For the past 48 hours since Sparky Lyle marched off a mound in Kansas City with his fists raised triumphantly over his head, New York City has been busy proving that no city can host a World Series the way this one can.
First, 5,000 people showed up at Newark Airport at 4 a.m. Monday to greet the returning Yankees.
"The fans owned the airport," said New York Yankee pitcher Mike Torrez. "The pickpockets were frisking us as we went past, I was patted every where but on the back.
"Billy Martin had his picket ripped right off his pants and the chain torn from around his neck. I was lucky.The only thing I had ripped off was a handful of bills. The guy unzipped my bag while I was looking at him, reached in, grabbed what he could and ran. If he wants to pay my bills, that's O.K. with me."
"As a historian," grinned cather Fran Healy, who has a master's degree in American Studies, "I found it intensely interesting, looking at the faces, feeling everybody's excitement. As a 6-foot-6 human being, I was scared to death."
No sooner had the Yankees pushed through the airport-Torrez kissing the women, Roy White protecting his young daughter, Graig Nettles using an NFL-style forearm-than the city wide battle for World Series tickets began.
A line eight abreast began forming outside Yankee Stadium just minutes after the final playoff out at 11:30 p.m. Sunday. Nine hours later the ticket line wrapped all the way around the House That Ruth Built and doubled back on itself so that police had to construct a sort of moat of barricades to keep the first arrivals and the last from fighting.
The 5,000 blencher seats - all that was leit for on-the-spot sale - were snapped up instantly, with those who were shut out gladly offering $20 for the $4 seats.
This evening, hours before the game, hundreds of fans swirled around the stadium droning the New York sports fans plaintive dirge: "Who's sellin' 'em, sellin' em. Hundred (dollars) for a box seat."
Before Monday afternoon's workouts, more than 1,000 fans stood outside to cheer the entering Yankees and hoot the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.
As the Dodgers took batting practice inside the stadium, they could hear the volleys of sound from the parking lot as the New York heroes arrived one by one. "That must be (Thurman) Munson," said Dodger catcher Steve Yeager for one extended hullabaloo.
"There's Reggie (Jackson)," cracked tonight's opening game pitcher Don Sutton, when the distant sounds of boos as well as cheers echoed about the empty park.
Perhaps no two Series teams have ever epitomized their opposite cities so well. "Teams become characteristic of their towns," said Dodgers slugging star Steve Garvey. "Especially these two."
The contrast of coasts, climates and customs in almost complete. The Dodgers are a fair-weather team, tanned and happy with one another. A smile is their insignia. Frank Sinatra and Don Rickles are the clubhouse buddies of their admittedly star-struck manager Tommy Lasarda.
The Dodgers are show biz to the core. "We sense how much our fans love us," said Garvey, "and we try to do everything to satisfy them and cater to them. You almost never hear a boo in Dodger Stadium."
'The Yankees are as gritty and problematic as New York itself. This team survives from day to day, struggling to quash internal dissension even as it searches for its next healthy pitcher.
Ken Holtzman wants to be traded to his home, Chicago, Munson wants to get back to Cleveland and his farm. Mickey Rivers just wants to be traded anywhere. Never have so many wanted to escape from a team so good.
When the Yankee plane was returning from Kansas City, the pilot announced, "We are passing over the Cleveland-Akron area."
"Hey, Munson," yelled a voice from the coach section, "why don't you get a chute and jump."
A wise-guy scrub? Not on the Yanks. The voice belonged to the owner, George Steinbrenner.
For much of this season the team in Yankee Stadium has been something of an embarrassment, and even sorrow, to New York. The rich children inside the $100 million playpen built at public expense have squabbled and set an example for immaturity, while the children outside the park endure the squalor of the South Bronx.
But for the first night of the World Series, social realities were temporarily forgotten, if not forgiven. Few New Yorkers find the Yankee champaigne hard to swallow. Bitter as the season has often been, clay-footed as its swift heroes have seemed, this city still insists that victory, even at the Yankee price, is sweet.
Turn back the clock to the 1950's give the men inside wearing the pinstripes the benefit of the doubt. It's the Yankees and the Dodgers once again. Little else matters here.
So, tonight, Yankee stadium was a blue and alabaster bauble once again. The thousands streaming past the New York house of detention just a block away lifted their eyes from the gutters and looked at the arc lights making their own sunset above this gorgeous and historic park.
The Great White Way offered no opening to match it.