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American League Notebook : La Russa Caps Sweep by Keeping His Head

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

Oakland Manager Tony La Russa hasn’t changed his baseball cap since March and outlawed the word “sweep” at his family’s dinner table this weekend, but insists he isn’t taken by superstition.

“I’m not superstitious,” he said. “Just sentimental.”

Still, La Russa blanched in the dugout before Sunday’s Game 4 of the American League playoffs when he saw one of the A’s bat boys armed with a broom--similar to those carried by a good many A’s fans, hopeful of Oakland brushing aside the Boston Red Sox in 4 games.

“One of our bats boys walked by me with a broom and I almost went ape,” La Russa said. “Turns out, he was only bringing it out to the grounds crew.”

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As for the cap, which is worn, torn and smudged with dirt, La Russa says it will make at least four more appearances in it.

“I’ve won 108 games with that cap,” La Russa said. “If anyone touches it, I’ll kill him. After the season’s over, I’m going to write the number of (Oakland) wins on the bill and put it on a shelf. I’ve got plans for that cap.”

Boston became the first team to be swept in a playoff series since the format was expanded from to best-of-7 in 1985. The Red Sox closed their season with a 1-10 record in their last 11 games. And in these 4 games against the A’s, Boston scored 5 runs in the first 2 innings of Game 3--and only 4 in the series’ other 34 innings.

The wait for a Red Sox world championship now enters its eighth decade. Boston last won a World Series in 1918.

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Jose Canseco was a surprise hit with the national media during the playoffs, keeping the pen-and-note pad troops entertained with pointed opinions and humorous asides--quite a difference from the aloof, unapproachable rookie of 1986.

Someone asked Canseco the reason for the change.

“I speak English now,” he cracked.

Add Canseco: His 3 home runs tied an American League playoff record, first set by Kansas City’s George Brett in 1985. The major-league record is 4 home runs in a series, set by San Francisco’s Jeffrey Leonard in 1987 and Pittsburgh’s Bob Robertson in 1971.

Dave Stewart is La Russa’s tentative choice to start Game 1 of the World Series, scheduled for Saturday in either New York or Los Angeles.

“I haven’t had a lot of time to think about the World Series yet,” La Russa said. “But if you wanted to bet a plate of spaghetti on the guy who went today (Stewart), you might not be wrong.”


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