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JUST FOR NOVELTY'S sake, Major League Baseball has decided to hold an end-of-the-year championship contest, after giving some consideration to the college poll system.

Rather than vote for a winner, it was decided to hold a best-of-seven series because someone thought it used to be kind of a tradition and because, after much deliberation, no one could think of anything better to do, such as organize a strike.They're calling it the World Series.

"The name has a certain ring to it," said one nonexistent baseball official. "Maybe we'll do it again next year."

Beginning today, the Cleveland Indians will play the Atlanta Braves in the Great Native American Politically Incorrect 1995 World Series. The series, which will be played by the shores of Gitche Gumee, will be sponsored by the ACLU and your semi-friendly neighborhood ACLU dealer.

Talk about your bad timing. Right smack dab in the middle of 1990s political correctness, baseball gives us, ta-dum, the Braves versus the Indians.

It's like opening a sushi bar in the middle of World War II. Or naming a baseball team the Reds during the McCarthy hearings. Or wearing white linen to a civil rights march. Or using "Mrs." at an ERA convention.

Some of baseball's names are out of step with the times, but, for that matter, so is the actual game of baseball.

Predictably, some people are upset about this use of so-called Native American names, although you wonder how seriously it should be taken if Jane Fonda's in the crowd doing the chop.

As far as some people are concerned, a World Series matchup between the Indians and Braves is the same as a matchup between teams called, say, the San Francisco Gays and Houston Homosexuals; the Minneapolis Midgets and the Dallas Dwarves; the Buffalo Blind and the Denver Deaf; the New Jersey Negroes and the Colorado Caucasians; the Quebec Quadriplegics and the Hawaii Handicapped.

Perhaps the P.C. people could simply fix so-called offensive team names in ways only they can and the so-called problem would be solved. They could make today's World Series a matchup between the Cleveland Northern Native Americans versus the Atlanta Southern Native Americans.

The New York Giants would be the New York Vertically Advantaged. Just as a garbage man becomes a "sanitation engineer", the Dallas Cowboys could become the Dallas Bovine Maintenance Supervisors.

But fixing up names probably would not be good enough in the strange new world of P.C. Today's times demand that there be no names that identify groups of people. Or at least some groups. For some reason, some ethnic team names offend people while others don't elicit so much as a yawn.

The descendants of Vikings aren't marching in Minnesota. The Irish have never complained about the Celtics, even if their mascot is the silly little fellow from Lucky Charms. Southerners have never protested the Nevada-Las Vegas Runnin' Rebels. Northerners have never marched against the Yankees. Westerners don't seem to resent the Dallas Cowboys.

And yet some people are bothered by the Kansas City Chiefs, whose equivalent would be the New Jersey Generals, a former pro football team.

These are confusing times. Suddenly, "Indians" is not acceptable, but "Native Americans" is, even though they are the same thing and there is nothing patently offensive about either. Ironically, many native Americans prefer the term "Indians", perhaps to snub the presumptuous white P.C. Police.

There is perhaps only one team name that is inherently offensive and isn't a term you'd get away with in normal conversation. In light of the times, the Washington Redskins' name is indefensible, although nobody would have thought so 100 years ago. Could anyone imagine a team called the Brownskins? You'd never refer to someone as a "redskin."

The use of these names might be more acceptable to the ethnic groups they represent if not for some of the behavior they seem to elicit. The sight of Atlanta Braves fans doing the chop, whooping it up and wearing war paint while their silly mascot roams the field like a madman reinforces stereotypes.

All of which leaves Major League Baseball with an image problem on its hands, as if it needs it. If baseball needs another PR problem, so does O.J.

Maybe baseball should return to the strike, after all. Life was simpler in the picket line.