Bostonians are not the only baseball fans who secretly know that fall is the heart-break season. Once, dreams here rarely had the Phillies playing beyond September. Now there is an annual nightmare best described as Octoberfunk.
"Well," said Jim Kaat, "this is not a position we haven't been in before. If anyone is used to this, it's us."
For three years, the Phils have dominated a week division, the National League East, and then played the buffoon to the Reds and Dodgers in the playoffs. Yesterday was so disheartening the fans here hardly even wasted their energy with boos.
That was the ultimate insult.
"I've never seen this team as relaxed as this year," said catcher Tim McCarver. "So some s.o.b. will say that lethargy has set in."
In many ways, the Phils are the baseball equivalent of Elvin Hayes on the free-throw line in the final moments of an important game, the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl, Gerald Ford with a 10-point lead in the polls. Let Mike Schmidt tell you about it:
"It's easy for me to stand up there in batting practice and ping those line drives. I'm as loose as can be around 5:45. You ought to see some of the balls I hit. It's a different situation in a game.
"I get up there and the adrenalin starts flowing and I can't control it. My hands get like this" - he clenched his fists - "around the bat."
By most estimates, Schmidt is the highest-paid player in all of baseball, with about a $575,000 annual income. Because of it, Philadelphians take special delight in booing him after each mistak. He hit .063 during the playoffs last season; he was far under most of his offensive numbers this season.
"Now I'm pressing too hard." he said before the playoffs began. "That's why I'm hitting so lousy [at home]. Some of the things the fans have said were awful, plain sick. But I'm more relaxed than I've been all year. I'm excited that the people here might finally see the type of player they expect me to be."
Schmidt has been the embodiment of the Phillies. The first time up in the first game he was relaxed and confident - and smacked a Burt Hooton pitch deep to center that scored Greg Luzinski from third after the catch.
Then he misplayed a grounder at third, when the ball hit a small pudle and skidded when it should have hopped. Immediately, the fans jumped him. Immediately, he was through for the game as an offensive threat.
The fans were more compassionate with Schmidt and the Phils yesterday, but that did no good. Tommy John threw 21 one-hop outs. In the test of wills that baseball often becomes. Dodger batters were steel; the Phils were silly putty!
"They hit every mistake I made," said losing pitcher Dick Ruthven. "And the good pitches, too. They've done it to me too many times when I've had good stuff."
One of the symptoms of October-funk is to assume it is inflicted by outsiders. Phillie players have more placed to hide after a game than a second-story man on the lam. Ironically one of their favorite off-limits rooms is behind a door with a prominant sign that reads: "Yes We Can."
Their modern history insists no, they can't. With yesterday's shutout loss, the Phils are 2-16 in postseason play. They were 1-4 against the Red Sox in the 1915 World Series and 0-4 to the Yankees in the 1950 World Series. They were 0-3 against the Reds in the '76 National League playoffs and 1-3 against the Dodgers last season.
Incredibly, Manager Danny Ozark boasted that the Phils would sweep the series - win the first two games here and ride Steve Carlton's arm to the World Series tomorrow in Los Angeles.
The only ride anyone was suggesting to Ozark yesterday was out of town.
"We wanted to jump on them early and get them down mentally," said Davey Lopes, who took the first leap with a fourth-inning home run and added a stomp for good measure with a fifth-inning single that produced a 3-0 lead that might have been 33-0 as far as Phillie minds were concerned.
Lunzinski has been the only Phillie during the three-season playoffs with any sustained offensive zest. With a seventh-inning single, he has hit safely in all nine playoff games.
"If we had 24 Bulls," said shortstop Larry Bowa, "I know everybody's attitude would be good. We don't have 24 Bulls, though."
And Ozark is not the E.F. Hutton of managers. What will he offer as inspiration before today's game in Los Angeles?
"I'll tell them," he said, "that the manhole is open and we'll fall through . . . thing if we don't win."