On Sunday night Cleveland's Orel Hershiser narrowly out-bulldogged New York's Dwight Gooden, who got the start when David Cone was scratched. Sound familiar? Sandy Alomar Jr., whose old man appeared in the '76 playoffs for the Yankees, tied the game for the Tribe with a solo home run in the eighth and looked, as he rounded first with his fists raised, a little like Steve Garvey. Or Kirk Gibson. Or Kirby Puckett. Or Joe Carter.
Bobby Cox, Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella and Jim Leyland looked on from the dugouts last week. These could be the 1988 playoffs. Or the '90 playoffs. To those who say baseball ain't what it used to be, we say: Baseball is exactly what it used to be.
At least it is in October, when the playoffs can pull off the impossible. Think about it: During this month, an endless season actually seems fleeting and the games themselves too short. The postseason opened with a masterly matchup between Atlanta righthander Maddux and Houston righthander Darryl Kile, starkly reminding fans how few superb pitchers remain. It took a scant two hours and 15 minutes for the Braves to win, 2-1, and the game really did seem to be over before it was over.
When time gets telescoped like that, aging is accelerated. Just take a gander at the wondrous mug of Zimmer, the Yankees' bench coach: His face looks like a beanbag chair that's been sat on by a fat guy, which is exactly what October will do to you. It turns your stomach lining inside out so that it matches your rally cap. And it comes not a moment too soon. After a summer of soothing white noise, October is much more than the playoffs. It's the payoff.