burned out? He doesn't get to be burned out—that's my cross to bear.

Not for now, though, not for now. For now I get to wear the hat of a baseball fiend, of someone who loves seeing the packed houses of Fenway and Comiskey (that's a change) and PadresPark. For a month, at least, we get a reprieve. Come November, the Unions and Owners and Players will all try their level best to undo this month of goodwill. By then, I won't be paying the least attention...


ALDS GAME ONE: WHITE SOX 14, RED SOX 2 (Chisox Lead 1-0)

Buck Weaver might have decided to take a break from his hauntings as of late, thinking perhaps that it's been far too long for the Chisox to have even a taste of something good. Weaver, as you may or not know, is the long-deceased and supposedly unfairly condemned shortstop of the 1919 "Black Sox". He is, according to a few fans, the reason for the Sox's undoing over the last 88 years. Of course, the White Sox haven't won anything yet—the Oakland A's will tell you all about the benefits of inflating a game one victory. It's a start, though, and I'm glad for the Southsiders.

I shouldn't be, I know: Twins fans have, as of late, become riotous haters of the Chisox, going so far as to brand them "Bitch Sox" on occasion. But I like the Sox. To me, they're the one real underdog in baseball, more so than the Pirates, Reds, and the other so-called small-market teams. Their lack of success is baffling, frankly: any Chicago team cannot be a small-market anything, and they lack the racist hiring strategies that undid the Red Sox for a good few decades (and hurt them more than any Bambino's curse). Talk to Sox fans and they'll say it's just poor management. But 88 years? It doesn't make sense.

But these Underdog Sox—the ones who, as of yet, have not managed to parlay this selfsame underdog status into a premier cottage industry—hammered out win number 100 for the year, and did so in a blasting furnace of power that they didn't normally have fired up the rest of the year. This win has got to be at least somewhat reassuring for the faithful, the few that there are. The Sox—the pale hose—look as though they're ready for a march through the postseason, and Jose Contreras especially seems eager to meet the team that dumped him, those Yanks, to prove they made a mistake. A. J. Pierzynski has found a shade of redemption, and perhaps the long-suffering Ozzie Guillen will get some respect. The Sox opened up for five home runs (A. J. had two) and the fireworks were bursting throughout the old concrete palace. This is good drama, and if it lacks anything it's the hacks that make it into the stuff of legend, the same writers who puffed up the Cubs and Red Sox near-successes of two-years ago, and made the Red Sox truly dull World Series win into a life-changing experience.

Believe it or not, there will be people for whom a White Sox victory means as much. For whom this will settle the unease that has plagued them generation after obscure generation. Fans who don't have bookshelves lined with stories by John Updike or Stephen King (though they would do well to have some Nelson Algren). For those fans, those sods living in the neighborhoods with the twisted sidewalks, choked with weeds, who still have their silly late-70s ballcaps and pennants, who remember the showers in the stands at old Comiskey and defend the new one like they defend the local community center, to those folks I really hope these Sox go places.

—Peter Schilling Jr.
Wednesday, October 5



There is nothing like a child prodigy to take the tenderness out of an old man's pitching elbow, assuming the prodigy is on the old man's side and not the other fellow's. Except a child prodigy respecting his elders too much to leave them stranded, when they were kind enough to load the bases for him with a two-out rally, before the top of the first went into a Cy Young Award candidate's hip pocket.

And there was Robinson Cano, with his elder Baltimore Orioles of New York Jason Giambi (a line single to right), Gary Sheffield (a check-swing liner over second base), and Hideki Matsui (a line single past first, nobody even thinking about trying a turn for the plate on Vladimir Guerrero's right arm) holding the pads.

He took ball one low from Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim starter Bartolo Colon, looked at strike one on the floor of the zone, fouled one on a line behind the plate, watched Bengie Molina smother ball two in the dirt, and fouled one on a line the other way into the left field stands. Then he hit one on a high line that stayed just beyond left fielder Garret Anderson's on-the-run, upstretched glove, and bounded off the left field fence, sending all three of his elders home and himself to second base.

"I had two strikes," said the American League's September rookie of the month, who may yet turn out the league's Rookie of the Year, in his still embryonic English, after the game. "I wanted to take my chance. It's something I've been working on all year in the big leagues, to use the whole field."

Another of Cano's elders, Mike Mussina, enjoys when his mates take such chances as that. "When you're pitching on the road and you get to go to the mound in the first inning with runs," he said afterward, "that's a big deal. This is only the third time I've been to the mound since I had three weeks off. One was good and one was bad, so I didn't have any idea what to expect."

He may or may not have expected the Angels to prove as benign on the night as they ended up proving, which only began when Orlando Cabrera—formerly one of a few too many Red Sox the Yankees saw one October ago—ripped a 2-2 hanging breaking ball past the hole at shortstop. He certainly could not have expected Garret Anderson, perhaps still ailing a bit from his lower back arthritis but lately revived for contact hitting at least, bouncing a 1-0 pitch up the line to Giambi unassisted at first. Or, Guerrero, with Cabrera on second, swinging at a pitch all but landing on the plate and grounding it right back to the mound for the side.

Nor could Mussina have expected, necessarily, his mate getting frisky again in the second inning, and again with two outs, after Colon found rhythm enough to punch out Bernie Williams looking on the inside corner and swish Bubba Crosby on the likewise. But there was Derek Jeter lining a single up to Guerrero in right on two hops, and there was Alex Rodriguez taking one off the elbow pad and in the ribs, and there was Giambi pulling a bullet down the right field line to send Jeter home, before Gary Sheffield left it at 4-0 with a pitch in the dirt luring him into a half-swing, whole-strike punchout

And neither, necessarily, could Mussina have expected to escape with his life when he faced Adam Kennedy—who had taken him over the fence in a 2002 division series—with the Angels trying a little two-out mischief of their own in the bottom of the second.

Darin Erstad opened with the first of his evening's three strikeouts and Molina, the stocky catcher, sent Crosby in center field all the way back near the fence to catch his long fly, but erstwhile Yankee Juan Rivera lined a 1-0 pitch the other way into right field for a single. And Steve Finley, regular season was ruined by an early April shoulder injury through which he tried to play until his swing was completely wrecked, final stretch days spent getting it back and with several key contacts, fouled off a trio of full-count pitches before driving one toward the right field corner.

Here Mussina caught a phenomenal break when Finley's drive curled down to ricochet off the sharp edge of the back of the right field corner grass, flying up into the seats behind the low corner fence and forcing Rivera to hold third on the ground rule double. For the want of even an inch were the Angels kept from their first run, and up came Kennedy, perhaps thinking back to his hard bomb of three years earlier, and now ahead of Mussina on a ball two count. He skied one opposite left, Matsui trotting over to haul it down as he approached the left field line.

Colon found rhythm enough to keep the Yankees off the board beginning with his first one-two-three in the top of the third, answerable by Mussina with his own maiden one-two-three of the game. The Yankees stranded Jeter (a two-out walk) in the fourth and killed Sheffield's sharp one-out single in the fifth, the first Yankee of the night to reach base with less than two outs, when Matsui slow-chopped to Kennedy at second turning it into Area Code 4-6-3, went down one-two-three in the sixth, and had A-Rod dialing Area Code 5-4-3 to end the seventh scoreless.

Mussina by then was feeling anything but a tender elbow, using his defence as well as his usual wit and wile to turn back the Angels one-two-three in the fourth and strand Rivera after his leadoff hit in the fifth (the first Angel to open an inning with a hit), though he needed Matsui coming down on the dead run and sliding across the line to catch Chone Figgins's opposite-field sky foul to finish that inning.

When Guerrero lashed his outer zone, two-strike pitch through the hole at second for a base hit, Yankee manager Joe Torre jogged to the bump and lifted Mussina, the soft grins exhanged between them evidence enough that Mussina was leaving not because of any pending trouble but because Torre looking ahead wanted him rested in case the set went to a fifth game. And Al Leiter, the prodigal old man (he had been born a Yankee eighteen years earlier, and resurrected from the Florida scrap compactor at midyear), had Erstad at 1-1 when Guerrero inexplicably bolted for second and the Yankees inexplicably caught a big break.

Actually, the break was very explicable: Jeter got away with deking second base umpire Derryl Cousins, obstructing Cousins's sightline well enough to keep Cousins from seeing that Jeter missed the tag when he caught Jorge Posada's throw up from home and swept his glove as Guerrero arrived bent-legged on the pad.

One inning later, Leiter picked up where he left off with Erstad and swished him on a low and away pitch that resembled a cotton ball approaching the rear end of the plate, and Torre went to Tanyon Sturtze. And Sturtze's third pitch to Molina went over the center field fence. One out later, Tom Gordon spelling Sturtze, Finley crashed a long fly toward the right field wall that looked a moment as though it had the high bleachers' name on it until Sheffield reached the track to haul it down.

After Scot Shields spelled Colon and dispatched the Yankees in order in the top of the eighth, with a lot of help from Finley returning the favour to Sheffield and pulling down his long drive at the center field fence, Cabrera with two outs tried what Finley couldn't ending the previous inning, driving one almost to the same spot, with Sheffield again reaching the track for it.

Shields in the top of the ninth got away with surrendering a two-out double Williams drove beyond Guerrero's outstretched reach and bounding off the low right field corner fence. That was actually the lone interruption to the Shields and Anderson Show, Anderson hauling down all three Yankee outs in the inning.

And the Angels almost got away with sneaking one off on The Mariano, when Guerrero hung in for a full count walk on a low and away fastball and stole second before Erstad—lifetime against The Mariano pending this point: 6-for-12—chopped a 2-1 pitch up the middle and bounding off Cano's glove to send in Guerrero. Checking in: Molina, whose lifetime performance papers against The Mariano read 3-for-6 with one bomb. This time, alas, he could do no better than bouncing one into the hole at short, for which Jeter shot right, grabbed it, and settled for the out at second, the bouncer slow enough to allow even Molina, who runs like a cement mixer with the inner rear tyres flat, to reach first by a hair ahead of Cano's throw over.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia took no risk. He sent backup catcher Josh Paul out to run for Molina and Casey Kotchman, a rookie with periodic thunder in the stick, up to hit for Rivera. And this time The Mariano remembered who he was, even through the scowl he flashed for his own disgust at his self-perceived lapses, breaking Kotchman's bat on 1-1 and making it good for a popup shallow over the infield, where Rodriguez came down to take it for the game.

For a man who missed most of September thanks to that tenderly inflamed elbow, Mussina pitched like a man who needed nothing but the next batter in the box to make him feel better, and nothing like the man who had been murdered in his final regular season start, when the St. Louis Browns of Baltimore strafed him for five runs on seven hits in a mere inning and two thirds.

The Angels had been treated to déjà vu, having lost their American League division series opener to the Yankees in 2002 as well. Scioscia, of course, swears that that was not an entry in the team's series plan. "We're going to do what we need to do," he said after the game, in that customary manner that is at once unaffected and only slightly disingenuous. "We have to keep playing our game and we've obviously got to do a little bit better job offensively. They jumped us early and they pitched well after that."

And a child had led them.

—Jeff Kallman
Wednesday, October 5


NLDS GAME ONE: ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 8, SAN DIEGO PADRES 5 ( Feathers lead the Friars 1-0)

Say of the San Diego Padres that they stuck one in their own ribs with no malice aforethought, before St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter threw the first pitch of their National League division series round Tuesday afternoon.

But say as well of the Cardinals that they broke the National League Worst champions' back before the Padres could hang up a single run. And, that the Padres' best pitcher took the mound broken in the first place, while they helped break their own backs hitting into three consecutive inning-ending double plays, broke up the monotony to unsheath their long knives too late for not enough, including ending the game with the bases loaded, the potential go-ahead run at the plate, and a violent swish after two called strikes and nothing else greeted him.

Only after the Cardinals jumped them for an 8-0 lead and hung in for an 8-5 final did one and all learn San Diego starter Jake Peavy was broken. Their on-field division-clinching whoop-it-up last week left the righthander with a very nasty right rib cage jab that turned out an eighth-rib fracture with a possible ninth fracture for bad measure.

It fractured Peavy for the rest of the postseason, never mind that it probably did just enough to leave Cardinals left fielder Reggie Sanders all the room he needed to fracture the Padres right in the spine before the fifth inning was finished.

The Redbirds already feathered their nest to a 4-0 lead come the bottom of the fifth when Sanders hammered a hefty grand slam to end Peavy's day's work and put himself into the record books. No National League player had previously driven in six runs in a single division series game, and Sanders' drive overthrew Jim Edmonds as the Cardinal who seemed most in the middle of the body blows they landed on the Padres.

Edmonds came into the division series having homered at least once in every previous division series and League Championship Series in which he had appeared, and the Cardinals' center fielder secured the string's continuance right after Carpenter stranded San Diego left fielder Ryan Klesko, who had reachecd on a one-out hit, in the top of the first, Edmonds himself pitching in when he speared second baseman Mark Loretta's straightawy fly. He stepped in with one out in the bottom of the first and hit a two-strike pitch into the left field bullpen to launch the day's scoring.

Two innings later, after erstwhile Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles pest David Eckstein pested a flare up the pipe for a one-out single, Edmonds popped one up high the other way. Klesko came down from left field, Khalil Greene went out from shortstop, and Joe Randa went out from third, and the ball dove straight down in the middle of their miniature pack, setting up second and third for Peavy to walk Albert Pujols on the house.

Peavy next threw Larry Walker a changeup that hit the plate and flew into the Padres' dugout, Eckstein flying home and Edmonds flying to third, before Walker finished with a free pass to reload the pads. And Sanders swatted a two-run single for the Cardinals' early four-spot, before Mark Grudzielanek dialed Area Code 4-6-3 to keep it there.

Early enough in the game the Padres seemed the ones patient enough at the plate to find a way through Carpenter, who needed the first inning to reclaim command of his breaking pitches while the Padres laid away from anything that did not even pretend to be a strike. But the Padres also proved unable to take serious advantage whenever they caught a break along the line of what they caught in the top of the second.

Not liking the angle from which he would have to throw to Carpenter covering, Pujols playing back of first took San Diego first baseman Mark Sweeney's sharp hopper to the pad himself, sliding and touching it with his foot a hair ahead of Sweeney's step on the pad, and fuming when first base umpire Bill Hohn called Sweeney safe. Catcher Ramon Hernandez lined one to shortstop that Eckstein, possibly caught in a sunspot, let glance off his glove for an error, but Greene swung on the first pitch and flied out to Edmonds, who pump-faked a throw in to third to tie up the runners, before Randa slashed one up the pipe and slightly left.

Eckstein snapped it up on the run and shoveled to his second baseman, Mark Grudzielanek, who threw on for the side-retiring double play.

An inning later, the Padres ended their half of an inning likewise, this time thanks to Tony La Russa instructing his third baseman, Abraham Nunez, not to play toward the bag and open a hole through which Loretta, a righthanded swinger, might hit one.

Dave Roberts, a year removed from the theft heard 'round Red Sox Nation, now doing similarly dirty deeds on behalf of the Padres, opened by lining a one-out single on the hops to right, and Klesko grounded one through the hole at second. And whle Loretta fought Carpenter a mini-epic, fouling off three straight full-count pitches, La Russa held Nunez fast about seven feet behind and left of third base. Then Carpenter got Loretta to ground one right to the pad there, Nunez's positioning allowing him the right path to meet and pick the ball as his foot hit the pad and throw across to double up Loretta.

The Padres actually returned the favour sleekly enough in the bottom of the third, but the Cardinals paid them back with interest in the top of the fourth. This time, Sweeney worked out a walk but Hernandez grounded a 1-2 pitch very softly up the pipe. Again Eckstein hustling left took it on the dead run, this time close enough to step on second himself before throwing over to Pujols to double up Hernandez.

Ailing though he was Peavy answered with his first and only three up, three down inning on the day, and the thanks he got was Randa stranded unanswered after he had worked Carpenter for a one-out walk in the top of the fifth.

Along came Edmonds reaching with one out when his ground shot ricocheted left off the mound, Pujols lining a single to left, and Walker doing precisely as his surname implies. And along came Sanders, looking at three straight balls, then driving a rising liner into Busch Stadium's left field loge.

The San Diego bullpen took it from there and kept the Redbirds off the scoreboard the rest of the way. And La Russa lifted Carpenter for the top of the seventh, after the Cy Young Award candidate struggled trying to warm up for the inning. After dehydrating the Padres for six, Carpenter turned up with dehydration-provoking hand cramping. Brad Thompson spelled him.

Then a double, a single, and a sacrifice fly to center hung up the first San Diego number of the afternoon, while one inning later a scrap heap exhumed Eric Young, pinch hitting for Roberts, sang the second San Diego number of the afternoon, when St. Louis reliever Randy Flores hung one up that Young could hang into the left field loge. Two outs later, Padres' right fielder Brian Giles lined a base hit past second to bring in Cal Eldred and send up Robert Fick to bat for Brad Johnson who was originally in the plan to bat for Sweeney. Fick wrung out a walk after Giles helped himself to second, but Hernandez grounded out to shortstop for the side.

Young and Fick stayed in the game to play center and first and the Cardinals went scoreless in the top of the ninth, and Greene opened the bottom of the ninth with a double. Damian Jackson, batting for San Diego reliever Scott Linebrink one out later, lined a single to left far enough to let Greene reach third and the Cardinals reach out to closer Jason Isringhausen, just to put an end to it before the Padres picked up any funny ideas about impossible in-game resurrections.

The Cardinals didn't even mind the Padres pasting up their third number of the day so long as it happened while Young chopped one down to third for an infield out. What they did mind was Klesko lining one through the hole past first, Loretta singling home Jackson, Klesko running a stop sign around third and scoring when Giles drilled one up the pipe for a single, and Fick ripping one into right to load up the bases and bring up a prospective go-ahead run.

But no one except the Padres minded when Hernandez, the catcher whose down-the-stretch heatup had been one key to the Padres outlasting the rest of their motley division, watching two strikes on the zone of the floor before swinging through a third strike as though the ball had vaporised before his very eyes.

The late Nebraska Senator, Roman Hruska, defending an inexperienced Supreme Court nominee named G. Harrold Carswell, synonymised "inexperience" to "mediocrity" and proclaimed, "Even if he is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers, and they are entitled to a little representation, aren't they? We can't all have Brandeises and Cardozos and Frankfurters and stuff like that." With such defenders did Carswell need no enemy.

The Padres came extremely close to winning the West with a losing record, and they are hardly isolated among mediocre baseball teams. With due empathy to the unexpectedly feckless Peavy, those who believe mediocre teams are entitled to a little postseason representation should find the Padres have opened a division series acquitting that faith in appropriate enough style.

—Jeff Kallman
Wednesday, October 5

Movie of the Week

The Catcher Was A Spy

by Nicholas Dawidoff

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