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If a hero is nothing but a sandwich, explain Jim Eisenreich. If you can't find a true hero in Philadelphia, home of the hoagie and the cheese steak, then account for the Phillie rightfielder. If a hero is nothing but a sandwich, the 90th World Series is a mere deli platter piled high with sandwiches. But Eisenreich is the biggest of them all. Dagwood Bumstead never had a hero so appealing.
"I would like kids to look at me as a positive role model," Eisenreich, a man of uncommon dignity, volunteered to the world in the early hours of Monday morning. "Not only kids with Tourette's syndrome, but any kids. Even so-called normal kids."
Ex-Philadelphian Charles Barkley said he wasn't paid to be a role model. Well, Eisenreich, 34, wasn't paid to bear a debilitating neurological disorder. He wasn't paid to endure "torture" (his word) in grade school; to become an "outcast" or an "oddball" (his words); to go from the majors to Beaudreau's bar team in his native St. Cloud, Minn., for four years while he learned to manage his facial tics and muscle twitching and hyperventilations.
Eisenreich wasn't paid for Tourette's; he was chosen. So it is with role models. So it is with heroes. So it is that Eisenreich hit a three-run homer in the Phils' two-run win over the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 2 of the World Series on Sunday night, tying the Fall Classic at one game apiece.
Real heroes aren't created when the world is watching; they're simply revealed. This isn't to say that players don't gain instantaneous fame in the World Series. Take the entire worst-to-first Phillies, who became beloved and legendary slobs at the speed of light after beating the Atlanta Braves in six games in the National League playoffs. "We're——up, and we know it," is how first baseman John Kruk describes the team and its appeal. "We were like this last year, too, but we were so damn bad, nobody gave a——."
Conversely, the defending world champion Blue Jays exude an oddly infectious, unflappable blandness again this October. Designated hitter Paul Molitor, one of 12 new Jays in '93, aptly described the team last week as "genteel"—though when Major League Baseball issued a transcript of Molitor's comments, he was quoted as saying, "I would classify us as gentile." Which is also true.
But these genteel giants have their own frenzied national following. Ontario pushed bar-closing time back an hour, to 2 a.m., during Series games in Toronto. The city's Metro Zoo wagered a pair of Tasmanian devils (against two white lions from the Philadelphia Zoo) that the Blue Jays would win it all. Much was at stake as the Jays and the Phils prepared to step between the white lions last Saturday, for the first Series ever to open outside the U.S.
And everywhere, there were genuine heroes in the antiquated sense.
On steel crutches Steve Palermo stood in foul territory and appraised the diamond before Game 1. "I never fully appreciated how much fun it is down here," said the American League umpire who was shot while thwarting a robbery attempt one night in July 1991. Still learning to walk, still scheduled for more surgery, still concerned about a little boy he met in rehabilitation who is recovering from injuries he suffered when struck by a car...still, the World Series could move this man mightily.
A grown man thinks of children at the World Series. "I'm going to send him a World Series ball," Palermo said of the boy, who is enduring his own difficult physical therapy. "I'm going to tell him to go break some windows with it."