The most unfortunate thing that ever happened to the World Series was scheduling it nights. Certainly, this was good in the sense that more people could see it on television. It made the Series more convenient. But the World Series experience was lost in the process. People used to nip about on Series days, stealing some radio play-by-play for a half inning or so, sneaking a couple outs on a TV set. "Did you catch the game yesterday?" was what people said. "Did you catch the home run?" There was a certain boyishness to it, however old you might be, "catching" the Series. Now the October Classic is merely another extravaganza direct from prime time.
The World Series remains the ultimate for the two cities represented. The Super Bowl, by contrast, belongs to the National Football League: purposely neutral, consciously corporate. But the World Series is the most glorious thing a city can gain, better even than a political convention. Then, a city is merely a dateline. The World Series is earned, and with it comes a wonderful commingling of the spirit for our town and our team.
It is well known that championship sporting events bring out more elite crowds than run-of-the-season games. A corollary to this phenomenon is that more females will be in attendance at the big games. The simplest way to tell how much of an impression a sporting event is making on a city is to note how crowded the ladies' rooms are. In both Philly and K.C., the lines of the poor women extended into the concourses.
Win or lose, the most symbolic individual at the Series was Royals Manager Jim Frey. Last year Frey had been first-base coach for the Orioles, and he was the only man to return to the '80 Series in uniform. Through him, we may say, the torch had been passed.
But there was more. Frey never played a single game in the majors. He bounced around the bushes for 14 years. Then he scouted, he coached; finally, this season, out of the blue, the Royals made him manager. And now here he was, the busher, managing one of the two teams that had made the World Series.
"All those years I played in the minors, a lot of people felt sorry for me," he said before the first game. "Including my own family. Hey, when you gonna get a real job, Jim? But I wasn't nearly as frustrated as I've found out I was supposed to be, and the older I got the better I understood. I wouldn't have brought me up either. But you see, I just enjoyed it. My wife enjoyed it. I loved baseball, and I wanted to be a part of it. But, no, honestly, I never thought I would get the chance. I thought I would just coach and coach and coach and get fired when some manager did, and that would be the end of the story." But it wasn't.
For reasons no one could fathom, the people in Philadelphia were crazy about buying the World Series programs. They sold out, about 39,000 of them at $2.50 a throw the first game and another 47,000 the second. The alltime one-game record was believed to have been 18,000.
In Philadelphia there is a fence over the rear of the home dugout, protecting the Phillies from the fans, and, perhaps, vice versa. After the second game a number of young fans started jumping up and down there, screaming "Phils in Four" and such as that. Nobody paid much attention to this frenzied innocence until the fence broke, and it fell over on one young fellow, pinning his leg under it. He collapsed onto the roof of the dugout and lay there in excruciating pain. The boy grimaced and cried out, and his pal, a redhead with frizzy hair, kneeled down to console him. The boy with the injured leg clutched his souvenir Phillie Phanatic doll to his breast. After a while, his buddy took the doll and tenderly put it under his head so that he would have something to lie on.
Life Goes On Dept., or There Are One Billion Chinese Out There Who Couldn't Care Less, Etc. At 7:30 p.m. the night of Friday, Oct. 17, 1980, the very moment when a World Series at last came to Kansas City, about 10 miles away from Royals Stadium, the Shawnee Mission East High School Lancers squared off against the Shawnee Mission Northwest Cougars in an important Sunflower League football game. Now, truth to tell, the crowd was down. "The only ones here are children's fans, not sports fans," said one Mission East parent, Sandy Cochran, settling into his seat.
The Northwest Cougars beat the Lancers 13-0, and only once—when George Brett hit his home run—did the PA intrude on this game with notices from the other.
Following the game, it was the Cochrans' turn to host the Lancers' team "after party." There were about 150 kids there, the players and their dates, cheerleaders, and so forth. Everybody "nerked around" and had a good time. The following day there would be another World Series game at Royals Stadium and, more important, at night there would be the Homecoming Dance at school. It is always good to keep in mind that, although there are World Series for us every year and they mean a great deal to many people, only once are you a starter on the football team or a cheerleader, getting dressed up to go to the Homecoming Dance.