Was it Gertrude Stein or Bob Costas who uttered the immortal words: "There is no there there"?
Actually Stein said that, in reference to the city of Oakland.
And NBC pregame host Bob Costas, in slightly different words, said that about the Dodgers' starting lineup Wednesday night before Game 4 of the World Series.
Or maybe Stein said that about Costas. I'm not sure. This is a very confusing World Series. I do know that the Dodgers believe they won Game 4 in the locker room before the game. Most of them were gathered around a TV set when Costas commented, quite accurately, that the team the Dodgers were about to send out to be sacrificed to the Oakland Bashers was perhaps the worst in World Series history, on paper.
The Dodgers went crazy.
"Oh, man, you shoulda heard 'em," Rick Dempsey said. "I was in the trainer's room, and I heard a big growl. I came out and said, 'What happened?' Someone said, 'We'll show him what weak is!' "
You've heard Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda referred to time and again as a great motivator. Wednesday evening, Tommy's master stroke of motivation came in tuning the clubhouse TV to the right channel.
Had he let the players watch, say, "Wheel of Fortune," the A's might have cruised to victory instead of losing the game, 4-3, and falling behind, 3 games to 1.
Hey, whatever works.
It's unlikely Costas will be sued for slander. His only mistake was in not flat-out declaring this Dodger lineup the all-time woofer, on paper.
Most ballclubs feature what they call the "meat" of the batting order. The Dodgers featured a vegetarian lineup--no meat.
This performance was pure Stuntman, the name that the Dodger reserves gave themselves back in spring training when guys like Dempsey, Mickey Hatcher and Danny Heep didn't even get to work out on the same field with the regulars.
Not that the Dodgers, in a cooler moment, didn't agree that this was one ugly team that took the field against what was considered the greatest American League team in 14 years.
"I think we believe, too, this was one of the worst lineups ever," Hatcher said. "You go down the lineup, who are those guys?"
Still, the Dodgers swear that innocent little TV show got them frothing at the collective mouth.
"Sure, stuff like that (angers us)," stuntman Danny Heep said. "We've won over 100 games this year. If we're doing it with a weak lineup, so be it, it's not new. Vin Scully has been rough on us all year. He thinks we're doing it with mirrors."
No, right now they're doing it with newspaper columns (thank you, David Cone), opponent quotes (thank you, Don Baylor) and TV screens (thank you, B.C.).
In a sport that calls for calmness and clarity of thought, the Dodgers stormed out of the Oakland Coliseum locker room with Hatcher screaming, "Let's go, you horse . . . team, let's go show 'em!"
For posterity, that starting lineup was Steve Sax, Franklin Stubbs, Hatcher, Mike Davis, John Shelby, Mike Scioscia, Heep, Jeff Hamilton and Alfredo Griffin.
Davis, batting cleanup, hit .197 this season with 17 runs batted in. His spot was taken over in the eighth inning by stunt double Jose Gonzalez, who hit his only two major league homers in 1986.
These nine starting batters combined couldn't carry Jose Canseco's bat in a wheelbarrow, in normal times. But check the scoreboard, fans.
Mike Marshall and Kirk Gibson were on the bench with injuries, and Scioscia joined them, and the Dodgers still won. You get the feeling if a couple more key Dodger starters get hurt, the A's are really in trouble.
This is a Dodger team that had to, as they say in baseball, "manufacture" runs. Like Stradivarius manufactured violins--very slowly and carefully.
Wednesday night, they manufactured up a little storm--walks, errors, passed balls. They did everything but distract the A's fielders by pointing to the Goodrich blimp.
"I think it was a great lineup," said Marshall, whose back injury put him on the bench until the ninth inning. "These guys deserve to be out there. They are major leaguers. Just because we lost a couple starters doesn't mean those guys don't belong. I thought it was a nice lineup."
For Albuquerque, maybe, if they can add a power hitter or two.
But listen, the Stuntmen manufactured runs, 4 of them, enough to win.
"We haven't played this gooda baseball all season long," Dempsey said. "I think they (the A's) realize we're better players than we are on paper. We may not have a lot of power, but we got a lot of feisty guys on this team."
Which is like a blind date with a great personality.
Sorry, Dodgers, but there's no way this Stuntman aggregation goes up, 3-1, on the Bashers. I demand a recount.
Lasorda, after the game, was beside himself. Or has he just put on a lot more weight? He was so excited, he was in danger of hyperventilating and having to go on the disabled list. He was a man in a daze.
"My players were up in arms!" Lasorda screamed, referring to the pregame TV viewing. "My players were screaming at the TV set! I was helpin' 'em out. I was screamin'!"
What else is new?
At another point in the postgame euphoria, Lasorda said, "The whole team was screaming, 'Kill Costas!' I had to try to calm 'em down."
Right. And you put out a fire by calling an arsonist.
"I tell ya, boy," Lasorda gushed, eyes glinting wildly, "this is a dream team!"
Hatcher, who singled in the first inning and scored the Dodgers' second run, surveyed the media people jammed in the postgame clubhouse and said, "We got these guys shaking their heads. They don't know what to say about us."
I think Costas covered that pretty well.
When I left the Coliseum Wednesday night, the Bashers were slippin' off a dock of the bay, watchin' their pride go driftin' away. The Dodger starters, if they planned to stop off for a thirst-quencher, were probably headed for the only appropriate place--a singles bar.
And Mickey Hatcher delivered a final ominous warning to the Bashers and the world in general.
"It'll be the same (doggone) lineup tomorrow night!" Hatcher screamed.
It could be ugly.