IT'S NEVER BEEN colder than 16 degrees above zero, Fahrenheit, in Toronto during World Series season.
That reassuring news comes to you from Environment Canada, their weather service, which cheerfully adds that Toronto's puddles never start icing over much more than five weeks ahead of what might be the deciding game.
Bowie Kuhn, you twisted viper, you'll pay for this. With the All Star Game played last week, the season is heading toward home, and the Toronto Blue Jays are in first place in the East Division of the American League, playing ball at the .600 level, while the Montreal Expos are not far out of first in the National League's East Division.
You were baseball commissioner, Kuhn, when the American national pastime was allowed to sneak north of the 49th parallel. You were the tool of the greedy owners of the boys of summer who decided expansion teams might be profitable in a Canada where summer as it is defined in these parts never comes. This northern drift wasn't long after the season was fatefully expanded to 162 games and "summer" was extended to Hallowe'en.
Ha, you said. What will those hockey-puckers ever know of baseball? This will never affect the World Series, eh?
Well, Kuhn, it was bound to happen. The World Series was going to be played in the Land of the Frozen North someday. And it looks like that day may be this year. Pray for a long players' strike that rules out a Series entirely, Kuhn, else soon you will be tracked down to your retirement dacha by a mob of those fans of the game who can understand both a calendar and a weather map.
The latest a World Series game has been played so far is Oct. 28. That was in 1981, which, not coincidentally, was the last time we had a player's strike. The strike wiped out a portion of the season, but it added an additional round of divisional playoffs which pushed the World Series back. And that was before this year's invention of a seven- game league championship playoff, which, mathematically, could push the Series into November for the first time.
And that is just the perversity of the calendar. The perversity of nature was demonstrated in Boston in 1975, when Series games were played on schedule Oct. 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16. Then the Great Gray Cloud moved in. For five days, ticket holders watched icy, driving rain lash Boston Harbor before the series could be completed on the 21st and 22d.
And that was on the shores of the warming Atlantic. Inland and upland, the average temperature in October in Montreal is 48, the average low is 39 and never in recorded history has it gone that late without ice.
Kuhn can argue, correctly, that when Montreal was admitted to the major leagues in 1969, we were still two years away from the first World Series game to be played in the chill of the night, under the cold comfort of stadium lights. But that doesn't explain why we allowed Toronto into the game in 1977.
Less does it explain why we allowed either Montreal or Toronto in without domed stadiums. Montreal at least was originally designed to be domed, before the money ran out during the cost overruns of the ill- starred 1968 Olympics. The Toronto stadium, on the other hand, is an unroofable football palace, and that should have been as noticeable to the officialdom of baseball as Toronto's being due north of that banana-belt paradise, Buffalo.
It's this simple: No baseball players are more fanatic than 9- year-old baseball players, and they understand that it's too damn cold to toss the old pill around when it's almost Thanksgiving and the grass is brown and you can't see second base for the fallen leaves.
Rick Cerone, a catcher formerly of the Blue Jays, told Dave Anderson of The New York Times that his right hand never came back from the frostbite he suffered in Toronto's very first major league game in 1977. "It snowed the first five innings, and ever since my hand got frostbitten that day, I've had bad circulation in it. Whenever it's the least bit cold, I have trouble feeling the ball. I use heat packs to keep my hand warm. But that's what cold weather can do. It's not just how the cold affects you that day, it's how it can affect the rest of your career."
An Environment Canada spokesman gleefully calculated that in American wind-chill terms, the worst Toronto has offered in October is a 22-below-zero reading, and snow flurries are hardly uncommon.
How should a player dress for a World Series game in conditions like that? How much goose down can a shortstop wear and still be able to make the pivot? Can you swing for the bleachers with a parka on? Can you pitch a knuckleball with mittens? How soon can you die, standing in left field with a 40-knot wind blowing in off Lake Ontario?
This is what comes of extending America's sport to foreign climes. The Canadians, of course, are loving this a lot. Not only are they reveling in their success at playing what they happily concede is another country's game. But the tales being told up there about the joys of baseball in blizzards get more hair-raising every week.
We never had to put up with this when baseball was confined to the balmy environs of Minneapolis and Chicago. Now look at the mess the game is in. Are we looking at the season in which the last game of the 1985 World Series will not be played until after Opening Day 1986?
Just remember. When baseball games are called on account of rain, they are called with the reasonable assurance that the rain will end.
In the case of a World Series in Canada, if a Series is called on account of winter.