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Game 5 So Near, Yet So Far

It’s been 41 years since Bill Councell came up with a strip of two tickets for the third, fourth and fifth World Series games against the New York Giants.

“My father was a scout for the Indians,” his daughter, Virginia Havens, a silver-haired lady with memories, recalled. “He was a college coach, and he had a good eye.”

He was generous, too. He gave two tickets to his daughter, Virginia, for the third game. He gave two tickets to other family members for Game 4.

And he saved two for the fifth game for himself. It never happened. Dusty Rhodes took care of that.

“My father never got to go,” Virginia Havens recalled Monday.

Nobody has gone to a World Series game in Cleveland since 1954. At least this gloomy streak will end tonight when the Indians play the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the ‘95 Series.

But all over Cleveland, people are holding tickets for the fifth game Thursday night, wondering if they, like the late Bill Councell, may never get to use those tickets.

Belle not tolling

The Indians want the old Albert Belle back. The productive one.

One of the most feared hitters in the A.L. during the regular season, Belle is hitting .229 with two homers and four RBIs in 10 postseason games.

Since league officials confiscated his bat and cut it in half - it proved to be uncorked - during Game 1 of the first round against Boston, Belle is 6 for 30 with one homer and one RBI.

“Ever since they cut Albert’s bat open, he’s been very frustrated,” teammate Kenny Lofton said. “That was Albert’s lucky bat, and they cut it open. I don’t know why they had to cut it. They could have just X-rayed it.”

Avery gets the call

It’ll be Steve Avery on the mound in Game 4 for the Braves.

Manager Bobby Cox ended the only suspense surrounding the Braves on Monday by announcing his pitching rotation for Wednesday night’s game.

Cox chose Avery, the 25-year-old left-hander, who’ll be appearing in his third World Series, over Greg Maddux, who held Cleveland to a season-low two hits in Game 1.

Maddux will pitch Game 5.

Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove hasn’t announced his Game 4 choice.

Injury update

Indians second baseman Carlos Baerga is still bothered by the left ankle he sprained Saturday in Game 1.

“I think left-handed it may be (hurting him) a little bit,” Indians manager Mike Hargrove said. “Carlos is a very, very tough individual. To go out and play like he did (Sunday) and to play as well as he did showed me a whole lot about Carlos Baerga.”

Throwing strikes

Sam Danze, a 73-year-old from Cadiz, Ohio, has more pressure on him to throw strikes tonight than either Charles Nagy or John Smoltz.

His entry was selected from among 3 million in the Gillette strike zone challenge. Before Game 3, he will attempt to hit a 30-by-18 inch target at home plate from the pitcher’s mound. If he does, he’ll get $1 million. If he misses, he’ll get $50,000.

“I’ll throw 50 or 60 miles an hour,” he said. “Rollie Fingers came up to help me. He showed me how to throw the ball, where to place my feet.”

Numbers games

Cleveland is 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. … The Indians’ batting average in the first two games is .125. … Lofton has stolen a base in six straight postseason games, tying the consecutive-game postseason record set by Lou Brock in 1967 and ‘68. … Eddie Murray’s second-inning home run marked the first time a player over 40 has hit a World Series homer since Joe Morgan in 1983. … Cleveland is 19-2 in one-run games at Jacob Field.

This and that

Cmdr. Ken Bowersox, a space shuttle astronaut, will throw out the ceremonial pitch before Game 3; Merlyn Mantle, Mickey’s widow, will do the honors for Game 4; and Bob Feller, the Cleveland Hall of Famer, is up for Game 5, if it’s needed.

Eddie Murray, known in the media as a tough interview, proved he’s no pushover for a kid.

Murray was approached Sunday night by Sparky Mortimer, 9, who’s doing pieces for the Late Show with David Letterman.

“He blowed me off. He said: ‘Kid, I can’t do it right now, OK?”’ said the boy from Alpine, Utah.

After watching television replays, second-base umpire Bruce Froemming admitted he blew a call in the seventh inning of Game 1.

Froemming ruled a force out at second when Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel never had control of the ball.

“I stand by my record as an umpire,” said Froemming, “but the TV proved me wrong on that one.”