CLEVELAND — “Hello, Acme Baseball Inc.? This here’s Mr. Anderson. Sparky Anderson, account number DT468.
“Lemme speak to somebody in charge.
“Yeah. Hello? Listen, I think you guys got things a little mixed up with my order. Page 26 of the catalogue. Uh-huh. Right. ‘One world championship major league baseball team, complete with accessories.’
“See it? Right above the picture of all those men spilling champagne on each others’ heads.
“What’s that? No, nothing wrong with the ‘versatile second baseman.’ And the ‘hard-hitting right fielder’ is fine, thank you.
“It’s just that, well, overall the product doesn’t seem to be working the way it’s supposed to. Maybe I have the batteries in wrong.
“See where it says under Part H, ‘clutch hitting’? Yeah. Well, for a while that just wasn’t working at all. Then it sort of flicked on, but I think it blew a fuse in Part K, ‘clutch relief pitching.’
“And see that paragraph that says ‘This team particularly effective in Kansas City and Cleveland’?
“Funny thing about that —
“Huh? Yeah. I’ll hold.” Bullpen damaged in shipping
“Hello? Who? Shipping. Hey look, as long as I got you, how about checking my order for Item 45, ‘Sparkling Defense.’ The model you sent me has already made 102 errors. Maybe you got us mixed up with Oakland.
“Upset? Do I sound upset? Well, maybe I am. Funny things are happening here.
“Take Sunday. We get 11 hits, they get 12. We get two runs, they get seven. Some guy named Neal Heaton has a career strikeout day against us.
“I mean, does that sound like ‘dynamic, powerful, inspiring major league baseball, great for family entertainment or a quiet evening in front of the TV set’?
“I am quoting from your catalogue, you know.
“Yes, I realize you can read.
“All right, read Page 27. ‘Hernandez, Willie: reliable, unstoppable, perfect for those late inning cliffhangers.’ And for the most part the guy’s been working great. So I put him in Friday in Cleveland — Cleveland, now, OK? — and he gives up two home runs. And then I put him back in on Saturday against Cleveland again — Cleveland, you hear me? — with a 4-2 lead and I turn around and it’s 4-4 and we’re in extra innings.
“Well, yeah. He won the game eventually. But, geez, the team nearly took a heart attack.
“As for the rest of the bullpen, well, just look at this catalogue. See how nice those pitchers look, with the ball in mid-flight and that mean, intimidating look on their faces?
“Yes. They are very nice photos. Only most of my guys here are looking up at the sky with their mouths open, watching their 2-0 fastballs go zooming towards the fence.
“No, I’m not interested in a sports psychologist. But if you have any combination Gold Glove third baseman/batting champions lying around . . . I didn’t think so.
“Anyhow, what about this part here, ‘this team particularly effective in Kansas City and Cleveland —
“Huh? Yeah. I’ll hold. Well, cancel the order
“Who? Warranty department? Lookit, I don’t mean to sound impatient here, but we’re running low on time.
“There’s something wrong with our timing mechanism. When we hit, we don’t pitch. When we pitch, we don’t hit. We’re making bonehead plays, dropping balls, and —
“What? Yes, we’re still over .500. . . . Yes, I know there are other teams more desperate. . . . Yes, I’ve heard of Cleveland. As a matter of fact, as I was trying to tell the person before you —
“No. I don’t care to hold. What I’d care to do is get some of these pretty pictures you have here in your pretty catalogue and put them back in my pretty
lineup pretty darn fast.
“Look, just take down this order, special delivery. Give me two of those championship bullpen arms, a couple of those clutch bats — whatever Pedro Guerrero is using this year — three spray cans of pennant fever, a dozen Vince Coleman model sneakers, and — “Come again? . . . Yes, I know you have a lot of orders. . . .
“Listen, let me talk to Mr. Miracle up in customer service. He’s the guy who helped me last year.
“Whadaya mean, transferred to another office? Well, where’d he go?