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December 2000


by Fine Diner

For it's one- two- three votes you're out
at the old ballot game

The grand old game of baseball has long been known for its rhubarbs, but nothing any one game or series conjured could ever match the debacle that the Republican and Democratic parties have been putting the nation through over the last month. Even the greatest World Series argument of all, that involving the third game of the 1975 fall classic over whether or not pinch hitter Ed Armbrister interfered with Fisk's throw to second, pales in comparison with the ongoing election.

Sure Casey Stengel had his tirades and Earl Weaver his jaw-to-jaw confrontations with the umpires. But never did a tête-à-tête between an official and a manager last more than a few minutes or get as convoluted as this year's election. Of course, give any professional politician a soapbox, no matter what his affiliation, and the argument goes on ad finitum.

Thanks to Vice President Al Gore and Governor George Bush, grade school
students across the United States have learned a lot about how this country's government runs or more precisely, how it walks. In fact, Gore reinforced a key baseball principal - "it ain't over, 'til it's over." Suddenly, with the Democrats and Republicans co-opting the adage, they are making it more a fact than an axiom. Indeed, this is not over, and it will not be over for many years.

Of course to many baseball fans in Boston, the 1975 World Series was not over for quite a while either, at least in their hearts. There was no recourse to the game like instant replay, a higher power's overruling or embarrassing Barnett into reversing his decision. But this fantastic situation of nothing really being decided until the loser gives up the stubborn ghost sheds a refreshing light on sports. Most politicians love to use sports analogies, especially the baseball-minded Bush clan, so why not revise baseball rules so the game is not over until everyone who wants to have a say in it declares it to be over? It happens in schoolboy sports, whereas an unpopular decision from the powers that be gets turned into journalistic fodder as the organization that supposedly makes the decisions gets dragged into court. And it happens in Olympic sports where medals can be stripped from winners years after they are won and reinstated even years later.

As a diehard Sox fan, I wish the process might have made its way to the 1975 World Series. If any Series game ever needed a recount, it was the third game of that series. Armbrister indeed stepped in Fisk's way, and according to most rules, like in hockey, it doesn't matter whether or not the action was intentional. True democracy might have saved "The Olde Town Team" from its current embarrassment of not having a world champion team since the last Whig administration.

Ed Armbrister, a right-handed banjo hitter, is up pinch-hitting for Reds hurler Rawley Eastwick in the bottom of the 10th inning, with Cincinnati trying to break a 5-all tie. Outfielder Cesar Geronimo is leading off at first, leaning toward second, after singling to lead off. Armbrister takes a ball then lays down a bunt. Instead of heading straight to first, Armbrister stops, then backs up a smidgen. Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk quickly gathers in the ball pushed just in front of the plate and wings it to second. Instead of Geronimo cut down the ball flies wildly into center field as Fisk's arm and Armbrister collide. Geronimo sails to third and scores moments later when Red Joe Morgan singles him home with the game-winner.

But say the game isn't over when Geronimo crosses the plate. Immediately, the Sox, as desperate to win a World Series as Gore seems to be to win a presidency, goes into the next phase of the process. As soon as Geronimo clatters home, Fisk turns to Barnett and starts the new parliamentary process now in vogue.

"We accept the victory on the behalf of Mrs. Jean Yawkey, the Pesky Pole and all those diehard Red Sox fans who will not root for the Yankees to ever win anything until Floridians decide to all work on Thanksgiving."

"The game's over!" says Barnett emphatically. "I ruled it!"

"Of course you say so, but we beg to differ," replies Fisk with utter calm.

By this time team captain Carl Yastrzemski has come in from left field, and is holding a list of emergency phone numbers.

"We feel that a reassessment of the situation, by independent parties, will declare that we, after all, won the game."

Yaz is prioritizing his list, then looks up.

"Um, we can have the second team here in about five minutes. Then we will begin to sort this situation out. We still feel that we have won the game, and we are not conceding the game, nor evacuating the field, until the game is rightfully in our possession, and we are rightfully declared the winners. Make yourself comfortable, it will be a long night."

Fans start making signs out of programs, and Bernie Carbo starts cooking hot dogs in the Riverfront Stadium bullpen while Pete Rose stares at him.

"I bet those taste good."

"Fenway Franks, nothing but the best," replies Carbo, obviously

"What second team?" asks Barnett. "You used up all your pinch hitters by the tenth anyway."

"Not them, the situational second team," says Sox manager Darrell Johnson, now taking over proceedings and directing the tables to be set up at home plate.

In parade a quintet of suits, carrying briefcases loaded with paperwork. A Harvard law professor, claiming to not know where Fenway Park is, declares himself the team captain and starts to address Barnett and Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, required by this time to attend all exhaustive hearings.

"First of all, we want videotape of the play from seven different angles. We want an independent commission of 12 people who have played at least 10 years of baseball during their lifetime to view the videotapes and vote on them using a secret ballot. We need to see that dimpled lineup card Sparky Anderson turned in. We feel that a closer examination will show that Dan Dreissen, instead of Geronimo, was actually supposed to be playing center field. We want to poll the fans in attendance to see whether or not they feel there was an interference perpetrated."

"We've already done that," interjects Kuhn. "We started that right after the play in anticipation. The result was overwhelmingly in favor of non-interference."

"Okay then, we are immediately asking for a recount. Obviously, those people have not seen the videotapes either, and we feel that there would be enough swing votes to make it close," says the number one suit. "Then there are the absentee ballots."

"Absentee ballots?" asks Barnett, wondering if he had missed something.

"Of course," replies the suit. "Those are the hundreds of men waiting in line at the rest rooms while the balloting was being done. We feel a lot of those can go our way as well, since many of them can't even remember which teams were playing the game, never mind if Armbrister interfered with Fisk."

"Okay, but there will be a time limit set," says another suit, crowding into home plate from the home dugout side behind reds Manager Sparky Anderson, who is directing the placement of the adding machines, copying machines and coffee machines belonging to the Big Red Machine.

"Okay then. In that case, we are filing another brief in court against the time limit," says Red Sox suit number one to Reds suit number one.

"And there will a time limit on that as well," retorts the Reds suit who continues, "And in that case, we will counter by having all proceedings happen in Ohio, by Ohio law."

Meanwhile, the press is divided evenly among the locker rooms, half interviewing Sox reliever Roger Moret, declaring himself the game winner, the other half interviewing Eastwick, declaring himself the winner. Both players try to position themselves in front of the official Major League Baseball logo each has had carried into the locker room and placed behind his stool as per management orders.

Howard Cosell is also in the corner of the Red Sox locker room, recanting as quickly as possible his and his colleagues' decision to have too quickly judged the Reds as the third-game winners.

"We want every voice heard, no matter how hoarse," declares Johnson.

"It is the will of the people," says Anderson. "Besides, history is on our side."

Johnson leads Red Sox nation in one united wince.

Don't worry," continues Anderson. "Don't you realize that nice guys always finish last?"

Johnson winces again, but realizes that he has the last laugh after all, and decides to drop the bombshell.

"You think this is something," says Johnson, "We have been preparing briefs so we can overturn the Babe Ruth trade."

Riverfront Stadium falls silent, except for the hundreds of whirring
videotapes replaying to the world Armbrister's only official at-bat of the Series.