Gone are the days when you could go out and spend an evening under the stars and maybe try to locate the Big Dipper, lying there in your sleeping bag looking up at all those friendly little pinpoints of light. Then there was the moon, round and bright, and beyond it, way off in the opaque velvet known as space, the planets. Mars, Venus, Jupiter, slow-moving Saturn. You couldn't see them on this particular night, but they were there, you took it on faith, traveling their orbits in the sky while you traveled yours on earth. They didn't bother you, you didn't bother them, right? So what happens...?
A friend—nice girl, really, but inclined to go off on tangents—has been bending your ear about astrology. She invites you to dinner and you eat a few unidentifiable roots. You're an Aquarian, she says, and your horoscope says that's what you like to eat—the Sagittarian gets the steak. By the time the evening is over your natal chart has been "erected," which is the word she uses. Frankly, things don't look too good. Uranus (progress) is square Venus (love), which apparently means you might as well go out and drown yourself. Saturn (obstacles) is retrograde in your money house (you did lose a bundle on the Vikings-Browns game, didn't you?). That's only the beginning, though she hesitates to tell you this with that friendly office football game coming up (by this time she's gone through your personal birth data like someone clearing away wet marsh grass with a cleaver) but, she continues, the truth is that when you were born your fifth house—recreation and sport—was as empty as a condemned tenement on the other side of town. Brutal sports are not for you. Besides, this month (with transiting Mars retrograding over a strategic point in your chart) you're extremely accident prone. All in all, it was a lovely evening.
You play anyway, of course. Astrology? What nonsense.
Later when she visits you she brings along some books: Linda Goodman's Sun Signs; Write Your Own Horoscope by Joseph E. Goodavage; The Moon Sign Book; the American Astrology Digest for 1970; Rigel Spica's Astrology and Horse Racing; Stock Market Prediction and Picking Winners by Donald Bradley. Some of the names of the authors look suspect: Astrology: How to Put the Stars to Work for You by Glyn Truly, The Astrological Cookbook by Sybil Leek and an article on gambling astrologically by Linda Lung. It all begins to read like a gigantic put-on, but there you are in traction with nothing much to do, and that cute nurse in the miniskirt uniform says she's an Aries on the cusp of Taurus.
The above story is true. Only the names of the planets have been changed to undermine astrologers. They're getting uppity.
The star watchers these days are as busy as a colony of ants burrowing into a newly turned pile of sand, but who can blame them? For centuries they were booted around, dismissed by solemn scientists as persistent but harmless cranks who huddled over their mysterious charts, poor dears, disseminating information in a variety of publications read largely by themselves. Then suddenly the boom was on. Drugstores that used to hide a few pitiful, cheaply printed horoscopes behind the candy counter now have displays, strategically visible, covered with attractively bound outsize paperbacks, one or more for each sign of the zodiac. No one has to pretend anymore that his horoscope sort of fell into his hand when he reached for Wrigley's Spearmint and, well, since he has it in his hand he might as well buy it. Novelty stores are crammed with zodiac ashtrays, napkins, paperweights, medallions, brooches, rings, wall plaques, needlepoint designs....
When did it all begin? Like most fads there had to be a kickoff point, preceded no doubt by small, unnoticed tremors. Is it, as Garth Allen asks in the American Astrology Digest, "a sort of emotional crutch in this time of spiritual lameness" or "one of the most logical spinoffs from widespread interest in space activities"? Both, says Mr. Allen. But it was astronomers themselves—who bear about the same relation to astrologers as do physicians to naturopaths—who turned on the green light with the announcement in 1962 that in early February a rare phenomenon had occurred, one that had not been recorded for thousands of years. Planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, plus the sun and moon, orbited into near-perfect alignment in the sign of Aquarius. As if that wasn't enough to send astrologers over the brink in a delirium of forecasts, it happened at the exact time of a total solar eclipse.
Therefore, keeping an open mind to the prospect that we are all being force-fed from some kind of heavenly platter, how could the New York Mets—born Feb. 18, 1962—lose once the Age of Aquarius had dawned?
The so-called "miracle" was preordained, with the planets no doubt larking about over Shea Stadium last October. Victory, in fact, was spelled out early on by Astroflash, a giant computer that grinds up individual birth data and spews out the word, within minutes, of a subject's trials, tribulations, defeats and triumphs. Astroflash, a product of the Astrological Research Corporation, is located in New York's Grand Central Station, and you can bet the stars in your eyes that business is brisk. Approximately 1,000 believers, nonbelievers and the merely curious stop by the Astroflash booth each day and allow themselves to be reduced to holes in a card, which is then inserted into the computer's giant maw.
Obviously, during the World Series someone was going to feed the Mets, figuratively speaking, into the machine, and someone did. A day or so before the crucial third game, with Pitcher Gary Gentry scheduled to face Baltimore's ace righthander Jim Palmer, it was reported by Associated Press that: