Allusions to '89 earthquake seem inappropriate at best

The Kickoff

October 27, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

St. Louis — St. Louis-- --St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has seen it all in his 28 years as a major league manager, so it's hard to imagine a couple of wet evenings in the Midwest causing him a whole lot of anxiety.

He was manager of the Oakland Athletics in 1989, when the earth shook in the Bay Area and put the Fall Classic in true perspective. He was manager of the Cardinals when one of his star pitchers - Darryl Kile - was found dead in the team hotel in Chicago. Into each life some rain must fall, and whoever came up with that cliche was not talking about anything that shows up on Doppler radar.

When somebody at yesterday's pre-game news conference asked La Russa about the 10-day World Series delay caused by the 1989 earthquake, I winced at the attempt to make some link between that terrible October and this inclement one. There can be no comparison between a natural disaster that killed scores of people and the weather delay that postponed Game 4 on Wednesday night and threatened to do the same again last night.

But La Russa handled it well, reflecting on the mixed feelings that emerged during the week and a half between the quake and the resumption of the series, as well as the aftermath of his first World Series title.

"It was a devastating hit to the Bay Area," La Russa said. "And there were some attempts to make us feel guilty for wanting to continue it, but I looked around and everybody else, every other form of entertainment [continued]. ... As a club we concentrated on that professionally this was an opportunity. In that clubhouse there were very few guys with World Series rings. Very, very few. This was their chance.

"On a personal side, we were careful not to celebrate. We didn't have a parade. We didn't have champagne, stuff like that."

I covered the 1989 Series and can vouch for La Russa's memory of the situation. Many well-meaning media members hammered Major League Baseball for not canceling the rest of the series in honor of the victims of the earthquake.

Of course, what they didn't take into account was the economic impact that cancellation would have had on the same people who had been victimized by the tremendous property damage caused by the temblor. It might have made some people feel better, but not those who mattered.

Against such a tragic backdrop, the logistical ramifications of Wednesday night's postponement and the continuing weather problems that could cause other rainouts fall into the realm of minor inconvenience.

Is anybody out there?

If I were a cynic, I might point out that nobody outside of Detroit and St. Louis is paying attention anyway.

Baseball officials announced that Tuesday night's World Series broadcast got the lowest television rating of any Game 3 in history, which shouldn't surprise anyone who knows how important it is for America to have the New York Yankees alive in the postseason.

No doubt, Fox network officials haven't slept a wink since the Yankees and Mets dropped out of the picture and left them with a low-impact matchup between two time-honored franchises, but La Russa isn't apologizing.

"The way I look at it, if you're anywhere from a casual to a great baseball fan, and you've got the Cardinals and the Tigers with the history both these franchises have, it's a must-see World Series. That's enough for me."

More perspective

Once again, it's important to put things in proper perspective. There's no question that a Los Angeles Dodgers-Yankees matchup would garner vastly superior ratings to anything involving two middle-market teams from the heartland, but the broadcast environment has evolved so dramatically over the past decade that it's unfair to judge this World Series based entirely on TV ratings.

When you talk about the lowest prime-time Game 3 ratings in history, you have to take into account that there was a time when the World Series was broadcast on one of the three major networks and the two others all but conceded the time slot. Now, the average American household has a cable package with anywhere from 50 to 250 channels. It's just a different landscape.

Open question

With all due respect to the two managers, if this is such a compelling, historic World Series matchup, why is everybody just sitting around waiting for Kenny Rogers to pitch again?

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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