The ticket manager for the Oakland A's, a solid chunk of a woman named Lorraine Paulus, is living mostly on Cream of Wheat and Maalox.
"It's on, it's off, it's on, it's off. We're gonna go, we're not gonna go," she said. Ulcer city. Paulus purses her lips, folds her arms, shakes her close-cropped head: "I thought I was immune to it all, but apparently not."
It is very, very quiet outside the ticket office of the Oakland A's. This is partly because there aren't any tickets. There aren't any tickets because the scheduling was delayed, and the scheduling was delayed because nobody knew the A's were staying or going.
Nobody knows for sure now, either. The wind whistles in past the shuttered ticket offices at Oakland Coliseum, and you can almost hear Paulus' ulcer getting worse.
The opening game is at Anaheim Friday against the California Angels. The Angels are estimating an opening crowd of 35,000 or thereabouts and have plans for massive poster give-aways, a uniformed marching band, a Marine color guard and a professional singer to start it all off with the national anthem.
On Monday, allegedly, Oakland will open at home, against Seattle. Carl Finley, owner Charles O. Finley's cousin and publicity man for the A's, is asked about his plans. Finley gazed over his glasses, shoulders slumped. "Put nine men on the field," he said firmly. "Play baseball."
Got a color guard?
Got a band?
"Haven't had time to get 'em. Even the Salvation Army want to play." Pause. "They tell me it's pretty good, band."
You can buy A's tickets now, sort of. You put in a reservation and hope the printed tickets will arrive in time for the first game, Paulus won't say how many have been sold, but the feeling is that people are not exactly keeping each other off the reservation request forms.
"There are so many people that are holding off," Paulus explained - all those would-be A's fans, scanning their newspapers with furrowed brows, waiting for Finley to drop the other boot.
"Last week it looked like it was over, finish. No sale to Denver, no sale to Los Angeles buyers, no Giants games played in Oakland. The A's were staying and the Giants were staying and Arizona spring training was chugging right along. By the weekend the rumors were back, only slightly spiked: the A's might be sold to Denver, open in Oakland, and move midseason."
This last possibility renders Paulus momentarily speechless. The envelope she is holding taps furiously against the table, and with her left hand she begins gently kneading her forehead.
"That's . . . that's . . . I don't even want to think about that. You'd be in a straitjacket then."
The Giants would then play 40 games in Oakland, which would mean recalling their tickets for those dates in San Francisco's Candlestick Park.
"It's giving me gray hair," said Giant ticket manager Arthur Schuze.
Oakland Coliseum would have to weave the Giants' inflexible schedule into the equally inflexible schedules of the NFL Oakland Raiders, (two pre-season games are set for August), the NASL Stompers, the WTT Golden Gaters and an assortment of jazz and rock musicians whose summer plans presumably did not take into account the continuing saga of the A's.
And somewhere in the midst of all this are the fans A's fans. They wear green and yellow jackets and matching caps.There was a diehard clutch of Oakland youngsters who would lean over the fence last year and yell at Mitchell page - "Mitch, Mitch, throw the baseball!" - and always in the seventh inning he would.
Finley says there aren't enough of the fans, never were, even when the team was winning three world championships in a row. People here retort that Finley didn't understand anything about marketing. By last season the fans had taken on the fierce myopic affection of adoring relatives; they were holding up a decimated team, and everybody knew it.
There is one man who keeps a small chunk of A's-trodden turf in a styro-form cup in his living room, a man who still mourns the recent death of the team mule - "a beautiful mule, not your average-looking mule" - and waits in despair for the latest word from Denver.
"It's beyond frustration," he said.