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1998 Playoffs

World Series Diary

Sports Illustrated baseball writer Mark Bechtel checks in from Mission Valley

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Posted: Tuesday October 20, 1998 07:20 PM

I'm really beginning to wonder if I'm ever going to see a close game this postseason. I've yet to witness a one-run game in person, and most of the affairs I've seen have been like Sunday night's Game 2, which was over after 45 minutes. That left for a lot of time for reflection. My SI colleagues— Jeff Pearlman and Jennifer Zajac— and I began reminiscing about great TV shows of our youth as we sat in Yankee Stadium's auxiliary press box in the leftfield seats. Pearlman and I share very similar tastes—we both consider ALF to be one of the best sitcoms ever (that's not really from our youth, though), and we both used to watch The Electric Company because there was always a chance Spiderman would be on.

Eventually the conversation turned to The Baseball Bunch, a hokey how-to show that was hosted by Johnny Bench . Every week a major leaguer would join the regular cast: Bench, the San Diego Chicken (who always ended up getting hit in the head with something—like Dave Parker 's cup or Disco Danny Ford 's sunglasses—that would send him reeling into some sort of temporary poultry paralysis) and Tommy Lasorda , who came on as some sort of New Age mystic in a turban he apparently stole from Johnny Carson 's prop department.

None of us could remember the name of Lasorda's character, and it got really frustrating. Eventually we made our way down to the press room to watch the last inning of the game when I spied CNN/SI analyst Ozzie Smith speaking intently with some scribe or another. I knew Ozzie had appeared on the show several times, so Pearlman dared me to go up to him and ask if he could remember Tommy's name. It didn't take him long to come up with "The Swami." Sounds like someone has grounds for a copyright infringement lawsuit against Chris Berman.

Hey, Boss!: On the flight out to San Diego, I was wedged in the back of the plane among a group of Padres fans. George Steinbrenner was on the flight, too, but he was sitting in first class, believe it or not. When we landed, the Padres backers started chanting "Here we go Padres, here we go!" apparently trying to get under the Boss' skin. The damn cheer was like the live version of Freebird. It was long, loud, out of tune, and every time I thought it was about to end, it kicked back in. At the luggage carousel, San Diegans descended upon Steinbrenner, asking for autographs. One guy tried to make him feel at home by taunting him, but the best he could do was, "Hey, where's my cannoli?" The worst was the woman who kept saying, "Don't let him sign anything unless it's a check." Some dude actually picked Steinbrenner's bag off the carousel for him, a kind gesture that certainly had the Boss feeling like a stranger in a strange land. Can you imagine the fate of Padres owner John Moores ' bags if they fell into Yankees fans' hands in the Bronx?

Oh, Doctor: What is going on with San Diego's pitchers? After Game 1, Kevin Brown said he was sick, but manager Bruce Bochy said he knew nothing about that. The next day, Bochy said Andy Ashby was sick, but Ashby said he was fine. Yesterday, pitching coach Dave Stewart was being interviewed about the "bug" that was going around the Padres staff. We'll see if Sterling Hitchcock comes down with something after Tuesday night's game, or if maybe it was just a case of the Yankees putting something in the Padres' rosin bag.  

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