Day Meant Only for Distractions

Sometimes I think this whole town has gone nuts.

For the first time in L.A.'s history, the Dodgers drew less than 50,000 for a postseason baseball game. They were outplayed in the playoffs Tuesday night by the Cincinnati Reds, 7-2, before a crowd so quiet, you could hear a pennant drop.

Among the spectators was a Judge Lance Ito look-alike who "entertained" in the upper deck behind home plate, dancing in the aisle, wearing a judicial robe. Behind him stood six bare-chested men, wearing paint that spelled G-U-I-L-T-Y.

During the game, one young fan ran the length of the outfield, approached right fielder Raul Mondesi and asked for an autograph, which Mondesi--unbelievably--gave him. No one from Dodger Stadium security came onto the field.

Later, another superior intellect came running into left field, where he proceeded to do cartwheels and somersaults. Then he slid headfirst into second base, then ran back to the outfield, doing more cartwheels. Again, no one from Dodger Stadium security came onto the field. (Could it be the cops had other priorities Tuesday?)

Anyway, another crazy day in L.A.

Here in the city without pro football, here in the city where fans caused the home team to forfeit a game, here in the city where the Dodgers began the playoffs on a day when few people in Los Angeles seemed to be paying them the slightest amount of attention, more than 12,000 seats were unoccupied for a game between two division champions.

The game was over after six batters. Four of them got hits, and all four scored, so, by the time 44,199 people settled in their seats after fighting traffic, hundreds promptly got up and left. Others probably never got out of their cars. They paid to park, circled the stadium and went right out the same gate.

Another lovely week in paradise.

Monday, the Angels got eliminated.

Tuesday, the Dodgers got hammered.

So much for a "Freeway Series." The only freeway action in this town is still a TV helicopter following somebody's car.

Any more college football players been suspended lately?

This used to be such a peaceful town. And any time the Dodgers did something good, they could count on plenty of support. The poorest attendance ever for a Dodger postseason game was 51,273. That was 1981. One year, a World Series game at the Coliseum drew 92,706. This week, the Dodgers might not pull in that many for a two-game series.

They played in peace and quiet Tuesday night. Ramon Martinez got lit up. He gave up 10 hits and got only 13 of Marge Schott's employees out.

One of the Red menaces, Benito Santiago, who never in his life has been referred to as "Mr. October," got a hanging breaking ball from Martinez in the first inning and cracked it out of the park for Marge's charges. The score was 4-0 before a Dodger got to bat.

"It's always important to jump on them early," Cincinnati Manager Davey Johnson said. Yeah, good plan.

Davey also said, "This home-field advantage doesn't feel like home-field advantage."

Nope, Davey, it sure doesn't. Home teams in October don't usually have 12,000 empty seats.

Tom Lasorda had just gotten done telling his own troops on the eve of this series: "You got to play every game like it's your last game." Two more nights like this and Tommy won't have to say it again.

His lineup, loaded with right-handed hitters, should have been licking its lips over batting against Pete Schourek, a left-hander. But of the five hits Schourek yielded, three were by Delino DeShields and Brett Butler, batting left-handed.

L.A. got one extra-base hit all night.

Things were so bleak, when the Dodgers finally did get a rally going, the TV broadcast cut away with a full count on Billy Ashley to take the audience to Yankee Stadium, where Seattle had loaded the bases against David Cone. The best the Dodgers looked all night and it ended up on a split-screen.

Lasorda has seen his team down before.

"We can't afford to lose two here," the chief Dodger optimist said. "I'll tell you what, tomorrow will be a different ball game."

Maybe so. Things are bound to look up for Los Angeles eventually. Tuesday was one of those days when the Dodgers probably should have considered themselves lucky that they were seen by anybody, let alone 44,000-plus. They were the only 44,000 people in L.A. not being asked by some reporter, "What did you think of the verdict?"

Oh, well. Could have been worse.

Could have been Cleveland, and raining.

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