DETROIT — They really know how to put on a World Series here.
OK, so some people get carried away. On stretchers. And so some of the scalpers outside Tiger Stadium occasionally take actual scalps? At least everybody has a memorable time.
To be a real baseball town, you have to take a World Series seriously.
First of all, Detroit fans have a funny habit, foreign to Californians, regarding the game of baseball. Believe it or not, they stay at nearly every game until the ninth inning.
Second, if a World Series game is being played in Detroit, all other activity stops. No one eats, swims, tans, roller skates or waters the lawn. No one even speaks to a friend or relative, unless the subject is baseball. Anyone who does not know the score of the World Series game is asked to leave town or drop dead.
Third, when the Tigers get to a World Series, they play the games at a decent hour. They play at 1:30 in the afternoon or 7:30 at night, not at 4:30 or 5:30 to accommodate television. If God had wanted baseball to be played at 5:30, he never would have invented shadows.
Since God's favorite team, the Angels, very well could play in their first World Series several weeks from now, one can only hope that the people of Anaheim and its surrounding communities--Expensive Valley, Valium Hills, Hedonism Beach, La Corona El Producto del Pia Zadora, and other nearby towns--will be prepared for it.
First of all, if the score of a World Series game at Anaheim Stadium is, say, 3-1 in the eighth inning, that does not mean it is necessary to head for the parking lot. Unlikely as it might seem, the Angels or the visiting team actually could score as many as two runs in one inning, tying the game and sending it into extra innings.
Second, if a World Series game is being played in Anaheim, all beaches must be closed, Disneyland roped off, and Catalina Island put off limits by the Coast Guard. Anyone caught surfing or roller skating should be shot on sight.
Third, Gene Autry should feel obliged to ride his pony cross-country to NBC corporate headquarters in New York, stare down some network honcho and say: "Pardner, either we play at 1:30 or 7:30, that's it." The team must not ride into the sunset.
Many baseball fans across America probably expect a California team to play in sunglasses. The Angels, if they do finally make it to a World Series, will have a chance to show the rest of the country that they play the game the same way everybody else does, except for the Rolls-Royce bullpen car.
The leaders of the American League West launched themselves Tuesday into a trip to the East that could make it clear, once and for all, whether they will make it to a World Series at last.
Nearly four full seasons have passed since that fateful day in Milwaukee when Cecil Cooper lined a ball into left field and left the Angels out to lunch. They were within one win of the Series. They were as close as close could be.
Now, they are flirting with destiny once again. Beginning this trip, they led the closest American League West team by 4 1/2 games and the next closest by 12 1/2. Only the Texas Rangers appear to have a chance of keeping them out of the American League playoffs, and Manager Gene Mauch has been saying that any team that wins 90 games should win the West.
"Is 90 still the number?" Mauch was asked before Tuesday's twilight-night doubleheader here.
"Sounds good to me," he said.
"Can anybody besides Texas catch you now?" Mauch was asked.
"We're not worried about Texas," Mauch said. "We're not worried about anybody--just us. If we get to 90. . . . "
If they get to 90, they will get to the playoffs--probably against the Boston Red Sox. Since John McNamara, Mauch's predecessor, manages the Red Sox, the next thing the Angels might have to do is change their signs.
Fenway Park, you can bet, knows how to put on a World Series. The last one they held there was a dilly. Carlton Fisk's home run in the sixth game of that 1975 Series is still being talked about as if it happened yesterday. Mostly because the Fenway people have had little else to talk about.
A World Series at Fenway Park would feature wild and crazy crowds, long lines of people on the streets, pretzel vendors and maybe Ted Williams or Yaz throwing out the first ball.
Anaheim must answer this, best it can. Maybe not with bleacher beach-ball games. Maybe not with concession stands that sell baked potatoes stuffed with broccoli. Maybe not with Jim Fregosi or Dean Chance throwing out the first ball. But with enthusiasm and good cheer.
And no waves. The wave is out. Californians must remain cool, remember. Anybody caught doing the wave from now on should be bound and gagged in his or her seat.
That should also keep them there right through the ninth.