Anyone who isn't a baseball fan now, isn't going to be one.
Reggie Jackson's four home runs in his final four swing of the World Series were simply the last enticement. For seven months, baseball has been doing her wooing very successfully.
Remember, this was supposed to be baseball's year of comeuppance, the season when the game's popularity would play out its option and switch allegiances like a fickle outfielder.
The wages of the game's recent malfeasance were supposed to be a World Series this October between bankruptcy and receivership.
Instead, hardly a week has passed this season in which the game has not twisted and shaken itself before the public eye like a kaleidoscope.
Ever since that spring training day when Texas' Lenny Randle knocked his manager unconscious, the old strait-laced game has had an unaccustomed twinkle in th eye, as if to say, "So you think you've seen it all?"
No one had ever heard of a city trying to raise $100,000 for a holdout player who was already making $300,000 a year. But Cincinnati did it for Pete Rose.
On the eve of opening day the world champions' fans were so mutinous and primed for protest that the team defended itself in full-page newspaper ads. Then, finally, the overwhelmed Reds caved in and gave Rose most of what he wanted.
The first pitch had not been thrown, but already a hint of madness was in the spring air. The American League's home run champ. Graig Nettles, went AWOL from the New York Yankee camp in a salary-renegotiation dispute, explaining, "On this crazy team, it's the only way I can get anybody's attention."
From the very first weeks of the season, nothing made sense. The Los Angeles Dodgers fired the first shots of the revolution, winning 22 of 26 games and leaving the Reds a dozen games behind.
The rookie Dodger manager, Tommy Lasorda, who had predicted just such a rolling start, crowed, "I feel like the hyprochodriac who died and had it written on his tombstone, 'They wouldn't believe me.'"
From the very beginning, the Yankees cooperated. Before may flowers ever arrived, manager Bill Martin had been reduced to 1) putting gold crosses on his cap for luck and 2) pulling his lineup at random out of that same hat.
No wonder the New Yorkers were gurgling and choking. Each had his hands around another's throat.
While those enemies of "competitive balance" - the Reds and Yankees - tripped over the starting line, almost every other team in the game got off to a booming start.
The best winter free agents had ended up with teams like California, San Diego, Milwaukee, Montreal and Texas that desperately needed hype at the gate. Even if many free agents failed, at least they stumbled before good houses.
It took less than a month to recognize the single biggest shocker of the year - the new Rawlings ball.
Nothing beats a little hysteria about "Rabbit Balls" and "Cheap Home Runs."
Isn't it awful?" clucked the fans as they sat bug-eyed, afraid that they would miss a 600-foot home run.
The Rawlings company, in a rare(for baseball) statement of absolute candor and accuracy, said they expected home runs to increase by at least 40 per cent over the previous year's low total.
"We aren't making a rabbit ball." protested a Rawlings spokesman. "But the people who made the ball last year(Spalding) sure were making a turtle ball."
The shock waves rippled throughout baseball. The Chicago White Sox, and their imaginative, renegade owner Bill Veeck, were the first to realize that a new ball demanded new tactics.
Veeck "as in wreck," indeed. The White Sox became the "Veecking crew," attacking every strike a pitcher dared throw.
"When we played them in May," said Kansas City Royal manager Whitey Herzog, "it was the most frightening thing I ever saw. I thought we might never get them out. The old Yankees never hit like the White Sox did for the first 100 games."
The psychological, as well as strictly aerodynamic, qualities of the new ball completely reversed the initiative of the game, putting the sense of power back with the hitters.
If baseball could fine-tune the relationship between home runs, stolen bases, runs scored, and the ERA, this would be the almost-perfectly balanced season.
Pitchers like Bruce Sutter (1.35 ERA), Nolan Ryan(341 strikeouts) and Sparky Lyle (2.17 ERA, 52 Fireman's points) had marvelous statistics, but hitters, for once, were their equal.
Minnesota's Rod Carew became a year-long symbol of the game's rejuvenation. His .338 batting average and 239 hits-on a grass home field no lets-redefined what a batter was capable of achieving.
"They ought to give Carew a separate award called "Best Hitter in the Universe," said 1976 Al batting champ George Brett, "and then give the batting title to whoever finishes second. That's the only way we have a chance."
Carew's average was the highest in baseball since 1930 by a man with 600 at bats. His hit total was also the highest since that fluke season of the depression when the all-time rabbit ball was used. Carew's feat of outhitting every man in baseball by 50 points this season is probably the most singular event in baseball in 1977. It was the largest single-season margin of batting superiority in the history of the game (edging Nap Lajoie in 1901 by a fraction of a per cent).
While Carew's face was on the nation's magazine covers in May, symbolizing artistry, another group of bruisers from Boston put on the greatest slugging fortnight in the history of the game in June.
The Over The Wall Gang - the Boston Red Sox - smashed 33 home runs in 10 consecutive games, obliterating the old record of 28.
"I'm getting whiplash," said Baltimore shortstop Mark Belanger after watching five Jim Palmer gopher balls in one game.
"Teams aren't going to want to land in Boston," said Oriole manager Earl Weaver. "The pitchers are going to ask the pilots to keep on going to Nova Scotia or someplace."
"Deep, deeeeep," went the foghorn chant on the Bosox bench as fence fever spread.
And that was the chant from Cincinnati, where George Foster mashed 52 taters: to Philadelphia, where Greg(Bull) Luzinski and Mike Schmidt paired for 77 homers and 231 RBI: to L.A. where four players on the same team all hit 30 homers for the first time in history.
If raw power was the season's leitmotif - a sort of Wagnerian french horn echoing in the wings all year, then hallmark of the entire year was a series of sudden usurptions of center stage by the most outrageous peripheral characters.
In May the Atlanta owner Ted Turner made himself manager for a day and oversaw his Braves in their 17th consecutive defeat. "Ah, a baseball team's just a toy, like a boat in a bathtub," said yachtsman Turner, a skipper on both land and sea. Then Turner's league president ordered him out of the dugout.
"Come on, Chuberoomboom," Turner pleaded with NL prexy Charles (Chub) Feeney. "I was smart enough to make $11 million to buy these bums. How come I'm not smart enough to manage 'em?"
Equaling Turner's 24 hours as a manager was 60-year-old Eddie Stanky, who accepted the Texas Ranger job, then turned it back in like a hotel room key after on e game. "Homesick," he said.
There were times in mid-season when baseball had so many competing phenomena that fans did not know which way to turn. Billy Martin tried to punch Reggie Jackson on national television in the midst of the same series in which the Red Sox hit an all-time record 16 homers in three days.
At the All-Star break, Chicago stunned the sports nation by having two first-place teams - one in each league. Both the Cubs, led by Bruce (Oh, what a relief he is) Sutter, and the White Sox, faded, but not until they had usurped the throne for more than 100 days.
The team, however, that best captured this season, was the defeathered Baltimore Orioles. Stripped of three multi-million-dollar free agents during the offseason, and depending on nine rookies on a 25-man squad, the Baby Birds fought on equal terms with the Bronx Bickerers and the Over the Wall Gang all season, winning 98 games and challenging until the final week.
At season's end, with five first-year men on the field nearly every day, the O's were playing their finest ball. "I wish we could keep on playing until November," said the Bird sophomore southpaw Mike Flanagan who finished the year with a 13-2 binge. "But I guess the Yankees wouldn't want to come over and play us in my backyard."
In such a season, events that would be landmarks in other years almost shrank to the level of footnotes. Lou Brock broke Ty Cobb's career stolen base record and ran his total to an even 900. And the greatest Oriole, Brook Robinson, retired after 23 years with the same club - a major league record.
Does anyone ever remember that in the last hours before the trading deadline the New York Mets traded away perhaps the best pitcher in the game (Tom Seaver) and a slugger (Dave Kingman), all for a handful of low-salaried unknowns?
Against this backdrop it is fortunate that the American League playoffs came down to the final inning of the fifth game with the seemingly Damned Yankes redeeming themselves once again. Anything less would have seemed a cheat.
And perhaps it was only appropriate that the team which most experts called the best in baseball coming into the playoffs - the Philadephia Phillies - never even made it to the World Series. Nothing else had been predictable for six months. Why should the best team win?
When the Yankee-Dodger World Series began with a 12-inning game that ended with a game-winning hit on the stroke of midnight, many must have been tempted to yawn and say, "What do you expect? It's baseball. The greatest game anybody ever thought of."
But, incredibly, the best single moment - the one that will live longest in lore - had been saved for last.
Reggie Jackson, symbol of the free agents who were supposed to slay the game yet helped to revive it, central protagonist in the exhausting drama of the carniverous Yankee clubhouse, ended the season with a feat that was unique.
In a century, no man - as far as the game's scriveners can currently tell - has ever hit four home runs in four consecutive swings.
As Jackson rounded the bases for his final time, as the scoreboard proclaimed "Another Jax Attack," the Yankee Stadium throng let out a roar that would have drown a dozen Concordes. It was the proper defeatening note to end a tumultuouous season.