BOSTON — It is no secret that sports writers take a lot of notes. Some, I have heard, can even read them. Our baseball writer, John Lowe, takes meticulous notes, almost constantly. He keeps them organized and neat, and sometimes uses more than one color pen — not just because the first one exploded in his pocket, like mine always do.

Sometimes in May and June, I wonder why a baseball writer takes so many notes, and then I bite into another hot dog and forget about it. But every year around this time, I slap my head and say “ARRRGH!” Now I know why they take so many notes. Because inevitably, come October, you are sent to cover a playoff series between two teams that you know nothing about — except that they are much better than the team you cover, or else your team would be here, right? And then you wouldn’t need any notes.

Right. So. There are notes and there are notes. John’s notes, for example, could be bound and edited and sold in bookstores. In their original form. And I’d bet they’d sell. And then there are my notes.

My notes are to John’s notes as bikini briefs are to a tuxedo. They are not quite John’s notes. Actually, they could not even share the same loose-leaf as John’s notes. They would be too embarrassed. If notes could talk, mine would say, “Yo! Get us outta here. Who’s da stiff in da ballpoint?”

I don’t show John my notes. If he comes by while I am making an entry, I quickly grab a hot dog and act casual until he goes away. Not that I make that many entries. Stains are a pain Anyhow, this morning, John is cruising. I’ll bet, even as you read this, John is in his hotel room, sipping tea and reviewing his notes in preparation for tonight’s Boston- California playoff opener, perhaps using the cross-check system he put together in August by last name, team, record against left-handers, and farm club affiliation.

While I look for the pad with the taco stain.

Was it taco?

No. Wait.

Where the heck . . .?

Well. You see the problem. My plan was to have at least one page for each major league team, and that page could be built upon all season long. And I started out OK. The paper was crisp and new, and I wrote “NEW YORK METS” on the top line, and “BOSTON RED SOX” and the rest. It looked sharp. It looked together. It looked like something John might have on his desk. And then the orange juice spilled.

I’m not sure what morning that was. It was probably before the Swiss cheese croissant, but I’m not sure. One of the team’s pages, I think it was Seattle, I used to take down directions to a Memorial Day barbecue that I never attended. Which is just as well, since I probably would have spilled the sauce. Besides, John might have been there.

There were also plane reservations and phone numbers and a sudden call from some athlete who decided to do the interview after all, only I was out of paper. Except for, of course, my notes.

Besides, I like to eat at my desk.

Which leaves me looking at this: NEW YORK METS: Look strong early . . . Gooden? Can he repeat? . . . Carter, 4-for-5, May 3d . . . 1-800-654-8000 . . . Cleaners, 10 Mile and Telegraph . .
. grtyply . . . Hernandez, book? . . . CALL PETER IN SPAIN! . . . (Diet Coke stain) . . . xxxxyu . . . CHECK! . . . Elsie’s, 13 Mile Road . . . MENDEL B-DAY, DEC. 4, LAWN MOWER, SEARS, 547-920 . . . Trouble at Houston bar . . .
(coffee stain) . . . Tues. 9 p.m. dinner, Jay, Ken . . . ytrpppyt . . . D. Strawberry .275. . . .

Those are my notes on the New York Mets. Based on this, I believe they will win the National League pennant. Green’s a sign for Red Sox I am not so optimistic about the California Angels. They have problems. For one thing, there is jelly on their page, and something green that could be fertilizer or toothpaste — the mint kind — or maybe something else. That is a bad sign. Besides, their bullpen is just average.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, have everything going for them, including Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and several legible entries on their page: “Rce, Bylor, Armas, trn bt Fenway, rt-lft HR/RBI/ . . . McNamara t. Boyd . . . rtyfzp!!!”

I am not sure what that means, but I have a good feeling about it. Which is

why the Red Sox will win the pennant.

So there you have it. Mets over Houston. Red Sox over California. And I am taking my notes now and getting ready to go to Fenway Park and start another October baseball playoff. I feel confident in my preparation. Very confident. Sort of.

Besides, I have a plan. A foolproof plan. It is a plan that has worked before, and I feel certain it will work again.

I am going to find John and buy him a hot dog.

And I am going to beg.

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