For a while there, I thought we had all died and gone to eternity. Forty-eight baseball players, 45,000 fans, and an organist. Soon the moon would come out. Then it would be autumn. Then winter. Then the year 2000.

And we would still be in the fourth inning.

How long did it take? My freshman year in high school went by quicker. I would like to explain what happened in that remarkable inning, and indeed, in this entire final game between the Tigers and Yankees, in clear, precise detail. I really would. I can’t, because my scorecard looks like a treasure map drawn by my three-year-old cousin. Who can’t draw.

All I know for sure is that somewhere around 2:45 p.m. — with the score already 5-2 Tigers — Darrell Evans stepped into the batter’s box with the bases empty. And somewhere around 3:20 p.m. Darrell Evans stepped into the batter’s box with the bases empty.

And one out.

So what does that mean? Eight runs had scored? In one half- inning? On a double (Chet Lemon) and two singles (Mike Heath, Lou Whitaker) and three walks (Bill Madlock, Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell) and another double (Pat Sheridan) and a sacrifice fly (Jim Morrison) and, oh, yeah, three Yankees wild

pitches and four Yankees pitchers and, well, there you go. Eight runs.

Ooops. Evans hits a homer.

Nine. Holland got a break

There are two basic reactions you can have to a 15-4 game that finishes with a catcher on the pitcher’s mound. One is to be thoughtful, reflective, calm, humble, kindhearted and philosophical.

“WE KICKED THEIR BUTTS!” yelled Kirk Gibson.

That’s the other one.

There is not much to say about the Yankees’ pitching, which allowed 35 runs in this four-game series. In many ways that speaks for itself.

I do remember this from Sunday’s amazing fourth inning. At one stage, Al Holland came in for Steve Trout, who had replaced starter Dennis Rasmussen. Trout had given up a single, thrown a wild pitch, given up a walk, and thrown a wild pitch. This was clearly a hard act to follow. But Holland was up to it. He walked one batter, then threw a practice pitch and nearly collapsed. Sore elbow. He was escorted off the field. Holland is either very unlucky, or the smartest man on the team.

Anyhow, this left Yankees manager Lou Piniella all alone on the mound, kicking at the rubber. He looked to the bullpen. Nobody was there. I can only imagine the few pitchers left were in the tunnel with a coin.

PITCHER ONE: Heads! PITCHER TWO: Damn! Wait! Two out of three! PITCHER ONE: Nuh-uh! Nuh-uh! You go!

Finally, the Yankees chose Tim Stoddard, who promptly walked Trammell with the bases loaded, then gave up a double to Sheridan, then threw a wild pitch.

But this was not the lowest moment.

In the eighth inning, Rick Cerone, the Yankees’ catcher, became Rick Cerone, the Yankees’ pitcher. This was the lowest moment. They were putting a catcher in to pitch. How stupid! How ridiculous! How–

Cerone retired the side without a hit.

“His control wasn’t bad,” observed Dan Petry, who got the win in this game by protecting an 11-run lead. “Not bad at all.” Whatever he did, was great

How odd. But then, the whole thing was odd. These were the final seven games between two of the best teams in the American League. Ten days ago, in New York, we anxiously awaited one nail-biting encounter after another. This is what we got. One nail-biting encounter.

Then slaughter, slaughter, slaughter. . . .

“We kicked their butts, they kicked our butts, we came right back and kicked their butts,” Gibson said. “That shows character.”

The box scores show something else. True, the final total was Tigers four wins, Yankees three. But there were 79 runs scored between them. The Tigers were without Jack Morris. What’s the Yankees’ excuse?

On this weekend alone, Detroit scored 35 runs in three games off the likes of Ron Guidry, Rick Rhoden and Rasmussen. New York’s only good performance came from Tommy John, 44, who retired briefly last year to coach college baseball.

If that’s a championship pitching staff, I’m the Silver Surfer.

Whatever. It’s done, and the AL East is now topped by Toronto, at least for one day. It was a nice little visit by the Yankees. Stop by anytime, guys. And bring your pitchers.

Meanwhile, the rest of us can go home and wake up this Monday morning with fond memories of that fourth inning, which, for a while, felt as if it might never end.

It is Monday, isn’t it?

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