Byline: Bob Molinaro
Funny thing about baseball in October. The games are even slower and more protractive than during the regular season.
But in the fall, as the plot thickens, the pulse of the country quickens. A sport that seems sluggish, even tedious, in the lazy days of summer takes on an air of urgency.
In October, every little thing about the games assumes exaggerated significance. Managerial moves that draw yawns or inspire trips to the bathroom during the regular season, take on great importance. Relatively routine at-bats become tableaus of strategy, concentration and nerves. Good fielding plays are elevated to greatness.
It's baseball on adrenaline. It's an entirely different pastime than the one played night after night for six months, when baseball serves as a sleep aid. When it all comes together to produce something as riveting as the Mets-Braves series, or as intriguing as Yankees-Red Sox, you go away with a greater appreciation for the game.
Anybody who saw the last few innings of Game 6 of the Mets-Braves series knows that it was not worth missing for a clubhouse card game. The National League melodrama left the World Series with a tough act to follow. But baseball already has made its point. There's no better sport when something important is on the line.
``There were just so many marvelous things that went on in those games,'' says Dave Rosenfield, general manager of the Norfolk Tides.
As the Braves and Mets created a TV bonanza for baseball, Rosenfield watched from behind home plate at Shea Stadium in New York with his wife, Charmaine, and Bobby Valentine's wife, Mary. During Game 5's 5-hour, 46-minute, 15-inning marathon, they sat through a steady rain.
``I had a leather coat on,'' Rosenfield says. ``When it was over, it weighed 400 pounds.''
He never considered seeking cover. Or complaining when the game dragged into the night.
``That game was not too long for anybody,'' he said.
He's probably right about that. But, then, Rosenfield never gets enough baseball.
``Every day of the year would be fine by me,'' he says.
On his way to Shea for the Mets' three home games, Rosenfield felt butterflies in his stomach.
``I think I like the game too much,'' he says. ``You shouldn't like it so much that you're nervous about it.''
When pitcher Octavio Dotel, and outfielders Benny Agbayani and Melvin Mora, all who played in Norfolk this year, performed well against the Braves, nobody was prouder than Rosenfield.
``It really makes you understand how valuable the minor leagues are,'' he says. ``Those are kids who got enough experience here that they could go up there and fill a hole.''
Every October, baseball fans discover talent that gets lost during the summer, when there are just too many games. Now if only something could be done about the length of playoff games. Four of the five times the Yankees and Red Sox met, their chess matches ran more than 3 1/2 hours.
So what, Rosenfield says. The time it takes to play these games ``isn't a negative,'' he insists. ``In a world where we're always rushing to beat the clock, baseball is the only game where you don't run out of time.
``What is perceived as slowness by some is part of the charm of baseball,'' he says. ``It isn't a hurry-up deal. We spend our entire lives hurrying up.''
At any rate, October clock watching is best left to fans of football, a sport perceived to be more popular than baseball. Comparisons of attendance and TV ratings are bogus, though. NFL teams play once a week. For six months, baseball teams play virtually every day.
``If we played one baseball game a week on a Sunday,'' said Rosenfield, ``you couldn't get a ticket for a million dollars.''
Is Dave getting carried away? Baseball in October can do that to anyone.