ST. LOUIS -- Sitting here, struggling to select the right word, the precise word to describe the essence, the soul of this World Series, the best I can come up with so far is: "Who?"
Curt Ford. Who?
Tom Lawless. Who?
Dan Gladden. Who?
Randy Bush. Who?
When I think of a World Series, the kind of names that come to my mind are Catfish, Yogi, Brooks and Reggie. One-name guys. They're obviously the kind that come to Reggie's mind, too, because the other night he surveyed the Twins and Cardinals and announced: "There are no marquee players in this World Series. When I make out my lineup card, I have to put first names down to remember who these guys are. I'm still trying to find out who Tom Lawless is." Even now, after that Stagger-Lee Stroll around the bases, there's no guarantee he knows. I mean it's not like William Manchester's working on the biography.
Of course this Series has produced improbable heroes. Just who would be considered probable on these teams? If they built a monument to this World Series it would be the tomb of the unknown soldier.
The Minnesota Twins are a team best known for where they play their home games, not who plays them. They have an edifice complex. Their manager, Tom Kelly, as unobtrusive as drapery, tells reporters he's boring. Should they smile sympathetically, he says: "Honestly, I'm really boring."
Who are these Twins? How many could you have named last month? Okay, Kirby Puckett, but probably because you remember that Bob Costas promised to name his son after him. Okay, Kent Hrbek, because it always looks like a misprint. Kirby and Herby, who else? Gagne and Gaetti sounds like a firm specializing in sanitation consulting.
The Cardinals have been to the World Series three times in the last five years and still nobody knows them. They don't have a pitcher who even won 12 games. The most famous one, the frosty John Tudor, prefers to shun publicity. Willie McGee, already forgotten as the 1985 MVP, is best remembered for Howard Cosell's observing how he resembles "E.T." I could be wrong, but I don't sense any groundswell to send Steve Lake and John Morris to Cooperstown.
The Cardinals' manager, Whitey Herzog, is well known. But is it more for what he does, or for the color of his hair and the fact that his brush cut gives you a perfect lie to play a three-wood? Ozzie Clark and Jack Smith . . . excuse me, Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark -- I must have had them confused with the 300 or so guys named Smith and Clark in the NFL, the NBA and the NHL -- are stars, but Clark isn't playing, and with Smith you're never sure if he's playing baseball, ballet or circus.
It's not a dull Series, but the players aren't yet ready for the cover of People. No offense intended, and excluding the Twins' last two at-bats on Thursday, it just hasn't been a Series to remember so far, unless 400 infield hits are your idea of a thrill. The Series gets no respect. Ronald Reagan, a former baseball announcer, put it on hold for a while. Three of the first four games were decided in the fourth inning. What are you supposed to do for the next five, guess Juan Berenguer's weight?
Most recently, in Game 5, the key figure was Ford, a career platoon player, who, if he were an assembly-line Ford, would be an Escort. Starting from the top, in Game 1, the hero was Dan Gladden, who played a few seasons on bad San Francisco teams then was traded to what figured to be a bad Minnesota team. Game 2, the heroes were Randy Bush and Tim Laudner, who hit .191 this season. Laudner's fans happily join the "Buck Ninety Club," and Bush's career speaks for itself. Game 3, Vince Coleman did the damage.
Game 4 belonged to Lawless, who had two hits all season on his way to a narcoleptic .080 batting average. (At this rate Lawless will break Henry Aaron's record in 3118, October.) Talk about a Cadillac Trot. Lawless stood there admiring his work like he was in the Louvre. "They showed him standing at the plate and he looked like he must have hit it in the upper deck," said Greg Mathews, whom I'm sure you recall as the starting pitcher. "Then they showed the ball going out, and it was hilarious because it only made it by five feet." Said Gaetti: "He does that enough, there'll be a lot of dents in his helmet."
That's the kind of Series it's been. The losers are insulted by who's beating them. No names. Oquendo, Oquendo, Boquendo, Banana-fana-Fofendo. Fee-fi-Momendo. Oquendo. Now let's do Lombardozzi. Speaking of Lombardozzi, in Game 1 both No. 8 hitters' names ended in ozzi, Lombardozzi and Pagnozzi. How often does that happen? Lombardozzi hit a home run, a doozy by Dozzi. On the geographically idiosyncratic front, Games 2 and 5 matched pitchers born in Europe, England's Danny Cox and Holland's Bert Blyleven, the first time that both starters were first team all-NATO. And I know you'll want to be reminded that Lester Paul Straker was the first Venezuelan to pitch in the World Series. (Is Lester Straker a typical Venezuelan name, or have I watched too many episodes of "The Dating Game"?)
So here we were for one last game inside Busch Stadium, one more ride on top of those famous Clydesdales by the ineffable, towel-waving, 88-year-old Gussie (It Don't Get Any Better Than This) Busch. One more lap around in the Corvette for that spotted, besotted cur Spuds MacKenzie and -- get this -- his three spandexed party bimbos, the Spudettes. And only 150,000 more choruses of the "When you say Bud, you've said it all" song. Some ballpark. You don't know what's more important here, the last out or last call.