Nice series, eh? The first major league championship held in two foreign countries, Canada and Los Angeles, had everything: religion, love, revenge, espionage, nutrition, meteorology, three languages and, occasionally, baseball. And when the last strains of The Happy Wanderer faded out, the Los Angeles Dodgers were headed for New York, their knapsacks on their backs, to meet the Yankees for the 11th time in a World Series. Val-De Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.
The Dodgers did it the hard way, after trailing Houston in the mini-playoffs two games to none and Montreal in the midi-playoffs 2-1. Then after waiting around till Monday, Rick Monday hit a home run off Expo ace Steve Rogers with two outs in the ninth inning to beat Montreal 2-1. One line of that infernal song refers to the clear blue sky. Well, it may have been sprinkling in Montreal, but for L.A., the sky-had never been Dodger bluer.
Fernando Valenzuela, who knocked in the first Dodger run, pitched 8⅖ innings of three-hit ball to put L.A. in the Maxi-Series, and afterward the unflappable rookie allowed that he was "delirante"—delirious. The score was 1-1 in the ninth when Rogers, making his first relief appearance since 1978, replaced Ray Burns, who had held the Dodgers for eight innings. With two outs and the count 3 and 1, Monday hit an inside fastball over the fence in right centerfield.
"A lot of strange things happened to us in the playoffs," said Monday afterward, "but one of the strangest was that after I hit the ball, I didn't know where the hell it was. When I saw the outfielders turn their backs and look over the wall, I knew. Then I almost fell down between second and third."
Said Rogers, "If you wanted a script with a happy ending, I strike out Monday, and we go on to score the winning run. But that's not reality."
On Sunday, reality was all wet as a division playoff game was rained out for only the second time. The motto that evening was: Baseball Pneumonia—Catch It! National League President Chub Feeney waited until 3½ hours after Rocket Richard threw out the first ball to call the game. In the meantime Dodger Outfielder Jay Johnstone stuffed towels in his uniform to make himself look like Manager Tommy Lasorda.
When the game was finally called, Expo Outfielder Terry Francona twice slid headfirst into a puddle in rightfield, the second time for photographers who had missed his first splashdown.
The playoff ended in the damp cold of Olympic Stadium, but it began in the sunshine of Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles won 5-1, no surprise considering that the Expos had lost their nine previous games and 18 of 19 in Chavez Ravine. Helping to prolong the hoodoo were Burt Hooton, who shut out Montreal in 7‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings of work, and Ron Cey, playing in his first game in five weeks. Hooton didn't have his good stuff, but the Expos helped by hitting into four double plays.
Cey, who wore a flexible cast on the left arm he broke stopping a fastball on Sept. 9, doubled in the Dodgers' first run and scored the second in the second inning. After getting his second hit of the game in the eighth, he scored again on Pedro Guerrero's two-run homer.
The outlook was very good for the Dodgers, especially with Valenzuela starting Game 2. The Expos countered with Burris and Donald Sutherland, the Canadian-born movie actor. Sutherland is an avid Expo fan, so avid that he hasn't missed a game, home or away, since Sept. 12. It was then that Montreal went on a spree that carried it to the division title. "I'm afraid to change my clothes," said Sutherland.
Whatever he was wearing was just right as the Expos broke the Dodger Stadium spell with a 3-0 victory. Burris out-pitched Valenzuela, allowing just five hits. His only tense moment came in the ninth when a double-play ball took a bad hop on Shortstop Chris Speier, giving L.A. runners at first and second with one out. But Speier redeemed himself by snaring Guerrero's hot line drive and doubling Steve Garvey off second.
Burris, whom the Expos signed as a free agent in the off-season after the Mets decided he wasn't worth keeping, had the best season of a hitherto mediocre career, thanks to his good friend Woodie Fryman. Together, they are called the Beast Brothers because, as First Baseman Warren Cromartie puts it, "They eat everything they see." Says Fryman, "I put 25 pounds on him this year." Burris, up to 225, stokes up on lasagna, pancakes, bread, pizza, anything with carbohydrates. Burris said that when he was on third in the seventh inning, "I was thinking about a cheeseburger."
There was a great letdown for those expecting to see Santa Claus behind the plate for the first game in arctic Montreal. Actually, there was a guy in a Santa suit in the stands leading a chorus of Jingle Bells, but it wasn't that frosty: 46°. The Dodger bats were considerably colder against Rogers, who beat them 4-1. Rogers, who had given up just two runs in 26⅖ postseason innings, was losing 1-0 to Jerry Reuss when the Expos came to bat in the sixth. Reuss's slider was so effective that he had broken, by one estimate, nine bats. But with two outs in the sixth, Andre Dawson singled, Gary Carter walked and Larry Parrish singled in the tying run. That brought to the plate Jerry White, a .218 hitter in the regular season. Reuss let a 2 and 1 fastball get up, and White deposited it over the leftfield wall. "When Reuss is pitching me low he's unhittable," said White. "I was just looking for something high." "What can I say about Jerry White?" said Cromartie, who has the locker next to the reserved White. "Quiet. Clean. Best dresser in the league."
An internal battle had gone on during the game. The Expos suspected that First Base Coach Manny Mota was tipping off the Dodgers as to what pitches were coming—he could tell, for instance, that a fastball was on the way if Catcher Carter set up on the inside of the plate with a righthander up. "We messed up their minds," Carter said triumphantly after the game. What he did was simply call for an inside pitch and set up on the outside.
Once the Expos had the lead, the fans irritated the Dodgers with yet another chorus of The Happy Wanderer, an Austrian song that is very popular in Olympic Stadium and summer camps everywhere. The fans are much taken with the Expos, and they cheered louder and louder for Rogers as the game went along. "They had me so pumped up," he said, "I started thinking I was Nolan Rogers, and I tried throwing too hard." But he did have his good sinker and also Parrish at third to start nifty double plays in the fifth and ninth. After Rogers had given up no-out singles to Garvey and Cey in the ninth, Montreal Manager Jim Fanning went out to talk to Rogers. "Don't you dare take him out," said Carter. Fanning had no intention of doing so, and on a 3 and 1 pitch Rogers threw a perfect sinker to Guerrero, who rapped it to Parrish, who made a fine play and turned it into a 5-to-3 DP.
After the game a somber Lasorda guaranteed a victory the next day. "Eve never felt anything so strongly in my life," he said. Nonetheless, the Dodgers were given depressing but necessary instructions to have their bags packed before they went to the ball park the next day. At a team meeting before Game 4, Lasorda read a Bible passage suggested to him by Dusty Baker. It was from Romans 5: 2-3: "...tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint..."
The disappointment was the Expos'. Again, Hooton held Montreal until the L.A. offense could arrive, and the Dodgers won 7-1. Both Hooton and Montreal righthander Bill Gullickson worked out of several jams, and entering the eighth, the score was 1-1. With one out, Baker singled. Then Garvey found Gullickson's first pitch to him, a high slider, to his liking and hit a two-run homer over the fence in left. The breakup of his marriage has made this a difficult season for Garvey, and he has heard some rather cruel comments from fans. "The only way to get back at them is to beat their team," he said. "I did against San Francisco and Atlanta, and I heard something before this game. I bat .750, .800 after being knocked down, and I bat .500, .600, .700 after I've been yelled at."
After Garvey's homer put the Dodgers ahead in the eighth, some of his teammates started singing, "Val-De Ri, Val-De Ra," in the dugout. They sang it even louder in the ninth when they touched up the Expos' relief pitching for four more runs. In the clubhouse afterward, they were louder still. "We were getting sick and tired of being valderied and valderahed," said Monday. "So we started singing it. We postponed tonight's airplane flight. When we fly out tomorrow, we don't want it to be westbound."
Monday got his wish, even if it was a day later than he expected. And he had himself to thank for it.