The twouble with wabbits, as Elmer Fudd might say, is that you can't twust them. They were all over the place in Los Angeles and St. Louis last week, and they turned every game of the National League Championship Series into a hare-raising episode out of Looney Tunes. Everyone was running, but nothing was running to form. How do you explain a tarpaulin that swallowed up Cardinal Vince Coleman? To top it all off, Ozzie Smith chose the ninth inning of the fifth game to hit the first lefthanded homer of his major league career. It gave St. Louis a 3-2 victory and a 3-2 lead in games, heading back to L.A.
It was a week of speed on the base-paths and sloth on the clock. Hearts raced at the sight of Liz Taylor in Dodger Stadium, and pulses slowed as pitchers kept throwing over to first.
As predicted, the first game was decided by speed and bad defense. This time, though, L.A. had the bunnies and St. Louis had the boots. With no score in the fourth, Dodger third baseman Bill Madlock reached on an error. Madlock promptly stole second off pitcher John Tudor and raced home on Pedro Guerrero's looping single to right. Manager Tommy Lasorda kept up the attack by giving Guerrero a steal sign for the first time since June, and he slid in safely.
Los Angeles and Fernando Valenzuela took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth when the unthinkable happened. With one out, Madlock hit a sharp grounder into the hole at short. Shortstop Ozzie Smith darted over and tried to backhand it. On AstroTurf, the Wizard makes this play "99 times out of a hundred," said manager Whitey Herzog. But here the ball kicked up, hit him on the wrist and dribbled into left. Madlock was charitably credited with a double.
The Cards came apart after that. Following an intentional walk to Guerrero and a flyout, catcher Mike Scioscia lined a single, scoring Madlock and sending Guerrero to third. Tudor, unbeaten in 11 decisions since losing 3-0 to Valenzuela July 20, seemed vulnerable again.
Up to the plate stepped Candy Maldonado, a native of Puerto Rico. "¬°Tocó!" Lasorda yelled from the dugout in his best Norristown, Pa. espa√±ol. "I figured Tudor and [catcher Darrell] Porter don't understand Spanish," he explained later. Maldonado laid down a hard bunt toward third baseman Terry Pendleton, who snatched it up and saw Guerrero going home. Instinctively, he threw to the plate. Clunk. Pendleton's throw hit Tudor on the right elbow. That gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead, and they went on to win 4-1.
The second game provided another fascinating pitching matchup, this one between the Dodgers' engaging Orel Hershiser (19-3) and the Cards' disengaging Joaquin Andujar (21-12). In the top of the first Coleman lined Hershiser's second pitch up the middle for a single. A compelling little drama ensued. Hershiser made nine throws to first and threw a pitchout that caused Coleman to abort a takeoff. The moment arrived. Coleman ran. And Scioscia threw him out, thanks to a neat tag by shortstop Mariano Duncan, who was badly spiked on the left knee.
Willie McGee then reached base on an error by Duncan. McGee took off on a hit-and-run play, but the Dodgers pitched out and caught him dead to rights between first and second. Tommy Herr followed with a double that might have scored two runs. Instead, it was wasted. For Hershiser, the worst was over; St. Louis would scratch out two runs off him, but never solve his hard sinker.
At 27, Hershiser looks like a college undergrad. Pleasant, patient, a delight for reporters, Hershiser is the temperamental opposite of Andujar, who is mad as a March hare. Andujar undid himself in the third. Steve Sax had singled with one out, and Andujar tried to pick him off even though the Dodgers just wanted to sacrifice him over. His throw was wild and Sax went all the way to third. Hershiser tried twice to bunt Sax home, but with the count 0 and 2, Andujar threw Hershiser a hittable fastball, and he bounced a single over the drawn-in Pendleton for an RBI. One out later, Ken Landreaux doubled Hershiser home, and Madlock singled in Landreaux to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.
Andujar further disgraced himself by knocking down two batters and bunting into a double play. He was finally removed with one out in the fifth, charged with six earned runs, two of which scored on Greg Brock's fourth-inning homer. The Dodgers won 8-2.
But like their manager, who went bass fishing on Friday morning, the Cards weren't about to panic. They were, after all, home on their carpet for Game 3. They came out running in a contest that lasted three hours and 21 minutes, and featured 13 walks and more than 30 pick-off attempts.
They created two runs in the first on one single and pure speed. Coleman outran a pitchout, and McGee walked. Then Bob Welch threw a pickoff attempt into center, scoring Coleman and sending McGee to third, from where he scored on a groundout. The top of the order accounted for two more runs in the second, one coming on Herr's solo homer.
Trying to hold the 4-0 lead was Danny Cox, who won 18 games this season yet drew more notice for flying back home to Georgia on an off-day two weeks ago to punch out his ex-brother-in-law, who had allegedly been harassing Cox's family. "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do," Cox said upon returning.
When Cox's elbow tightened in the seventh, he yielded to Herzog's bullpen by committee. Ken Dayley got the official save, but Pendleton was the real savior in the 4-2 victory. He made a sparkling over-the-head catch of Brock's foul pop in the eighth and a diving catch of a sure double by Maldonado in the ninth.
The bizarre tarpaulin accident occurred two hours before the start of Game 4, when rain interrupted Cardinal batting practice. As the St. Louis players were leaving the field, a member of the Busch Stadium grounds crew activated the mechanized tarp system. A 1,200-pound rolled tarp rose from an underground chamber along the first-base line and began advancing across the infield. Coleman was standing near home plate.
"He didn't see what was going on," Pendleton, an eyewitness, said later. "He turned around to toss his glove to a coach, and as he did, the tarp caught his foot. It sort of like swallowed him. It was a scary feeling, because there was nothing you could do but watch."
Coleman, screaming in agony, was pinned beneath the tarp from the hip down. It took six men to lift the tarp. A stretcher arrived and carried Coleman to a trainer's room.
Amazingly, no bones were broken, though Coleman's left leg was badly bruised and abraded. His teammates were shaken. "We weren't even thinking about the series," said Herr. "We were worried about Vince's career."
The word was that Coleman would be ready to play in Game 6 in L.A., and the Cardinals made sure there would be a Game 6 by routing the Dodgers 12-2.
In the second inning alone, St. Louis battered Los Angeles pitching for eight hits and nine runs, with Clark and Tito Landrum, Coleman's replacement, each singling twice. In the L.A. dugout Lasorda kicked the trash cans.
Tudor went into the sixth inning with a no-hitter, teasing the Los Angeles batters with multiple changeups and precise control. Sax finally doubled off him in the sixth, and Tudor left the game an inning later. "Looking ahead to the seventh game—if needed—I want to be ready," he said.
From the moment Ozzie Smith led the Cards onto the field with one of his back-flips, Game 5 belonged to him.
The Cards jumped on Valenzuela for two first-inning runs. McGee and Smith walked, and Herr followed with his fourth double of the series. McGee scored easily, but as Smith was rounding third, he saw coach Hal Lanier holding up a stop sign. Smith barreled right through it. "It was too late," he said later. "I had already thrown it into gear." Smith scored easily when Duncan's relay flew far over Scioscia's head. Later, Smith made an acrobatic play on a grounder behind second base.
Madlock's two-run homer in the fourth tied the game, which then settled into a pitching battle between Valenzuela and a series of Cardinal relievers. Five times Valenzuela worked out of two-on jams. Tom Niedenfuer replaced him for the ninth, and with one out, Smith stepped up to bat.
On Niedenfuer's fourth pitch, Ozzie cracked a soaring line drive toward rightfield. The crowd rose. Smith's ball hit a concrete pillar just a couple of feet above the yellow home run line. Smith saw rightfield umpire Terry Tata twirling his finger in the air and began dancing around the bases. His teammates stormed out to mob him at home plate. Coleman came off crutches to give him a high five. Fireworks exploded. CALIFORNIA HERE WE COME read the scoreboard.
"I've never seen such a little sucker hit a ball like that in that situation," marveled Herzog. But you know about those scwewy wabbits. You just can't twust them.