NEW YORK — There is, as I write this, the sound of rain drumming the pavement of Seventh Avenue. Taxicab headlights move quietly through the city night. The hotel room window is open, late October is blowing in, and I know this. They are out there somewhere, the baseball ghosts, dancing in the water.
The seventh game of the World Series has been put on hold, a 24-hour rain delay. Rain delay? Call it a breath delay, a heartbeat delay, a pause to stop and think where we are, where we might be — had that last ball not gone through Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6, had a pitch not grazed off Rich Gedman’s glove, had three consecutive Mets batters not been able to scratch two-out singles in the bottom of the 10th.
Was it Saturday night or Sunday morning when that blood feud finally ended between Boston and New York? Daylight savings or standard time? The moon or the sun? Where was the light coming from?
“Have you ever—” a reporter would begin.
“Never–” the player would answer.
They were gasping for air and shaking as they spoke when they finally untangled themselves from the Shea Stadium infield. “Look at my legs!” said Ray Knight, who had scored the winning run. “Look at them — they’re trembling.”
How dramatic was it? The Red Sox had been on the top step of their dugout, ready to charge for the victory pile-on with two outs and nobody on for New York. How would the final out come? Pop-up? Strikeout?
“How much better can you be than a two-run lead in that situation?” Boston manager John McNamara would ask. “I mean, really?”
Really? That depends on the uniform. The Sox seemed to be watching destiny’s home movies as Gary Carter singled, Kevin Mitchell singled, Knight singled, then the wild pitch by Bob Stanley and . . . well, you know what happened.
Fate had switched all the pieces on the board. Mets win, 6-5. The champagne and the cameras and the championship trophy had to be suddenly whisked from the Red Sox’s clubhouse — “It was like an air raid in there,” said NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, already stationed to record the Boston celebration — and commissioner Peter Ueberroth and Jean Yawkey, the Red Sox’s primary owner, who were on their way downstairs, heard the thunder from the sold-out Shea crowd and, like the Series itself, turned around for one more night.
Monday. The seventh game. Surprised? Why? This is the Boston Red Sox we’re talking about. A team destined to see its dessert melt before it gets a taste. Sixty-eight years without a championship. And this is the New York Mets we’re talking about. A team so bad for so long, they have to call it a
“miracle” when they finally win.
Losers? Yes. Sloppy games? Yes. And yet the subplots have been marvelous, the characters more of an “Our Town” sequel than Hollywood — no matter how prime time TV keeps pushing them.
Like Boston’s Dave Henderson, born somewhere called Dos Palos, Calif., who had to explain to a reporter he has been with the team only two months. And yet, there he was, once again, clobbering a ball at the stroke of midnight for a 10th- inning home run Saturday that should have been the game- winner.
And Marty Barrett, two r’s, two t’s please, who now holds baseball’s post-season record for hits. He went to high school in Las Vegas. Do they have high schools in Las Vegas?
And Roger Clemens, hometown Katy, Tex. Indomitable. The ender. Death on the mound. He put pitches past the Mets in Game 6 they couldn’t even see. And yet Death developed a blister on his pitching hand that forced him from the game after seven innings. A blister? Surely those ghosts dancing outside are laughing about that one.
So Game 7. Clemens and Bob Ojeda — the Mets’ best in post- season — have been used. Dwight Gooden, the saddest story of the Series, is unlikely to pitch. Ron Darling against Bruce Hurst instead of Dennis (Oil Can Boyd). Everybody against everybody. The little stories within the big stories.
Can Darling pitch again so soon? Will Boyd, an emotional water bug, be able to handle Game 7 rejection? Will Darryl Strawberry finally unload? Will Wade Boggs finally explode? Who will do it? Who will blow it? Will it rain? Will it . . .
“When you woke up this morning–” a reporter began to ask McNamara on Sunday.
“I never went to sleep,” the manager said.
Who can sleep? The games go to the wee hours. The games go on forever. Yet what has dragged on has dragged history along with it. “Keep up,” it seems to urge. “It’ll be worth it.”
So now the rain beats impatiently on the glass, and if you walk down this hotel hallway, you can hear the tapping of keys by the other writers, trying to explain it all. Seventh game. Final game. The baseball ghosts are dancing outside, and we are many stories high, with one left to go.