It's been Series of big finishes, strange twists Chops, hankies add hometown flavor


October 27, 1991|By PETER SCHMUCK

When we last looked in on Ted and Jane's excellent adventure, America's favorite couple was stuck in an elevator at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and was about to be transported through time.

Now, they have arrived at the end of the journey -- no doubt after making stops to help Jane learn to drive a tank in Hanoi and Ted to pilot Courageous in the America's Cup -- and will head off into the sunset with their differing political backgrounds and their World Series trophy.

What a country.

The Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins were an even odder couple. Both teams went from last place to first in the space of just one season, something no other major-league team had done in this century. Their presence in the World Series is either a testament to the equalizing effects of free agency or a sign that the overall quality of the sport is regressing.

Either way, it was refreshing to watch a pair of medium-market teams bring a little down-home flavor to baseball's postseason tournament. The tomahawk chop -- politically incorrect as it was -- played very well in prime time. The rebirth of the Homer Hankie captured the imagination of sinus sufferers all over America.

And, happily, the Fall Classic finally lived up to the billing, with a couple of classic finishes in Games 3 and 4. Baseball can't get much more exciting than a sudden-death run on a disputed play at the plate.

Enough said. Here's a look at some of the high spots -- and strange subplots -- from baseball's Octoberfest:

* Dances with picket signs: The American Indian Movement staged a peaceful protest rally outside the Metrodome before Game 1 to focus attention on the demeaning Indian stereotypes fostered by the Braves and their fans.

The representatives of several American Indian and civil rights groups called on professional sports teams to stop using Indian nicknames and asked for a meeting with Braves officials to discuss their offensive use of Indian imagery to promote this year's club.

Representatives of the team and Major League Baseball responded by saying they would be happy to address the situation, but only after the World Series is over -- which is a lot like corporate America saying it will stop polluting just as soon as it runs out of toxic waste.

* The pick-up artist: Kent Hrbek likes to deflect questions abou his weight by telling people that he's bulking up for a career in professional wrestling. Last Sunday night, a lot of them felt he made his wrestling debut when he allegedly hoisted Ron Gant off first base at a pivotal juncture in Game 2.

Hrbek already has chosen his wrestling moniker -- T. Rex -- but he said that he was all baseball in Game 2.

"It wasn't a T. Rex play, it was a baseball play," Hrbek said. "T. Rex hasn't started wrestling yet. He still has a few ballgames left in him."

Gant said there were no hard feelings, except for umpire Drew Coble, who called him out on the play.

"Hrbek just pushed me off the bag," Gant said. "He should be a wrestler. He would be a good one. I don't blame him for trying. I blame the umpire for not calling it [correctly]."

* Little big men: First it was Greg Gagne, whose three-run home in Game 1 was just a portent of things to come. Then it was Scott Leius, who homered in Game 2 to help the Twins sweep the first two games at the Metrodome. But this year's unlikeliest World Series hero is little Mark Lemke, the man of the hour (the 11th hour) in Games 3 and 4 in Atlanta.

Lemke won Game 3 with a sudden-death single in the 12th inning. He set up the winning run in Game 4 with a triple in the ninth. If that wasn't enough, he had two more triples and three RBI in the final game in Atlanta. The guy had three career triples in 621 major-league at-bats coming into the postseason. He had three in a span of four at-bats in Games 4 and 5.

* The chop stops here: Jane Fonda, noted Braves fan an fiancee of club owner Ted Turner, was criticized by Native American groups after she was seen on national television doing the tomahawk chop.

"Jane Fonda has always been a great friend of the American Indian," said American Indian Movement director Clyde Bellecourt, "but now I think I will have to call her Jane Armstrong pTC Custer Fonda."

Fonda, always the model of political correctness, promised to refrain from any activity the American Indians considered demeaning. She still took part in the rhythmic cheering, but she kept her palms down so as not to simulate a tomahawk chop.

This is expected to catch on next season, with Braves fans firing up their team by playing patty-cake in the stands.

* Rocket science: Twins manager Tom Kelly is fond of sayin that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to be a major-league manager, which is a break for him. But he wasn't the only guy to call some questionable shots in the postseason.

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