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A Royal blue season

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FOR the boys and girls of summer, the last out in the last game of the World Series marks the end of a season, with all that that implies. As any sandlotter knows, snappier weather hardens the ball. Autumn winds play havoc with fielding. Dwindling daylight curbs afternoon warmth and presages winter's chill. Time to return the glove to the bottom dresser drawer. Turn over field and stands to football, whose system of crowds and huddles and brief playing formations seems better suited to inclemency. But not without noting that the 1985 World Series ended a remarkable professional season: a record 47 million attendance for the two major leagues and a profusion of individual records, led by Pete Rose's replacing Ty Cobb as the player with the greatest number of career base hits. On the downside, there was the taint of drug scandal, which commissioner Peter Ueberroth sought ways -- possibly including drug tests -- to eradicate.

That effort lies ahead. The substances involved, chiefly cocaine, are the drugs of the affluent. Professional baseball players are privileged not alone by the velocity of their throwing or by their reflexes at bat; the game is a business made lucrative by television and promotion, a business uniquely sensitive to perceptions of its character and image. All associated with the game -- players, owners, promoters -- should heed the commissioner's warning to take the drug challenge seriously.

In the end it was the Kansas City Royals' season. Coming from behind twice, down three games to one in the American League playoffs against Toronto and again in the Series against the National League's St. Louis Cardinals, the Royals were not to be stopped.

The final game, an 11-0 laugher, was one of those episodes that usually occur during midseason and are forgotten: For the Cardinals, too, the one-sided game should be seen in the context of an otherwise exceptional year. After all, who among us hasn't at some point gone 11 and nothing?

Why do we celebrate the one victor and not the 25 teams that lost along the way? The one seventh-game winning pitcher and not the five routed in a single inning, or the millions of watching fans for whom the game is spectacle, and nothing more?

Perhaps baseball is really a game for those who do not win the Series, who do not play it. As Yale's A. Bartlett Giamatti puts it: ``It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.''


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