MINNEAPOLIS -- Well, it took 63 years, 15 presidents, three wars, two stock market crashes, about 30,000 tie-ups on the Beltway and Fanne Fox in the Tidal Basin in between, but our Washington Senators franchise finally won another World Series.
For those of you who don't remember the last time, in 1924, it, too, was decided in a seventh game at home. The Senators were tied with the Giants, 3-3, in the 12th inning, with men on first and second, when Earl McNeely hit a cold double-play ball to Freddie Lindstrom at third. But just before it reached Lindstrom, the ball struck a pebble and skipped high over Lindstrom's head. One run scored, and the Senators won the Series.
Now, 63 years later, the Senators -- I suppose some people in the hustings insist on calling them the Minnesota Twins -- once again got some unexpected help from their home field. From a pebble to forced air and a canvas-colored inflatable roof. From Teapot Dome to Metrodome. In the era of the Teflon presidency, a Teflon residency.
The Twins perservered through a comedy of calls and some of the slowest running since The Fat Boys 10K, to become the first team ever to win all four home games in the World Series.
In the calls department, umpires Lee Weyer, at first, and Dave Phillips, at home, had brutal evenings. They should want to kill the crank who invented instant replay. Phillips apparently missed Don Baylor -- rounding third like he was asking the coach for directions to the plate -- safe at home, under Steve Lake's tag in the second. Weyer may have missed Joe Magrane in the fifth dragging his foot across first to nip Greg Gagne, who later scored the tying run, then missed Tom Herr clearly getting back to first ahead of Frank Viola's tag in a sixth-inning rundown. In a game of inches, a foot here and there is a big deal.
In the base running department, the Twins suffered not only with Baylor's lumbersome stride, which made Phillips' call possible, but with Kirby Puckett thrown out at third trying to advance after a pitch briefly eluded Lake in the fifth, and Gary Gaetti getting thrown out at home in the same inning. The fifth was preposterously tantalizing for the Twins. They had one run in, and a man on second with one out. They got their next two hitters on safely and still failed to score. Talk about how to stock Lake Wobegon.
But the Cardinals couldn't take advantage. Danny Cox, in relief of Magrane on two days' rest, was catastrophic -- facing five men, giving up three walks and two hits. As costly, the Cardinals' hitting was anemic. They had Viola staggering early, then started swinging wild high at anything at least two feet over their heads. Over the last seven innings St. Louis sent 22 men to the plate against Viola and Jeff Reardon, one over the minimum.
So what can we say, but that we finally won? We're in a unique situation in Washington -- being the only city with two home teams, neither of which play here: The Twins are ours. The Texas Rangers are ours, too.
There's a school of thought that believes the San Diego Padres are ours as well, since they were supposed to move to Washington in 1974; their arrival was considered such a certainty that Topps printed baseball cards for a Washington NL team with Padres' players on them. Then there are Washingtonians who've considered the Houston Astros ours ever since their owner teased us a couple of years ago. In a sense we're blessed with four home teams. Unfortunately, most years all four are garbage.
Our Twins, though, seem the best suited to Washington. An unambiguously powerful team for the most power-mad city in the world. (Stop me if I start sounding like a Riggs commercial.) The Twins of Hrbek, Brunansky, Puckett and Gaetti are reminiscent of the various Senators incarnations featuring Harmon Killebrew, Roy Sievers or Frank Howard. "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Wasn't that originally a Washington policy?
Such self-made, dependable, outgoing types as Kirby and Herbie would be such local favorites; Duke would probably name a pickle after them. And such graybeards as Don Baylor and Joe Niekro would fit comfortably in a city that respects age and experience; ask Claude Pepper. Had this Series been played at RFK you wouldn't have presidential press conferences delaying the start of the game; Ronald Reagan would be at the ballyard.
Speaking of RFK, the Twins would feel right at home there. Instead of Homer Hankies the fans could wave bureaucratic red tape or those plastic laminated ID cards everyone seems to have. As deafening as it gets in the Decibel Dome, anyone who's been to a Redskins game can testify that the stands literally shake with noise. The Metrodome Hefty Bag in right? Since its retractable seats froze from disuse, RFK can counter with that surreal 250-foot welcome mat in left -- short enough that Luke Appling, 75, hit one out in the Cracker Jack game a few years ago.
Alas, our Twins probably won't be back. So we'll have to satisfy ourselves with the knowledge that they're a chip off the old block. They're the first world champions to give up more runs than they scored in the regular season. Their .525 winning percentage is the lowest for an AL champion, their 4.63 ERA the highest for a team in postseason play. They had no clue how to win on the road, and they had a rookie manager, and in similar situations rookie managers had won four of 17 Series. Every sign pointed the way for them to lose.
It took events deus ex machina to do it: a pebble in 1924, and a dome in 1987. Maybe it's winning lucky, but it's winning. Almost an hour after the last out, the Twins were still on the field, their fans, 55,000 of them, waving Homer Hankies, screaming as the banner -- "Feel Our Thunder" -- was paraded around the infield. And if only in our dreams, Washington, it's ours.