by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

ATLANTA — Sooner or later in this World Series — probably Saturday night, the way the Braves are going — they will have to name an MVP, and won’t that be fun? I can see the guys in the back room, rushing to make up the trophy.

“Quick, read me the ballots.”

“OK. One for Lemke–“


“That’s what it says. Lemke.”

“Lemke? You sure? How the hell you spell that?”

Of course, we should have foreseen this, the minute Minnesota and Atlanta made it into the World Series and seven CBS executives locked themselves in the bathroom and wept. These teams were never household names. Most Americans still think the Braves have Dale Murphy, while the rest hear Minnesota and say, “Yeah, whatever happened to that Harmon Killebrew guy?”

To make matters worse, most of the supposed-to-be stars in this series
(Kirby Puckett, Terry Pendleton) are taking a back seat. What we have center-stage are guys like Jerry Willard, who once quit baseball to build houses, now driving in the winning run Wednesday on a sacrifice fly. What we have center stage is a Minnesota kid named Knoblauch — I think it’s a kid, it could be a sausage — and he’s hitting .353. What we have center stage is an unknown named Scott Leius (rhymes with Pay Us) who smacked a home run to win Game 2.

And what we have center-stage is Mark Lemke, a second baseman who weighs less that Kent Hrbek’s lunch and whose glasses and short figure suggest an English major at Georgia Tech, rather than the hero of back-to-back World Series games. “The Lemmer,” as they call him here, won Game 3 with a single in

the bottom of the 12th and helped capture Game 4 with a triple in the bottom of the ninth.

Of course, that’s just a couple of at-bats. Were this the regular season, the radio announcer would say “Lemke at the plate . . . strike one. . . . Mark has hit pretty well the last couple games, let’s pray he keeps it up . .
. strike two . . . “

Instead, The Lemmer has already had the CBS crew at his house to film him eating breakfast and answering the phone, just like normal people, which he used to be, before Tuesday.

The Lemmer Strikes

By the way, it should not surprise you that Atlanta came up with The Lemmer — I can see that guy on “Saturday Night” Live getting in on this one:
“The Lemmer. The Lematola. The Lemmeister. The Lem Man . . . ” — although personally, I doubt The Lemmer will stand the test of time. Willie, Mickey, Duke . . . and the Lemmer? Call it a hunch.

But, as I said, naming is a big pastime here in Atlanta, The City That Never Sleeps, Because Another Mall Might Open. In fact, I have noticed folks here spend a lot of time creating new and cute names for everything, especially restaurants and shops, which enable those places to immediately triple their prices.

Why, just this morning, I had breakfast at Yolks On You ($10.95), picked up a newspaper at Fact ‘N’ Fiction ($.50), grabbed a frozen yogurt at The Creamation Department (2.95), got my hair cut at Strands In The Jungle ($45), bought running shoes at Toes Up ($95), a chicken sandwich at Dressed To Grill
($4.50), an umbrella at Rubber Duckies ($17) and a pair of underwear at Sgt. Skivvies ($9.50).

I can hardly wait to visit the butcher shop.

But back to Lemke. He had two triples Thursday night, three RBIs and two runs scored (although it seemed like every Brave did that). He is not the first guy to come out of nowhere and make a dent in the World Series. This tradition goes way back, and includes such forgettables as Dusty Rhodes with the 1954 Giants, Al Weiss with the 1969 Mets, Brian Doyle with the 1978 Yankees.

But Lemke is the man of the moment, and if the Braves pull off this miracle, I promise you, he won’t have to buy his own beer in this town for a long time.

Sad farewell to Atlanta

And neither will I. Our Atlanta visit is over, no matter what happens, and I must admit, I am awfully sad to go. For one thing, I never got to meet Jane Fonda. And I waited in every elevator. I even hung around that special parking place in the stadium basement, the one marked “Ted Turner.” You know. Just in case they pulled up? I figured I had an “in” with Ted — the Tedder, I call him — since we had met back in Moscow in 1986, during his Goodwill Games. In fact, we shared such quality time together that I just know if he saw me today he would pop right out of his car, look me in the eye and say
“Park this, will ya?”

But I digress. We are in search of an MVP, since this series could end Saturday. (If you ask me, it will, since Steve Avery obviously cut a deal with destiny.)

Then again, anything could happen.

For now, we’re outta here. Back to Minnesota. Because of the results so far, analysts will claim home field will win this series. Maybe so, maybe no. We trade in the noise and the tomahawks of Atlanta for the noise and the homer hankies of Minnesota, but if you ask me, the only difference between the two places is that you can’t blow your nose in a tomahawk.

Although I bet The Lemmer gives it a good shot.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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