Playoff rain delays; pitchers surprise

When it comes to absurd images, baseball's recent post-season history has two of the all-time classics: Bowie Kuhn out there sans topcoat on that wintry evening in Cincinnati in 1976, and the monsoon-like conditions under which the Dodgers and Phillies were forced to play almost an entire game in 1977.

One trouble with doing such silly things is that they stick in people's minds. Every time it gets cold at World Series time, the jokes about Kuhn and his thermal underwear start all over again. And when it rains - especially at a National League playoff game - it reminds everyone of the Philadelphia fiasco.

Well, it rained Wednesday in St. Louis, the game was halted with Atlanta leading 1-0 with one out in the bottom of the fifth, and eventually N. L. president Chub Feeney called it off.

Taken by itself, this was no big deal. It was a tough break for the Braves, who were two outs away from victory, but as the saying goes, you win some, you lose some, and some get rained out. And to be fair to Feeney, he probably made the right decision in the context of this particular game.

Because of 1977, however, such decisions aren't taken by themselves any more. In fact, anytime Chub Feeney says it's too wet to play baseball, one has to ask what his criterion is.

That's a rhetorical question, because we all know the answer: at playoff and World Series time, baseball officials simply abdicate all authority, watch the big green eye, and dance to whatever tune the TV moguls play.

They start the World Series on the heels of the playoffs, causing great inconvenience to all concerned, because that way a travel day falls at the right time to avoid conflict with Monday Night football. They've altered post-season schedules through the years to accomodate TV's changing view of whether baseball did or didn't belong on prime time, finally settling on one that puts far too many games in chilly late-October nights. And in the latest gimmick - started a couple of years ago - they begin the league playoffs on different days so as to squeeze in one extra prime time game.

In Philadelphia on that infamous Saturday night five years ago, the TV people apparently wanted the game to continue - so continue it did in a downpour that made a mockery of the sport. This time with only daytime ratings involved ABC probably didn't care much one way or another, so baseball found itself in the unaccustomed position of being allowed to make its own decision.

At least Feeney made the right one. But a lot of people will be watching to see what happens next time - especially if the situation arises at a time when calling off a game might be inconvenient for his TV overlords. Another Mr. October

Reggie Jackson is already doing his ''Mr. October'' thing - as he showed with a tape measure home run that turned out to be the winning run in Game 2 of the American League playoffs. Meanwhile Reggie's California teammate Bruce Kison is building a similar reputation as far as pitchers go.

Kison first came to national attention via his outstanding pitching as a 20 -year-old bridegroom-to-be during Pittsburgh's 1971 World Series victory, and over the years he has been even better in playoff action, where after Wednesday night's victory he is now 4-0 with a 1.09 earned run average. Angels' haven't needed bullpen

The biggest surprise in the AL series has been the ability of California's oft-maligned mound corps to contain Milwaukee's array of sluggers. The secret of beating the Angels is supposed to be forcing them to use their bullpen, because, as one foe put it during the season, ''they don't have any.'' Starters Tommy John and Kison solved that problem in the first two games, going the distance in 8-3 and 4-2 victories that put the Angels on the verge of their first World Series appearance. Few come back; The enormity of the task facing the Brewers is illustrated by the fact that ever since divisional play began in 1969, no team has come back from 0 -2 to win a championship series. They have the rest of the games at home, however. And there is a precedent of sorts in the divisional playoffs held last year because of the strike-induced split season. In one of those, Los Angeles rebounded from 0-2 to defeat Houston. And the Brewers themselves came close to such a feat, losing the first two at home, then winning the next two in New York before bowing in the finale. 'New look' World Series

Whoever ultimately wins, we're already assured of a ''new look'' World Series. For one thing, the entire playoff cast is different from that of a year ago - - something that has happened only twice before in 13 years. Furthermore, only one of this year's combatants (the St. Louis Cardinals) has ever been in a World Series. That's a bit tricky, because Milwaukee teams have made it, and so have the Braves, but this year would still be a first for these teams as they are presently constituted (i.e., the Milwaukee Brewers and the Atlanta Braves), as well as for the Angels.

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