Lemkemania, Dome magic on collision course

MIKE LITTWIN

October 25, 1991|By MIKE LITTWIN

ATLANTA -- Let's interrupt Lemkemania, just for a minute, to bring you this little update: Braves 3 wins, Twins 2.

The worst-worst-worst-to-first Braves, right here in the loserville capital of America, are one win away from a world championship. It would be the city's first in 82 professional seasons of Hawks, Falcons, Flames (deceased) and, of course, Braves, who had averaged more than 100 losses in their previous three seasons.

They're one win away, and they go back to the MonstroDome, trying to get it starting tomorrow. Meantime, they leave their fans with hopes and dreams and memories of Mark Lemke. The Lemmer. The Lemster. The Lematolla. The Lemmeister.

Hero of Game 3, hero of Game 4, Lemke got two more improbable triples last night, giving him three for the Series, equaling his total triples in his entire big-league career. He is 7-for-16 in the Series and one Braves win away from an MVP award. In the chop shop, this guy is definitely not chopped liver. But you knew that. You know everything about him by now.

Can you stand more Lemke? The Twins can't.

The day before, CBS-TV got up close and personal with him, following him to his house, following him around town, introducing him to a Lemke-starved America. Now, it's like he's a friend of the family. I know everyone in Atlanta wants him over for dinner.

CBS asked him for breakfast.

"They wanted breakfast," Lemke was saying. "Breakfast. I get to sleep about 4 and they want me up at 8. I'm exhausted, man. Breakfast.

"I said I'd do it at 2."

They got him at 2, and then Lemke got the Twins for two triples.

The Twins say they have devised a plan for Lemke. Imagine. "We know what we need to do with the ball against him," manager Tom Kelly said. "If we don't it, he'll knock us around again."

Of course, last night, it wasn't just him. Last night, it was almost all the Braves -- David Justice, Lonnie Smith, Ron Gant -- smothering the Twins, who seemed to have a problem with the weather. What I mean is, they have a problem playing where there is weather.

Before coming to Atlanta, they hadn't played a game outdoors since Oct. 3. On that day, they got swept in a doubleheader. It has been beautiful here, warm with bright blue skies. It was perfect baseball weather, except the Twins like their weather manufactured. That has to be the explanation. It couldn't just be the Braves' pitching.

And how's this -- after the 14-5 swamping last night -- the Twins go home to the noise and fun-house shape of the Metrodome, but they also get to meet up with young Steve Avery in Game 6. And if they escape that, they get John Smoltz in Game 7.

And they have to escape some memories. The first two games in Atlanta had been only wondrous, the kinds of games that you stick in the VCR and bring up on cold, winter nights when the visions of Lemke sliding into the plate have dimmed. For the Twins, however, they were two games that could have been won. Last night's game was different. For the Twins, it was a humiliating defeat in the little chop of horrors.

They can look, however, to the fact that the home team has won 22 of the past 27 World Series games and that the Twins are 6-0 lifetime in the Series at the Metrodome.

They have to look to something. Their big hitters -- Puckett, Hrbek, Mack -- have been something like a very large zero, going a combined 6-for-52.

So desperate were the Twins that they put DH Chili Davis in the outfield, figuring, perhaps, that Davis couldn't be any worse afield than the Braves' Lonnie "Skates" Smith.

It didn't do them enough good. Davis didn't get to Lemke's triple that maybe a really good right fielder would have chased down. But he did go 1-for-3 and scored twice.

The Twins did walk, yes, indeed. That was all they could do. Their big rally was based on a single and four walks in the sixth when Braves starter Tom Glavine lost his stuff. But when the Twins needed some hits, they didn't get them.

On the other side, the hits just kept on coming. You get games like this, and they don't mean much except that it's one. In 1987, the exact same thing happened to the Twins. They were up, 2-0, and then down, 3-2, and came back to win the Series.

But the Cardinals didn't have Lemke, did they?

This was a guy whose previous biggest thrill came when he was the MVP in a Class AAA All-Star Game. Now he's a folk hero.

"This is crazy," he said.

Exactly.

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