Poor Don Zimmer. No one has ever accused the pleasantly, permanently befuddled Bosox manager of knowing much about ornithology, but over the past two weeks he's watched his boys do a frighteningly accurate impression of a dying turkey. In fact, almost all the teams in American League have been giving the Sox the bird of late, as Zim has presided over a choke of near spectacular proportions. The locals, who were once playing so high they were reportedly considered as extras in Star Wars II, now look much more reminiscent of The Bad News Bears--that monstrous 10-game division lead has shrunk to a mere five (pending the results of tonight's quasi-double-header in New York, which could knock it down to three-and-a-half), and the whole team has been hitting pretty much like Tatum O'Neal. And the club certainly didn't help the cause by signing on starter Andy Hassler, the not-so-proud owner of the A.L. for consecutive losses for a pitcher (17). But misery loves company, we suppose.
The Milwaukee Brewers plan to give the Sox as much misery as they can this weekend, when they entertain Zim's steely crew out in the city that made beer famous. The Brewers are the principal beneficiaries of the home-towner's El Foldo act, and could pull within a half-game of first place if they sweep the three-game set. Watch for Cecil Cooper, erstwhile Bosox first-baseman who went out to Diaryland in the infamous George "Two-Outs-for-the-Price-of-One" Scott trade, to do some heavy-duty slugging, making the Sox management wish they had left the Boomer and his high-priced bat out there with the cows and hops. But whatever you do, watch.
You might actually get a chance to see the Red Sox in the (all too human) flesh in the middle of next week, when the Cleveland Indians gallop into town for a three-game set at Fenway. Normally it's a real challenge to pick up a Sox ticket these days, but the Tribe is so amateurish they've been invited to send a delegation to the Olympics, so don't sweat it. Rumor has it that Bowie Kuhn actually forgot Cleveland is still in the major leagues, and the team certainly hasn't done much to correct that impression. Look for a scalping.
Boston's two other division-leading clubs are getting ready to close out their seasons in somewhat more stylish fashion. The Tea Men, fresh from a little get-together with some British customs officers in Boston Harbor, should finish up atop their little bailiwick in the North American Soccer League, although their chances of survival in the playoffs are cloudy at best. The season will end for the team on Saturday in Memphis, with Teaperson Mike Flanagan making a last stab at surpassing New York Cosmo Giorgio Chinaglia for the league scoring crown (at this writing Flanagan trailed the New Yorker by two goals). The New Englanders will open up the playoffs at Schaefer Stadium on Wednesday, against a first-round patsy to be named later.
Meanwhile the Lobsters, after having their claws cracked in overtime by the New York Apples this week, will play out the strings, as it were, on the road. On Sunday they'll be in Anaheim and next Tuesday will have a chance to snap at Phoenix, but it really doesn't matter: at this point the only thing that could stop those tasty little devils from running away with the World Team Tennis Eastern Division would be an invasion of the Red Tide. Or maybe just a taste of Red Sox good luck.