By happy chance, I have a letter from Santa Claus to the commissioner of baseball, Bowie Kuhn.
"North Pole, Monday, Oct. 19. "Dear Bowie,
"While looking for the Bloomingdale's ads in this morning's paper, I noticed a strange thing.
"The baseball season is not over.
"I don't understand, sir.
"Not only that, I turned on the TV this afternoon to catch the new-toy commercials and saw the Dodgers playing the Expos at Montreal. The fans wore parkas. It was 40 degrees with a strong wind. I expected to see Guy Lafleur throw out the first puck.
"I was astonished to hear the announcers say this was a playoff game.
I don't know if you have noticed, Bowie, but they're selling pumpkins for Halloween and turkeys are saying their prayers every night. And baseball hasn't got around to the World Series yet.
"I refer you to the Claus-Landis agreement, dated Dec. 25, 1919. As you know, that agreement calls for the baseball season to end before it snows.
"I am worried. This is my busy season. The mailman staggers in every day with more letters from spoiled brats. Most of them want a Space Invaders hookup for their TV. Reggie Jackson asked for boxing gloves. George Steinbrenner sent a telegram: 'Gimme right-handed Koufax.'
"The elves want a raise. They say they are rare talents not easily replaced. They want a share of the cable-TV money. They're in touch with Marvin Miller.
"So it's important that nothing distract me from my duties. If my personal appearances are forced to share the public's attention with the World Series, then business will suffer. Bloomingdale's and The Hecht Company may never hire me again. Macy's may leave me out of the Thanksgiving Parade.
"You can understand, Bowie, why I'm concerned.
"There are so many hints you want to renege on the long-honored agreement between our two great pastimes. I realize it wasn't your idea to play a split season. You favored it, though, when a vigorous opposition might have prevented it. The creation of the split season made it necessary to have an extra round of playoffs.
"The precedent is disquieting, for three or four days of rain would have you playing baseball in November.
"The Claus-Landis agreement, as you know, was the outgrowth of the 1911 World Series that was delayed six days by rain. That Series lasted until Oct. 26. Because the National League season didn't end until Oct. 12, the Series started late. Then the rain started after the third game.
"Everyone became edgy. The Giants and Athletics talked about striking during the Series for a share of the rights money paid by motion-picture people. Nothing new under the sun, Bowie. Graig Nettles decking Reggie is a good story, but no better than the 1911 episode in which Fred Snodgrass of the Giants was accused of deliberately spiking the A's star, Frank (Home Run) Baker.
"The Washington Post's reporter, Joe S. Jackson, left nothing unreported in that six-day delay. At one point he wrote how tough it had been for the reporters: 'Meantime the plain, ordinary newspapermen are having their sorrows. Most of them have been marooned in Philadelphia with one collar and two handkerchiefs each about the extent of their baggage . . . Wiring for money is the national pastime tonight.'
"There's the rub, Bowie. Money spent on baseball is money not spent on Ken and Barbie dolls.
"The commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, tried to clean up baseball after the 1919 Black Sox scandal. The Claus-Landis agreement was little reported at the time. Neither of us needed the publicity, and neither of us thought we'd ever need to call in the National Guard to enforce it.
"We agreed it would profit us both if we would not poach on the other's territory.
"So I agreed to make no personal appearances in baseball stadiums. (I disavow imposters.) In return, the commissioner promised to get the baseball season over before it snowed. 'Long before Christmas,' Landis said.
"Well now, Bowie, Christmas is just around the corner and you haven't started the World Series yet.
"I know you're a busy man. I read in the papers about the big decision on Jimmy Cagney. You wouldn't let him throw out the first ball of the World Series. You have a policy on that. No actors and no politicians can throw out the first ball. Good thing Ronald Reagan didn't ask to do the honors.
"Anyway, if this World Series goes six games, it will end Oct. 27. That's the latest date any Series ever went, two weeks beyond most.
"If there are six days of rain again, or a New York blizzard, this World Series will bump up against Thanksgiving.
"Our law firm, Claus, Claus & Claus, will stay in touch with your office. And remember this, Bowie: I am making a list and checking it twice, to see who has been naughty and who has been nice. Get the Series over before it snows, and you'll get those thermal underwear you asked for.
"Yours for warm sports,