CINCINNATI — CINCINNATI -- Somewhere, somebody will be storing this World Series in his memory bank. The World Series always presents something to remember -- sublime or ridiculous. To each his own.
There was the vendor in the upper deck at Dodger Stadium who made an art form of tossing peanuts and catching the change without missing a beat of banter. "It's over," he pronounced to the dismay of Los Angeles Dodger fans when the 1978 New York Yankees took the lead. "The team that comes from behind is ahead."
Tony La Russa and Lou Piniella have been there before. Piniella played in four World Series. He never has managed in one before. La Russa never played in one, but he is managing in in his third.
"The moment I'll always remember the most is of Thurman Munson catching the final out of 1978," Piniella said. Ron Cey popped up against Goose Gossage.
"I remember the ball going up, Thurman going back and ending " it that way at Dodger Stadium, then jumping up and down and me thinking it was over."
There was remembered exhaustion in his voice. That was the year the Yankees set the record for sound and fury. Bob Lemon replaced Billy Martin when the Yankees were at the point of reaching critical mass, and they came from behind to beat the Boston Red Sox in that extraordinary game.
The peanut vendor understood.
La Russa's playing career was a .199 batting average over 132 games, no World Series. "The last out of Game 4," he said. It was Brett Butler's ground out, second baseman Tony Phillips to pitcher Dennis Eckersley covering first. "I'll remember it," La Russa said, "because it was the first time."
It completed a four-game sweep, which looks on paper as if it was easy, except that it was split in the middle by the earthquake. Eckersley was La Russa's fifth pitcher that day; the Giants used five.
La Russa did not recall a managing decision to be cherished. He does remember he wore a T-shirt from his daughter's ballet school under his Oakland Athletics jersey each day. Monday, he had not made the decision on which T-shirt to wear this time. Perhaps it would be the "Read to Your Children" shirt he wore in winning the All-Star Game. "I like that," he said.
Or maybe it would be "Travel the World-Visit Your Library."
This is the World Series where Pete Rose is the man who isn't here. In Game 6 of 1975, Carlton Fisk's home run broke up a most marvelous game with most marvelous twists and turns. During it, Rose went to the plate and told Fisk it was such a great game that he could hardly wait to get home to watch the tape of it.
That was the series when the Red Sox fans chanted "Loo-eee, Loo-eee" for Luis Tiant, and in the celebration of victory a group of young Reds formed a chorus line and sang "Pee-tee, Pee-tee."
Some of us might remember the October day in 1956 on Whitehall Street in Lower Manhattan where Army pre-induction physicals were given; I was not alone. At every station along the way -- bend over, cough -- it seemed Yogi Berra hit another home run off Don Newcombe, and Johnny Kucks stopped the Dodgers.
How was I to know that before I got out of the Army the Dodgers would be a continent away?
Some of history's strategy fits into the "Now It Can Be Told" category.
Bill Mazeroski hit a ninth-inning home run, a remarkable bit of strategy indeed, to beat the Yankees in the seventh game in 1960. It came an inning after Tony Kubek was hit in the throat by a bad-bounce grounder on what should have been a double play. But the first inning of the first game had a remarkable twist.
Mayo Smith had been scouting for the Yankees and reported that the Pittsburgh Pirates had a remarkable hit-and-run with Bill Virdon and Dick Groat. "Mayo must have seen Dick do it 15 times and he never missed a one," Virdon recalled last week. Groat gave his own sign.
Smith told the Yankees that if they pitched out, Virdon would read it and stay put. So, they decided, when Virdon ran, nobody would cover. They wouldn't leave a hole for Groat to hit through.
"After the seventh game, I'm in the hospital and here comes Virdon and Groat and everybody is congratulating them and I'm nodding my head," Kubek said recently. "And they talk about that play. Groat can't believe it; he says he didn't give the sign. Then he remembers giving it, but taking it off."
Virdon walked leading off. Groat was to touch a sequence of three places on his body.
"He goes to the plate and on the third pitch he gives the sign," Virdon said. "In his anxiety, Dick didn't know he gave it.
"Then he realized it and gave a take-off sign. In my anxiety, I didn't see the takeoff. I'm running and I see Dick took the pitch. I'm caught in no-man's land. Then I see nobody is covering."
Berra, not knowing the plan, threw over the uncovered base into center field. "I thought that was a big play in the Series," Virdon said. "It got us off in front of the Yankees immediately."
Obituaries of Cookie Lavagetto this summer told of the double he hit with two out in the ninth to break up Bill Bevens' attempt to pitch the first World Series no-hitter in 1947.
Bevens, who walked 10, had a 2-1 lead in Game 4. He got an out, walked Carl Furillo and got the second out. Sprinter Al Gionfriddo ran for Furillo. Pete Reiser, the wonderful but star-crossed 28-year-old outfielder, had been soaking his swollen ankle in hot water. Today they use ice. He chose to go to the dugout, and Burt Shotton sent him up to hit.
Reiser couldn't have run out any ball, but the Dodgers had no other lefty hitter. With the count 2-and-1, Gionfriddo stole second. Then Yankee manager Bucky Harris violated one of the commandments of managing: He intentionally walked the potential winning run.
Later Harris explained that Reiser's abilities made the situation "an exceptional case . . . because he had power and could hit a home run." Eddie Stanky, the next batter, would be easier to pitch to.
Lavagetto (neither he, Gionfriddo nor Bevens would make a big-league team the next spring) doubled off the right field concrete, scoring Gionfriddo and pinch runner Eddie Miksis. And Harris declared, "I'd do it again tomorrow."
Of this series, LaRussa declared, "The players win the games."
The cars win the race. The horse wins the race. And all that was yesterday, anyhow.