World Series schedule examined; Dodgers felt frustrated, too

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Oh, for a return to those golden days when the entire World Series was played in the autumn splendor of mid-October afternoons. That, of course, is a pipe dream in today's TV-dominated setting. But is it asking too much to play an occasional day game, and to start those at night a little earlier? Must today's version be transformed, as it was this year, into not only an all-night show but ``The Late, Late Show''? Many people were asking that question last week. Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth joined in, saying he'd like at least one day game. But all this, of course, was in the excitement of the moment. So before we store this year's fall classic away in the memory bank, it might be a good idea to examine the reality of the situation.

Obstacle No. 1 is a TV contract through 1989 calling for weekday games at night, with the networks having the option of day or night games on the weekends.

Ueberroth, noting that the current contract was negotiated before he took office, said he would explore changes when it came time for a new contract, and perhaps even sooner via renegotiating the present one.

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That sounds good, but there's still that old bottom line of money. This contract is far more lucrative than any previous one, and prime time advertising revenue is part of the package. Clearly, any switch to day games would entail reducing the rights fee - and baseball owners have seldom shown much inclination to part with money.

Also, this doesn't address the real problem - the late starts for night contests. Almost all of this year's games started in the vicinity of 8:30 p.m. or later. Two ran past midnight and most of the others were close to that hour.

An earlier start is the obvious solution - but that also doesn't appear feasible. Again, we are talking money, and the networks can only recoup the huge rights fees by putting on the games during prime time - which traditionally means an 8 p.m. start for the program.

Games can't begin right away, but they could start at 8:15 or so - as they did a year ago when ABC did the telecast. One problem this year was that NBC opted for more pre-game hoopla, pushing the start back closer to 8:30 - and even later one night so as not to interfere with its popular Bill Cosby show. Worse yet, several of this year's games turned into long, drawn-out affairs.

So things could be streamlined a bit. But don't hold your breath waiting for any really significant changes. Old Dodgers know how Red Sox feel

Much has been made of Boston's history of frustration, but even including this year's World Series loss to the New York Mets, the Red Sox are still a distant second in the ``Heartbreak Derby'' to the old Brooklyn Dodgers.

The Red Sox, as everyone must know by now, haven't won a World Series since 1918. They had four chances - 1946, 1967, 1975, and 1986 - and every time they lost in the seventh game. They also lost playoffs in 1948 and 1978 - the latter made harder to take because they (a) blew a 14-game lead in the regular season and (b) were leading in the playoff game until the normally light-hitting Bucky Dent stunned them with a three-run homer. And then there were the '49 and '72 teams, both of which lost out on the last day of the regular season.

The fact that earlier Red Sox teams won five World Series doesn't console today's fans, but it does point up one difference between the situation in Boston now and the one in Brooklyn in the 1940s and early '50s.

The Dodgers at that time had never won a Series. And starting in 1941, they compiled a 13-year stretch of near-misses that no team is ever likely to match. To wit:

1941 - The Dodgers won their first pennant in 21 years, but lost the Series to the Yankees - the key play coming when Mickey Owen's dropped third strike turned victory into defeat in the pivotal fourth game.

1942 - Brooklyn led the National League by 10 games in mid-August and finished with a 104-50 record, but was nosed out by an even better St. Louis team.

1946 - The Dodgers tied the Cardinals only to lose out in the first-ever pennant playoff in either league.

1947 - After winning the pennant, the Dodgers created all the memorable moments in the Series (Cookie Lavagetto's hit that broke up Bill Bevens's no-hitter, Al Gionfriddo's great catch), but lost again to the Yankees.

1949 - Another pennant, another loss to the Yankees.

1950 - Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, & Co. lost out to Philadelphia on the last day of the season when the winning run was thrown out at the plate in the ninth inning and Dick Sisler hit a three-run homer in the 10th.

1951 - All you have to say is, ``Bobby Thomson.''

1952 - Rebounding from that devastating playoff loss to the New York Giants via Thomson's three-run ninth inning homer, the '52 Dodgers roared through the regular season and were leading the Yankees 3-2 in the Series with the last two games at home, but lost them both.

1953 - Another pennant, another loss to the Yankees.

Thus in a span of 13 years, this team and its fans suffered through nine near-misses: five in the World Series itself, two in playoffs, and two in the regular season. ``Wait 'til next year,'' became a national joke applied to Brooklyn and the Dodgers.

But Red Sox fans can take heart, for ``next year'' came in 1955, when the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees. And since then the team (now in Los Angeles) has gone on to win nine more pennants and four more World Series.

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