The attitude that the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics took onto the field couldn't have been more different.
Manager Tommy Lasorda made his players believe that the Big Dodger in the Sky was up there. Lasorda went so far as to give pregame pep talks, in the manner of a high school football coach.Players such as Mickey Hatcher and Rick Dempsey are Phi Beta Kappa graduates of the School of Meaningless Hustle and Planned Flakiness. They wore out their welcome with such antics elsewhere, but Hatcher and Dempsey fit well in the rah-rah atmosphere that Lasorda promotes.
The Athletics and Manager Tony LaRussa, on the other hand, attempted to build a ballclub that was solid and deep in all areas and then approach the game with computerized efficiency.
When asked before Thursday night's game what words he might use to inspire his team to overcome a 3-1 deficit, LaRussa said: "What I have to say to this club ain't going to be some weak cliches."
The cliches belong to Lasorda. "My team has gone out there the same way all season - with drive and desire," Lasorda said. "They've never, ever shown any disrespect for me. They never have cheated themselves, their manager, the owners or the fans."
After the Dodgers surprised the Mets in the NL playoffs, the A's were determined to take those cliches and make Lasorda swallow them.
By Wednesday night, LaRussa seemed to have changed his mind. After the 4-3 loss, LaRussa said: "I'm a little aggravated right now because I heard . . . that one of the broadcasters said on the air that the Dodgers were the worst-hitting club to ever play in the World Series. They used that in their meeting.
"It's not a big deal, but I'd like to know how they knew about that and how they used it in a meeting. I know they were out on the field working, not watching TV."
NBC's Bob Costas had made the statement during Wednesday's pregame show.
"I had a meeting with them before the game and tried to get `em fired up," Lasorda said. "Then that Costas deal happened. Hey, anything you can do to add a little fuel to the fire, that's fine."
LaRussa's implication seemed to be that not only is there a Big Dodger in the Sky, but there is a Big Dodger Spy in the NBC television booth. The likely suspect would be Vin Scully, a broadcaster for the Dodgers when he isn't working for NBC. Asked whether he was implying that Scully had tipped off Lasorda, LaRussa said, "I told you: It's no big deal."
Whatever the accusation, LaRussa - the one with the law degree and the advertised cool nerves - clearly was rattled during Thursday night's Series-ending loss to the Dodgers. He would seem to be a candidate to spend the winter resting in a place where they recommend peaceful walks and no razor blades.
Meanwhile, Lasorda - the one with the mouth that roars - had the time of his baseball life this month.
Long after Game 4, a handful of sportswriters still was loitering in Lasorda's office. "What would you guys feel if you heard someone say on the air: `This is the worst bunch of sportswriters that ever covered the Fall Classic, in all the years in the history of the Fall Classic?"' Lasorda said.
A writer, smiling, said: "I would want to write the best story in the history of the Fall Classic."
"That's what my players did," said Lasorda, 61. "With the injuries we have, it's like me going to fight you and you're going to tie both my hands behind my back. I'm going to go for your jugular, man. I'm going to try to bite you in the jugular vein and try to kill you."