Storybook Ending to Regular Season

A Hollywood writer might have scripted the Dodgers ending to 2006 regular season play. A three game set in San Francisco. Warm up Tony Bennett ("I Left My Heart in San Francisco"). Have Joe Morgan do the telecast. Give out bobbleheads of Bobby Thompson.

The Dodgers are one game behind the Padres for first place. They have a two game advantage on the Phillies for the wild card with only three games to play.

First sacker Nomar Garciaparra is hurting, but the Dodgers have suddenly found Roy Hobbs (The Natural, by Bernard Malamud, for you dummies) in James Loney.

The pitching staff remains a perpetual question but Brett Tomko, he of the awful September, comes back home to San Francisco on the heels to two shutout appearances in of all places Denver.

The Dodgers begin tonight with a pitcher with only a single win this season, H. K. Kuo, the lefty with the hummer. They follow with Father Time (Greg Maddux) and Big Time (Derek Lowe) who salivates for big games.

The Dodgers set all this up with a sweep in Denver and Dodgers sweeps have been few are far between this season of wild swings.

The Phillies helped by dropping 2 of 3 in Washington and are up against it by going to south Florida to face the loosey goosey Marlins, those kids who don't know they are supposed to be lousy.

Should the Dodgers escape with the wild card but miss the division itself, they would first have to play the Mets in the playoffs. That wouldn't be the worst case scenario. The Mets have lost their ace Pedro Martinez and if anything, the Mets have worse pitching than the Dodgers.

The Mets, so strong all season, have questions, plenty of them. Their corner outfielders are suspect. In left, they have Cliff Floyd, he of the off season, or Lastings Milledge, the phenom who's bubble has burst this year. In right, they send out Shawn Green, the homer hitter turned singles slapping hanger on.

Their slugging first baseman, Carlos Delgado, is hitting a gaudy .250. The catcher, Paulie Lo Duca, the former popular Dodgers player, has also proven popular in too many off field places, and is playing with a bunch of worries in his head.

The Dodgers scrambling for post season play is only one of three exciting races going into the final weekend. The improbable and small market Minnesota Twins have caught the surprising Detroit Tigers with three to play. Both will advance, but the final weekend sets will determine who will face the New York All-Stars and who goes to Oakland. Wouldn't it be great for baseball is both the Twins and Tigers advance and play for the League title and a seat in the World Series!

The Phillies had the post season in their hands and have lost it. But their failure to hang on is small potatoes compared to the late season swoon of the St. Louis Cards, who's seemingly uncatchable lead is down to a half game and here come the Houston Astros.

Tony LaRussa and the Cards are doing their very best imitation of Greg Mauch and the Philadelphia Phillies most memorable collapse of ages past.

The Astros have the big mo (momentum) and the Cards have a bigger lump in their throat than Andy Gump (for any of you old foggies who remember the exaggerated adam's apple character from the comic strips).

Scrap Iron Garner and his Astros seem like they play baseball with hand grenades in the late season. They are a bunch of tough characters.

There is a better than even chance there could be a playoff before the playoff: between the Dodgers and Padres, between the Cards and Astros. We would rather face the Mets pitching right now than the Astros pitching, and pitching is 90 per cent of baseball - the other 10 per cent being in Colorado.

We've been on the Dodgers case in September, but they've won four in a row - and they have had to win each of those games. They'll have to win two of three in San Francisco to stay in front of the Phillies, and all three if they hope to catch the Padres.

The Dodgers have played with lots of heart in the last week, when it has counted the most. If the Dodgers can manage to advance, they will do so, and most fittingly so, at the expense of the, ugh, the Giants. At least the law of averages are in their favor.

Should they follow their sweep of the Rockies and, god forbid, get swept by the Giants, we would want a Congressional investigation of the many Giants influences in and around the Dodgers.

It is with a very great deal of personal sadness that we note Billy Shelley's story today that the Dodgers have played their last ever Florida State League game in Vero Beach, having decided to move to the California League. Over the years, we covered more than a 1,000 Vero Beach Dodgers games.

So many memories.

So many wonderful nights. Sitting in the old press box, with food and beverage impresario Bob O'Neil personally bringing his concoctions to us, watching a game amidst the likes of Ike Ikuhara and Orel Hershiser Sr. and dozens of big league scouts in the press box was heaven on earth.

So many friends, senior citizens, who had part time jobs not for the money but because they loved the game and the Dodgers, pals we played poker with, so many future big leaguers passing through.

It was an unaffected time and place and setting. Sandy Koufax bumming my cigarettes (that's why he could afford to live on the ocean and we lived on he mainland, we always kidded him).

We moved up the road some years ago and Billy Shelley moved in. He missed the best of it.

We had the O'Malley Dodgers. He got the Fox Dodgers and the Parking Lot Dodgers. Shelley got the hurricane Vero Beach. In truth, the biggest hurricane that hit Dodgertown was the day the O'Malley family no longer held title to the team.

If the O'Malley family still owned the Dodgers, there would be no announcement of the Dodgers leaving any part of its connection with Vero Beach.

Vero Beach was part of the O'Malley family and you don't sell family. It was a place in time, a wonderful place in a crazy world.