Frank Deford took a week off from writing his article (page 64) on Cincinnati—in which, among other things, he examines that city's World Series fantasies and reaches an argumentative conclusion about the comeliness of its women—to journey to Atlantic City, where he was one of the seven judges who picked this year's Miss America. "As a kid," he says, "the end of the summer was defined for me by three things: back-to-school (especially the Robert Hall jingle), Miss America and the World Series. Most people don't connect baseball and the beauty contest, but there are many similarities, and I guess I'm one of the few who have been involved professionally with both."
Deford, the author of a book about the pageant, doesn't claim to be the definitive Miss America/World Series expert, though. He says that a man in Atlantic City named Jimmy McCullough has seen every World Series since 1926 and every Miss America pageant since its inception in 1921.
"One big similarity you sense at the two events is their insularity," Deford says. "When you're in Atlantic City for Miss America, nothing else dents your little universe—and that's exactly the way it is in a small city like Cincinnati when it gets a World Series or thinks it's going to get one. It's a great common feeling, a kind of mob vicarious-ness and air of confrontation. It should be required for sportswriters to cover Miss America, because they'd be better at it than the women's-page types who handle the job now. People get so hung up on the image and sociology of the pageant that they miss the real point: terrific competition is involved. I interviewed Pete Rose in Cincinnati, and then I went straight to Atlantic City where, as a judge, you interview all 50 state queens—and believe me, a lot of them sounded not unlike Pete Rose. I mean that as a compliment. They were there as competitors."
Deford says the pageant and the World Series have something else in common, but admits that "everybody will think I'm crazy." It is his theory that the selection of Miss America foretells the World Series winner. "There are two key indicators based on who wins at Atlantic City," he says, "that almost every year show who will win the Series." The factors in the complicated formula he has worked out are historical and geographical. The historical has to do with the old baseball franchises that existed before expansion began; it has failed only once since 1965, Deford claims. The geographical indicator has not missed since 1958.
So what does Miss New York's becoming Miss America augur for the upcoming Series? "Very little chance for Oakland," says Deford. "Both indicators are negative. And Pittsburgh will win only if it faces the A's. But both indicators heavily support Cincinnati and the Red Sox, if they win their division, with an edge to the Sox. If they get through the playoffs, Miss America says it's Boston all the way."