Gorman Thomas was being a party pooper, a spoilsport. The Milwaukee slugger, no stranger to partying himself, kept hanging in there against the Cardinals' invincible Bruce Sutter, fouling off Sutter's unhittable split-fingered fastball as he tried to avoid becoming the last batter in the last inning of the last game of the 1982 World Series. St. Louis led by three runs, there were two outs and the count had reached 3 and 2, but Thomas wouldn't leave like a gentleman and let the Busch Stadium crowd have its celebration. His tenacity created an uncommonly anxious atmosphere in a ball park where, what with the repeated appearances of the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales, the endlessly repetitive Budweiser jingles and the oleaginous public address announcer who introduces home-team batsmen as if they are talk show hosts, a spectator can feel that he's merely one of 50,000 extras in some colossal beer commercial. The fans' edginess increased as Thomas hacked three more split-fingers into the seats. Then Sutter changed his M.O. and tossed up a conventional fastball. Thomas took another mighty cut and hit nothing but the cold night air. Cardinals 6, Brewers 3 in the game. Cardinals 4, Brewers 3 in the Series. The crowd, freed of frustration, spilled onto the artificial turf and sprinted past the mounted police and canine corpsmen deployed to stop them from reaching the jubilant Cards. "This Bud's for you...."
The Redbirds' Series triumph was about as agonizing as those last extended moments. It was, as Cardinal Second Baseman Tommy Herr described it, "an odd Series," one in which the slugging Brewers, Harvey's fearsome Wall-bangers, often played as deftly as their supposedly more artful opponents. And there were games—the third, for example—in which the Cards won on power. The teams traded blowouts, the Brewers winning the opener 10-zip and the Cards the sixth game 13-1. The swiftly changing character of the Series drove trend-spotters dotty. There seemed to be no thread. What was supposed to be a classic matchup of power vs. speed scarcely materialized until the finale.
After Game 5, which the Brewers won 6-4, the experts thought they'd finally found the point on which the Series would turn—the surprising Milwaukee defense. The Brewers made at least six defensive gems in the fifth game, including sprawling catches by First Baseman Cecil Cooper and Second Baseman Jim Gantner that prevented critical runs. Now there was something a pundit could hang his reputation on! The Cards, after all, were supposed to be the defensive specialists. Yes, it seemed that those who lived by the shield would die on the shield. So what happened next? In the sixth game, Milwaukee committed four official errors and a couple more that the charitable scorers didn't count against them. Gantner had two of the most egregious bobbles, and the peerless Robin Yount, whose middle initials seem to be M.V.P., had two more. (The Brewers would finish the Series with 11 errors.) By this time the trend-seekers had given up the ghost.
Even the managers were cooperating in the campaign to keep everyone befuddled. Their roles were clearly defined before the Series began. St. Louis' Whitey Herzog was cast as the genius, the man who, when he also wore the general manager's hat, made the daring trades that rebuilt the Cardinals in his image. Herzog is a latter-day Branch Rickey who holds to the philosophy that arms and legs win pennants, not big bats. Under Herzog's platinum thatch throbs a brain so alive with stratagems that it might as well belong to a football coach.
As for Milwaukee's Harvey Kuenn, well, he takes out a lineup card with the same Brewer names on it every day. The pitchers, whoever they are, are another matter. When he reminded a sportswriter from Phoenix during the Series that he would be seeing him on the first tee of an Arizona golf course four days after the seventh game, Kuenn chuckled at his own insouciance. "See, I can't even tell you who's pitching tomorrow, but I can remember when my next golf game is," he said.
Clearly this would be a managerial mismatch, especially dire news for the Brewers because conventional wisdom has it that in a best-of-seven series every oversight tends to be magnified. Not necessarily, as it turned out. Herzog made all the debatable moves in the early going. In Game 3, he brought in Sutter in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and St. Louis leading 5-0, an unorthodox deployment of someone who is usually brought in late to protect a narrow lead. The next day, Herzog didn't—or couldn't—use Sutter as the Cardinals vainly attempted to stem the Brewers' six-run, seventh-inning rally.
Herzog also persisted in sending righthand-hitting Gene Tenace up to face lefty Bob McClure as a pinch hitter for Ken Oberkfell—even though in Game 4 Obie was 1 for 2 and in Game 5 he was 3 for 4. Tenace was the last out in both games, the Designated Last Out, as it were.
And Herzog seemed so intent on using St. Louis' speed in an attempt to embarrass Brewer Catcher Ted Simmons, an erstwhile Cardinal—Lonnie Smith was thrown out attempting to steal third in the fifth game and home in the sixth—that, as one baseball man put it, "He's managing like a general manager, trying to justify that trade."
Kuenn, meanwhile, handled his Rollie Fingers-less bullpen with uncommon mastery, inflicting McClure, a starter for most of the season, on the Cardinals at inopportune, for them, moments. In the eighth inning of the fourth game, for example, Kuenn brought McClure in to protect a 7-5 Milwaukee lead with one out and runners on first and third. The runner on first was the speedy David Green, a threat to steal. The batter was Willie McGee, a switch hitter. McClure's arrival did two things, both bad, to the St. Louis offense. Because he has an excellent move to first, McClure effectively froze Green on the bag, and as a lefthander, he forced McGee to bat right, his weaker side. It also takes McGee longer to get to first from the right side. McGee promptly ended the inning and the rally by grounding into a remarkable double play—remarkable in that Green and he are two of the swiftest Cardinals. The game ended 7-5. Score one for Kuenn.
The Brewers, in fact, seemed to have a pronounced edge returning to St. Louis for the final two games. In winning the fifth game, the last in Milwaukee, they put the odds squarely in their favor. In the previous 30 best-of-seven Series in which teams were tied at two apiece after four games, the winner of Game 5 went on to win the championship 23 times. Brewer fans celebrated that fifth-game win as if it were the seventh. From County Stadium to Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukeeans toasted what they considered to be the inevitable triumph with a bibulous vigor not seen around those parts since 1957, when the National League Braves, who kept shop there from 1953 to '65, whipped the Yankees in seven.
St. Louis is the older of the two cities (incorporated in 1823, Milwaukee in 1846) and the more established in baseball, too. The franchise has been a member of the National League since 1892. And yet in this World Series, the Brewers seemed to be the more traditional team. Their fans and the ball park were the reasons. County Stadium is, at age 29, an old park by contemporary standards. It was built for baseball. It has pillars and posts. The stands are close to the field, and the P.A. guy doesn't sound like the floorwalker on the old Jack Benny show. There are no commercial jingles to respond to in County Stadium, but the fans, mostly working-class folk, are dedicated singers, The Beer Barrel Polka being a logical favorite.
Cesar's Inn, the bar/rooming house owned by Harvey and Audrey Kuenn two miles from the ball park, in West Milwaukee, became an informal rooters' headquarters during Series week. The one-legged Harvey, in bathrobe and on crutches, would be up early to greet the morning imbibers, and Audrey, a charming woman who is Harvey's second wife—he's her third husband—would purvey the suds. One noon hour, a factory worker named Chuck La Joice dropped in with his boxer, Harley, a matter of little moment except that Harley, who's normally all white, was painted from muzzle to tail in Brewer blue and gold. "Harley was almost on PM Magazine," La Joice said over a Pabst. "They asked me if he could do any tricks. I said, yeah, he can. He can sit still for an hour while I paint him." It's a folksy place.
It had been bitterly cold in Milwaukee, but mostly dry. The reverse was true when the two teams trekked back to St. Louis for the sixth game. There may have been evenings more meteorologically diverse than that of Oct. 19, but it seems unlikely. The game started at 7:21 in summery 70° temperatures. It ended five hours later nearly 30° colder. And in between, it rained. The rain started pouring in the top of the fifth inning when the Brewers were already behind 5-0. It rained so hard, for that matter, that Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who would wear only his blue blazer on the tundra, actually slipped into a trench coat. In the bottom half of the inning, Lonnie Smith led off with a bloop single to right that might have been a double had he not fallen on his keister between first and second. Smith falls down a lot, both on the bases and in the outfield, but the wet rug, not questionable equilibrium, was at fault here. Oberkfell grounded out, but Keith Hernandez hit a ball that all but disappeared in the rain clouds before it descended beyond the rightfield fence. The score was now 7-0, and Kuenn, who had rested his hopes for a six-game Series on Don Sutton, his most experienced and Series-hardened starter (this was Sutton's fourth Series), limped out to the mound. This gave Kuhn ample time to call a rain delay.
Twenty-six minutes later, the action resumed. But not for long. Jim Slaton finished the fifth for the Brewers. Doc Medich started the bottom of the sixth for them. He also finished it—some two-and-a-half hours and six runs later. The good doctor had given up three hits, thrown two wild pitches and allowed another run before the game was mercifully called again. The delay this time was two hours and 13 minutes, as a veritable monsoon swept across the Busch Stadium carpet, transforming it into another Great Lake. There seemed little enthusiasm on the part of the Brewers or the fans to resume the desultory action. Milwaukee was trailing 8-0, and Cardinal rookie John Stuper had given up only two singles. St. Louisans were returning in droves to their homes and taverns, not necessarily in that order. Gantner remarked on national television that the field was hazardous and that serious injury might result from a resumption of play. He had already committed one of his two errors, on a ground ball hit in the third by Lonnie Smith, and he would protest later that fielding grounders on this night was a little like handling "a slippery fish." Kuhn immediately followed Gantner on the tube, remarking diplomatically that the second baseman was entitled to his opinion, but that this, mind you, was the World Series and the game must goon.
When it finally did, the temperatures were in the 40s. Gantner made another error, and Medich gave up five more runs. The score was 13-0 when Stuper returned to the mound to start the seventh, eons since he had last left it. Stuper was allowed to continue, Herzog said, because he had a shutout working and because he hadn't thrown many pitches—the total would be 103 for the whole game, or only 20.6 an hour. Stuper spent his long supper break having his arm rubbed down and inspecting the field, possibly for trout. He's an engaging 25-year-old Pennsylvanian who was a journalism student in college and now employs that training as the anchorman on the John Cosell Show, a Bob-and-Ray-type interview spoof he and several other young Cardinals perform after every game. "I've always prided myself on my ability to lie," Utility Infielder Mike Ramsey will reply in answer to an inane, albeit embarrassing question from his interlocutors.
Stuper stood for some time after the game answering similar questions from real journalists. He wore a Budweiser Light cap. He acknowledged that he, too, had second thoughts about prolonging his participation in the bizarre enterprise the sixth game had become. "There's a fine line between being a hero and being dumb," he said. "I didn't want to go out there and give up three or four quick runs." He gave up only one, and that in the ninth, just before the players and the 18,000 or so fans remaining from an original crowd of 53,723 fled for shelter.
Stuper's performance was surely one of the most unusual in World Series history. He had a shutout for nearly five hours. He went more than four hours without giving up a hit—from Charlie Moore's leadoff single in the third to Gantner's double in the ninth. He pitched in almost everything but snow and sleet. And, he said, he never got over his nervousness in all that lost time. "But my nervousness has never adversely affected me. I actually need to be nervous."
It was a big win for the Cardinals, as well as a long one. They had beaten, nay clobbered, a confident team, and they would play the seventh game in their own park. And now they had history on their side. St. Louis had won the seventh game six of seven times in previous Series. But caution seemed the watchword for both sides. "There are no edges," Simmons had said earlier in the Series, "only games. People who look for edges set themselves up for extreme disappointment." The 13-1 win meant no more than the 10-0 defeat to either team, said Hernandez, the matinee-idol first baseman who was a sixth-game hero with his homer and four RBIs. Hernandez had learned patience in this Series. He'd gone 0 for 15 through the first four games and committed two errors. But in the next two games he had five hits and six ribbies and fielded flawlessly. Hernandez had mocked his fielding misfortunes by taping forks to all 10 of his fingers in the clubhouse. His hands were free of utensils now, and he was holding a hot bat. He was also in the unique position of playing two World Series games on his 29th birthday, the sixth finishing in the early morning that day, the seventh starting that night.
There was no rain for Game 7, just cold. But the Cardinals would finally play their game of slap-hit, run and defend. Ozzie Smith, the acrobatic shortstop, set the tone by executing two backflips on the way to his position before the start of the game. The flips, he explained, are his way of celebrating the end of this or any other season. Smith played four years for San Diego, where the end of a season was indeed cause for celebration, simply because, at last, it was over. Now he was jumping for joy. This was the big one.
The starters would be Pete Vuckovich for Milwaukee and Joaquin Andujar for St. Louis. Vuckovich had won 18 games in the regular season, but he hadn't won anything in a month. Andujar, who had won 15 games during the season, hadn't lost in two months. But in the seventh inning of the third game, while working on a shutout, he was felled by a wicked hopper hit by Simmons that caromed off his right leg just below the knee. Andujar was carried off the field. His leg was still sore five evenings later, but no one was going to keep him from pitching the climactic game. He retired the first nine Milwaukee hitters and shut out the Brewers through four innings before throwing a leadoff homer to Oglivie in the fifth. The Cardinals, meanwhile, were spraying the park with line drives, but leaving runners on at a fearful clip. They had eight hits and two walks off Vuckovich through five, but had scored only one run. "I was afraid we'd never get that two-out hit," said Herzog.
But both teams were playing championship baseball. George Hendrick and Oberkfell stifled one Brewer rally in the fourth. Hendrick with a brilliant throw from right after fielding Cecil Cooper's single and Oberkfell with a deft, sweeping tag of a sliding Yount at third. Then, in the sixth, there were ominous rumblings. Gantner led off with a double to the right-centerfield gap, and Paul Molitor, enjoying a banner Series—he'd finish with a .355 average—dropped a perfect bunt down the third-base line. The sore-legged Andujar fielded it, but despite having no chance of getting Molitor, he threw off balance and wildly to first. Gantner scored on the error and Molitor moved to second. Could a pitcher's error once again open the floodgates as it had in Game 4, when St. Louis' Dave LaPoint dropped Hernandez' throw in the fateful seventh? Apparently, for Yount then hit a bouncer to second and Andujar failed to cover. Molitor went to third on that play and scored on Cecil Cooper's sacrifice fly. It was 3-1 Brewers now. The Cardinals were in a hole.
They got out of it quickly. With one out in their half of the sixth, Ozzie Smith singled and Lonnie Smith doubled. Kuenn lifted the floundering Vuckovich for the dread McClure, who would face—who else?—Tenace hitting once more for Oberkfell. But this time the DLO got the best of his nemesis. McClure walked him to load the bases, bringing up Hernandez, McClure's boyhood friend from Linda Mar, Calif. With the count 3 and 1, Hernandez was looking for a pitch he could handle, but McClure gave him what Hernandez later said was "a nasty pitch on the inside corner. I don't know how I hit it, but it sure was a great feeling." Hernandez singled to center to score the tying runs. Then Hendrick hit another good pitch to the opposite field to drive home the winning run.
The Cards got two insurance runs in the eighth, after Herzog had brought in Sutter to pitch the last two innings. Sutter's Series ERA at that point was 6.35, but Herzog hadn't lost faith. Herzog explained later that Andujar was starting to get his fastball up, and, besides, the pitcher might have blown his cool during an incident following Milwaukee's half of the seventh.
Andujar has many curious mannerisms on the mound, some of which—such as forming his hand into a pistol and aiming at the batter after a strike—are considered inflammatory. In the seventh Gantner hit the ball back to Andujar. When Andujar held onto it just long enough to keep Gantner running, Gantner turned in rage and called Andujar an unspeakable hot dog. Andujar replied that Gantner was an unspeakable unspeakable and that he didn't have to take that kind of unspeakable verbal abuse from anyone. Maybe the unspeakable Gantner would like to fight. Home Plate Umpire Lee Weyer, a huge man, stepped between the possible combatants and marched Andujar back to the Cardinal dugout, thus preserving the dignity of the Series.
In an appropriately zany aftermath to this episode, Andujar was asked in the press interview room to recount his exchange with Gantner. He, in turn, asked if he could possibly repeat language like that over a microphone. When informed that he could, he cheerfully obliged, peeling paint from the walls with the retelling of the blue dialogue. No one realized that Andujar's entire recitation would be routinely broadcast over the public address system to the many thousands still celebrating in the park. The fans, possibly regarding such salty talk as a welcome departure from the "wave-those-red-pennants" treacle that is their normal P.A. fare, gleefully cheered every single foul utterance from Andujar.
Any fears about Sutter's effectiveness were quickly dismissed. The Brewers went down in order in both the eighth and ninth. And what an order it was: Molitor, Yount, Cooper, Simmons, Oglivie and Thomas. Not one of the Brewer sluggers got the ball out of the infield, and Yount and Thomas struck out, Thomas not without a struggle. It was the Cardinals' ninth World Series championship, tops in the National League, and the National League's fourth Series win in a row.
Darrell Porter, the catcher whose acquisition made it possible for Herzog to trade Simmons, was named the Most Valuable Player for his timely hitting (five RBIs) and excellent defensive play, but the award could as easily have gone to Andujar, who won two games; Sutter, who had a win and two saves; Hendrick, who had the deciding RBI in Game 7 and hit .321; or Hernandez, who recovered from his early slump to drive in a Series-leading eight runs. And then there was Dane Iorg, who batted .529 as a DH, compared to the .125 of his more experienced Brewer counterparts.
The Cardinals' clubhouse was relatively subdued after the game, save for the usual wasteful champagne spraying. Hendrick, who doesn't speak to the press, left the park almost immediately afterward and disappeared into the off-season. The John Cosell Show signed off for the year. And many of the Brewers turned up to honor their conquerors. Sutton embraced Hernandez, whose homer had ruined him the night before. "You're supposed to take that pitch for ball two, you dummy," Sutton said, laughing on the outside.
More than 200,000 fans showed up for the victory parade in downtown St. Louis the next day. It was called the biggest celebration in the history of the city, and for some of the celebrants, it lasted all night. After the parade, Herzog escaped for lunch at Stan Musial's restaurant, where living legends appear in such plenitude that a mere World Series-winning manager can dine in solitude.
In the end, Herzog had been vindicated. Sutter had been there when he was needed. Herzog's park, with its slick carpet, had had the right surface and had been the right size for the game he wanted to play. The Cards had needed 15 hits to score six runs in Game 7, but that was Herzog's style. The Wallbangers had gotten only seven hits. "The strange thing," said Herzog, summing it up very nicely, "is that when you have defense and speed and your pitchers don't walk batters and keep the ball in the ball park, you can win every game." Well, maybe not every game, but certainly the big ones.