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SUBWAY SERIES | SOUND AND VISION

Problem Is, This Series Is a Scream

October 23, 2000|MIKE PENNER

This Armageddon Halftime Report is brought to you by the Mets and the Yankees, who are--depending on who's doing the talking, and where--either playing a series of important baseball games in October or waging the Earth's final apocalyptic struggle between the forces of good and the demonic armies of the antichrist.

(Insert your favorite George Steinbrenner joke here.)

"ARMAGEDDON" cried the front of the New York Post's Sports Week special section in gargantuan doomsday red letters.

"Baseball Armageddon" is how Fox's Keith Olbermann welcomed the nation's television viewers to the pregame show before Game 1 of the first all-New York World Series since 1956 . . . and thank heaven for those last 44 years of peace and plenty and paradise on earth before the thunder and the lightning and the great earthquake and the great hailstorm and the great city being divided into two parts.

Is this really the bottom of the ninth for modern civilization, the final box score for humankind and all the nations, the end of the world as we know it?

Could be.

The New York Daily News asked Salman Rushdie whom he was picking to win the Subway Series. Rushdie, whose famous "Satanic Verses" carried no mention at all of Billy Martin, said he'd "like to see the old guys win one last one"--meaning the Yankees. "Those guys have done incredible things," Rushdie said of the Bombers. "El Duque is one of my favorite players. I think he's just wonderful to watch. He coils up like a spring."

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller, however, informed Newsday he's a Mets' man because--not surprising, coming from the creator of Willy Loman--"I always root for the underdog."

The Post, trying to keep pace on the literary front, commissioned a guest World Series preview column from Mike Piazza, author of that timeless study of the major league clubhouse postgame spread, "The Catcher and the Rye."

"I can't wait for tonight," Piazza wrote in the Post's Saturday morning editions. "I'm sick of the hype, to be honest with you. I'm ready to go. Strap it on and play! All this talk about matchups. What if? What if? What if? That's all for the analysts. Let's go get 'em! Y'know?"

Ah, designated scrivener! Thy tools of ignorance belie the presence of a most proficient pen!

Elsewhere, lesser scribes squeezed into uncomfortable seats in the Yankee Stadium auxiliary press box are serving admirably as self-appointed guardians of perspective and propriety. One column in the Post, lamenting the lack of acrimony in this Subway Series compared with the Dodger-Yankee brawls of the '40s and the '50s, carried the headline, "WHERE'S THE HATE, MAN?" Another Post columnist proposed that if the Yankees, winners of 25 World Series titles, lost this best-of-seven series to the Mets, "Lou Gehrig died in vain, and unluckily too."

Armageddon?

Well, that's certainly in the eye of the beholder. If you were a tree in a pulp-making region in North America, I suppose this World Series could look that way. Before Game 1, the Post weighed in with a hernia-inducing 88-page World Series special section, only to be outdone by the Daily News' 96-page World Series special section.

Also, if you were a baseball fan living in that vast baseball wasteland south of Oakland and north of San Diego. Every minute it lasts, this Subway Series mocks every man, woman, boy and girl who ever prayed for a Freeway Series.

Here's ex-Dodger Jose Vizcaino going four for six and driving in the winning run in the bottom of the 12th in Game 1.

There's ex-Angel Luis Polonia delivering a clutch pinch-single in the bottom of the ninth of the same game.

Here's ex-Dodgers Todd Zeile and Piazza, batting third and fourth in the heart of the Mets' lineup.

There's ex-Angel Luis Sojo, finishing Game 1 at third base for the Yankees.

Look at the man standing in the Mets' third base coach's box. Cookie Rojas, ex-Angel manager. Look at the man posting the lineup card in the Yankee dugout. Joe Torre, ex-Angel broadcaster whom the club could have hired as manager when the club instead hired Doug Rader. And Torre's counterpart in the Mets' dugout? Bobby Valentine, ex-Dodger.

Grin and bear it, Dodger and Angel fans.

This is probably as close as you'll ever get to an October Freeway Series.

Fox, in something of an upset, has been mostly a restrained passenger on the Subway Series E-train. The network enlisted Billy Crystal (Yankee fan) for a lighthearted introductory riff through the history of New York-New York World Series matchups, with nary a mention of Judgment Day. It also sent Steve Lyons out on a Lettermanesque man-on-the-street interview assignment, which was successful in showing how easily an ex-ballplayer nicknamed Psycho can blend into the city's run-of-the-mill insanity without so much as a double take.

Olbermann even tried to perk up the audience outside the 212 area code, already gagging on Gotham overload, by happily informing: "If you hate New York, no matter what happens, you will have a New York loser."

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