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  Baltimore, Or Less

Tony Kornheiser
By Tony Kornheiser
Washington Post Columnist
Thursday, October 16, 1997; Page E1

BALTIMORE — And so, thanks to Tony "The Bambino" Fernandez, we now face the excruciating prospect of a Cleveland-Florida World Series, an attraction that I'm sure will be viewed by thousands of people on television.

Cleveland, the home of the lake effect snowstorm, vs. Florida, the home of the torrential thunderstorm. They'll call this the El Nino Series. They ought to televise it on The Weather Channel.

Actually, Cleveland and Florida have a lot in common: Everybody who used to live in Cleveland now lives in Florida. So at least families can be reunited.

Personally, I think the games in Florida should start at 1 p.m., so all the retirees living in South Florida can stick to their routines-early bird dinners at 5 p.m., watch a few hours of cable TV news, then go to bed and wake up at 4 a.m., counting the hours until Denny's opens.

The only regret I have about Baltimore not making the World Series is that we won't get to see Bobby Bonilla in there against Davey Johnson. You remember what Bonilla said about Davey, don't you? The ever gracious Bobby Bo called Davey "a hot air balloon," and said, "I wouldn't let Davey manage my Rotisserie team."

So much for being in first place wire to wire. That might have counted for more if this was Western Union and not the playoffs.

I don't know about you, but after a while the Baltimore-Cleveland series began to bore me. Just one blowout after another. Yeah, sure. If these games were any tighter, the seams on the baseball would have split.

How about this one? One-zip in 11. Raise your hands if you have any fingernails left. A zero-zero game may not cut it in football, but you couldn't ask for more excitement here. The Indians have nothing to look back in anger at-they got only three hits all day. The Orioles, though, left 14 men on base. Nine in scoring position. Cal Ripken was left behind more often than Macaulay Culkin. And ultimately the guy who was home alone was Tony Fernandez, with just the 78th homer of his 14-year major league career.

Maybe there's some payback here. Baltimore stole Cleveland's football team. Now Cleveland has stolen Baltimore's spot in the World Series.

There's a notion going around Baltimore that one of the reasons the Orioles had such difficulty with Cleveland is that the Camden Yards crowd had not been loud enough — that the Jacobs Field crowd had put it to shame. Before the game, Davey tried to laugh this off, saying: "We're more civilized. I heard Cleveland fans saying they wanted a rumble. What does a rumble have to do with baseball?" Smiling his best smart aleck smile, Davey made sure to add, "Maybe they feel that way because they don't have a football team, heh-heh." (It was all Davey could do to keep from going outside, and pointing to where Maryland was building a brand new football stadium for its favorite son, Art "Give My Regards To Euclid Avenue" Modell.)

But the truly insidious part of this idiotic theory that the Indians would win this series because their fans are louder — and not because Armando Benitez couldn't get outs, and Lenny Webster couldn't hold onto the baseball — is that Baltimorons have taken to blaming the Washingtonians in their midst.

We're not loud enough.

We're not loyal enough.

We don't spend the whole game screaming like banshees.

(This Crabcake Populism is being circulated by true men of the people, such as book critic Johnny Yardley, a renowned shot-and-a-beer guy, and Baltimore Sun sports columnist Ken Rosenthal, who drives an American car.)

Oh, sure, blame Washington — everyone else does.

Go ahead, hate us because we're rich lawyers, and we have cell phones.

Tell yourselves we ruined your game.

Oh, please.

Don't blame us for the lack of noise, hon.

Without Washington lawyers in the stands there would be nobody to contact in case of personal injury. Without Washingtonian yuppies filling up 30 percent of the seats this joint would be as empty as ... as empty as the gold seats at The Big Jack. Or as empty as the feeling Armando Benitez has now. Talk about having a bad week: Benitez gave up the Game 2 homer to Marquis Grissom, he gave up the Game 6 homer to Fernandez and he gave up the game-winning hit to Sandy Alomar Jr. in Game 4. I'll bet from now on Benitez won't even tune in to watch Cleveland homeboy Drew Carey.

By the way, the Camden Yards crowd sure got stony quiet after Fernandez hit that homer. You could have heard a pin drop after that — and Davey's contract too for that matter.

Oh, yeah, don't be surprised when you start reading about whispers inside the Orioles' hierarchy that Davey has to go. Peter G. is probably so hot after this loss that, dare we say it, asbestos wouldn't put the fire out.

Yes, Cleveland beating the O's is an upset. But let's not make it into Ali-Liston. The Indians have won their division for three straight seasons, which, if we're counting, is two more straight seasons than the O's.

The one guy on the Orioles who should be hot is Mike Mussina. He stood out there like Horatio at the bridge, and didn't get any support at all. He'd have gotten more help at Home Depot than he did from his teammates.

Mussina's pitching in this series was breathtaking. Mussina pitched 15 innings against the Indians, allowing a measly four hits-and struck out 25! He should have been the ALCS MVP, and instead he came away with two no-decisions, as Orel Hershiser in Game 3 and Charlie Nagy in Game 6 matched him inning for inning. Counting his two victories over Randy Johnson in the divisional playoffs, Mussina's postseason has been a work of art. He has been Mickey Lolich without the barrel belly.

Unlike in Game 3, Mussina didn't strike out everybody on the Indians seven times each on Wednesday. In fact, Mussina didn't strike out anybody until the second inning! Then he got hot, and struck out four Indians in the second and third, four more in the fifth and sixth, two more in the eighth; Mussina struck out Grissom so often, Grissom looked like a windmill. Mussina was simply magnificent, conceding just one hit. Considering there wasn't a ray of sun on the field all afternoon, I don't suppose anybody can claim he lost Mussina's fastball in the afternoon shadows. Actually, with the temperatures in the raw fifties and the overcast sky, I toyed with stealing Grantland Rice's famous first sentence: "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again ..." But other than Mussina, who were the horsemen? The rest of the O's were simply Famine, Pestilence and Destruction.

Had the O's won they would have faced Hershiser on Thursday. Curiously, because he was scheduled to pitch Game 7, Hershiser was supposed to meet with the media before Game 6. But he ducked the news conference, presumably because he didn't want to face questions about Johnson's allegation that he throws a spitter. I don't want to say Hershiser throws a wet ball, but during Tuesday's off day, farmers in Frostburg, who were worried about the lack of rain, asked Hershiser if he could come by their fields and just toss the ball around.

Now, obviously, there's no need for Hershiser to answer anything in Baltimore. He moves on to Florida.

And what do Baltimore and Washington have in common now?

There's no baseball in either city.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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