Postseason Trivia

You never know what you'll find at the Hall of Fame Library.

On a recent visit, I discovered a looseleaf binder prepared by Major League Baseball for use by the media during the 1997 World Series. Most of the contents are intended to make reporters and broadcasters sound smart when something unusual happens ("That was the first steal of home in the World Series since..."), but others are just plain fun -- or more informative than MLB might wish.

For example, the binder contains a table of World Series ticket prices since 1969. That year, and every year through 1977, box seats for the Series cost just $15! Reserved seats were priced at $10, with general admission costing $8, bleachers $6 and standing room $4.

This year, box seats for the Series are priced at $160 and $130. Reserved seats cost $110 and $95, while $50 buys a bleacher seat or general admission ticket. The price of Series tickets has risen roughly 1,000% since 1977, a rate of increase even John Harrington would envy. More than half of the jump has come in the past three years: in 1997, Series tickets were scaled from $75 for box seats down to $20 for standing room.

Most of this money has gone to the players. Everyone on the 12 first- and second-place teams shares in the postseason pool, which collects 60% of the gate from the first four World Series and LCS games, and 60% from the first three divisional series games. The World Series winner takes 36% of the pool, while the Series loser gets 24%. Each LCS loser receives 12%, the four Divisional Series losers divide 3% each, and the second-place teams which didn't make the playoffs each take 1%.

MLB's World Series binder also identifies everyone who threw out the first pitch or sang the "Star-Spangled Banner" at a World Series game between 1975 and 1996. (I updated the list through 1999.) In 1975, the Red Sox honored the U.S. military, inviting Army or Navy choruses to perform before three of the four games at Fenway and having the immortal Carl Glencorss, a Navy Seaman recruit, throw out the first pitch before Game Two.

The other first-pitch honorees that year included Secretary of the Treasury William Simon (Game One; the Reds countered with Secretary of Commerce Rogers Morton), 87-year-old former Sox outfielder Duffy Lewis (Game Six), and, for the deciding seventh game, Joe Tramontana, "10-year-old representative of youngsters everywhere."

Joe, wherever you are, nobody's going to believe you.

When the Sox returned to the Series in 1986, the quality of singers and tossers improved dramatically. Saundra Santiago, Natalie Cole and Smokey Robinson sang in Boston; Glenn Close, Billy Joel, Paul Simon and someone named Kenneth Mack in New York. Tip O'Neill, Bowie Kuhn and Ted Williams threw out the first pitches at Fenway, while the Mets honored outgoing NL president Chub Feeney, Elie Weisel, who had just won the Nobel Peace Prize, and stadium namesake Bill Shea. In a nice touch, Sox owner Jean Yawkey and Mets owner Nelson Doubleday jointly threw out the first pitch before Game Seven.

First-pitch throwers are typically baseball executives, local celebrities, former statesmen or retired players. A few active players have received the honor, most notably Orel Hershiser, who in 1988 threw out the first pitch before Game Two to commemorate his recordbreaking streak of consecutive scoreless innings, then remained on the mound to hurl a three-hit shutout. Joe DiMaggio holds the post-'75 record for most first pitch tosses, with five. A lowlight came in 1997, when Game Two's first pitch was thrown by the winner of a contest run by one of MLB's sponsors.

At least National Anthem singers have never been selected by lot -- though sometimes that might have been an improvement. The Dodgers alone have inflicted Glen Campbell, Toni Tennille (twice!) and Debbie Gibson on an unsuspecting public, while other clubs have invited Billy Ray Cyrus, Peter Cetera, and the unspeakable Michael Bolton.

Since 1975, Yankees favorite Robert Merrill has sung the most anthems, nine. In 1998 George Steinbrenner wanted Merrill to sing before Game One, but MLB insisted on Tony Bennett instead. Bennett then created a mini-controversy by singing "America the Beautiful" instead of "The Star-Spangled Banner," later explaining that he "doesn't sing war songs." However, MLB said nothing when FOX arranged for Lisa Nicole Carson of "Ally McBeal" to sing the anthem before Game Four, any more than it objected the year before when NBC had Lea Thompson of "Caroline in the City" perform. (And you thought those reaction shots of network stars in the stands were bad...)

MLB still hasn't forgotten 1968, when Jose Feliciano's soulful rendition of the anthem before a game in Detroit outraged traditionalists. Ever since. most anthem singers have been middle of the road country, pop or "lite jazz" artists. Although a few selections have ventured beyond the boundaries of blandness (Chrissie Hynde and Joe Walsh in Cleveland, John Popper and En Vogue in Atlanta), no rap or hard rock act has ever been chosen. Look for one about the same time MLB rolls back Series ticket prices by 20%.