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HUMM-DINGER OF A PLAYOFF

Oct. 19, 1987
Oct. 19, 1987

Table of Contents
Oct. 19, 1987

Oklahoma-Texas
NL Playoffs
AL Playoffs
Groovy
Special Report
Business
Point After

HUMM-DINGER OF A PLAYOFF

The Giants homered and fielded their way to a 3-2 lead over the Cardinals in the NLCS

The hills were alive with the sounds of "Humm Baby, Humm Baby" on Sunday evening in San Francisco. Fans carrying orange-and-black placards—some said HUMM, some said BABY—scurried around the perimeter of Candlestick Park like so many base runners. Inside the home-team clubhouse pitcher Mike Krukow turned to his catcher, Bob Brenly, and said, "Bob, let's go to St. Louis."

This is an article from the Oct. 19, 1987 issue Original Layout

The San Francisco Giants were going to St. Louis with a 3-2 lead over the Cardinals in their best-of-seven National League Championship Series. The Giants had just beaten the Cards 6-3 in the pivotal Game 5, and they were looking good. They were also looking for their first visit to the World Series since they lost to the New York Yankees in seven games in 1962.

They were not yet over the Hump Baby, though. The Milwaukee Brewers took a 3-2 lead to St. Louis in the 1982 World Series and lost. And the Cardinals themselves needed to win just one of their last three games in the '85 World Series, only to lose to the Kansas City Royals. Besides, said St. Louis rookie pitcher Joe Magrane, "the Cardinals are nothing if not resourceful."

On Sunday, however, the Giants looked more like the Cardinals than the Cardinals did. On a day beautiful enough to make everyone forget all the chilling stories about Candlestick, the Giants ran like rabbits, outstealing the Cards 3-0. They answered each Cardinal run as if it were a slap in the face, breaking the game open in the fourth with a four-run inning.

San Francisco leftfielder Jeffrey Leonard, who had homered in each of the first four games, relinquished the stage to some supporting players. Shortstop Jose Uribe put the home team ahead for good with a two-run single off Cardinal reliever Bob Forsch. Third baseman Kevin Mitchell drove in the first two runs for the Giants with a first-inning single and a third-inning homer. Lefthander Joe Price came on in relief of starter Rick Reuschel in the fifth and stymied the Cards, allowing no runs and only one hit the rest of the way. "He looked like Rube Waddell out there," said Cardinal manager Whitey Herzog. Asked if he knew who Rube Waddell was, Price said, "Yes. Whitey compared me to him in '84 too."

Herzog used another historical reference to describe Game 5. "They played like the Gashouse Gang, and we looked like a bunch of lead foots." He added, "They still have to win one more."

From the beginning this series had promised to be a saintly one, if only because the two cities are named after saints: Francis of Assisi and Louis IX of France. It would be a matchup between the Humm Babies of Roger Craig, the Mental Giant, and the Light Brigade of Herzog, the White Rat. The series did not lack for nicknames.

Take that Humm Babies stuff. Please. It derives from the old chatter phrase, usually yelled by the catcher to the pitcher. Now that Craig has repopularized it, the phrase is everywhere, from banners on San Francisco skyscrapers to the tarp cover in Candlestick to a neon light in the Giants clubhouse.

Craig peppers his speech with Humm Baby, using it as an all-purpose salutation, sort of like shalom, and as a term of endearment for most everyone. "My dog, Rusty, is 15 years old," Craig will say. "The vet wanted to put him away a couple of times, but that old dog just keeps going. He's a real Humm Baby." However silly it might sound, Craig has used it to inspire the Giants, who lost 100 games two seasons ago, to unaccustomed heights. This was their first postseason appearance in 16 years, and the first for a Giants team without Willie Mays in half a century. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have grown accustomed to these affairs: This is their third playoff appearance in the last six years.

There is no love lost, as they say (much too often), between the Giants and the Cardinals, but the clichè is true. The teams had engaged in one of those beanbrawls in July '86, and Craig and Herzog, 57 and 55, respectively, nearly came to blows. Last May Cardinal pitcher Danny Cox broke Chris Brown's jaw with a pitch. The Cardinals didn't like it in August when Craig flatly predicted the Mets would win the NL East, and they certainly didn't like it whenever Craig sacrilegiously insisted that his shortstop, Uribe, was better than St. Louis's Ozzie Smith.

Craig and Herzog had another face-to-face the afternoon before Game 1, but this time it was Whitey entering the visitors' clubhouse to inform Roger that righthander Cox, who was scheduled to start, had a stiff neck and that lefthander Greg Mathews would pitch in his stead. The move would have a profound effect on both teams. For one thing, the night—to borrow a phrase from another Anheuser-Busch product—would belong to Mathews. For another, the switch caused Craig to pencil in righty-swinging Leonard as his leftfielder. Hac-Man, or Correctional Facility Face, as he is variously called, would not have started against Cox.

The game was played under a harvest moon so bright and full it seemed like a stage prop. The red sea of 55,331 in Busch Stadium first surged when Cardinal owner Augie Busch rode across the diamond behind the famous Clydesdales and again when Smith turned his first ceremonial backflip since 1985 before taking his position.

The Giants got an unearned run in the top of the first, but the Cardinals tied it in the third when catcher Tony Pena singled off Reuschel, moved to second on Mathews's sacrifice bunt and scored on Vince Coleman's single. In the fourth Leonard drilled a solo homer to dead center, but the Cards came right back in the bottom of the inning with a triple by Smith and a single by Willie McGee.

As Krukow puts it: "The Cardinals have a way of manufacturing runs without insulting you with their bats." This is what happened to Reuschel in the bottom of the sixth. Dan Driessen, subbing for Jack Clark, who was still hobbled by a sprained ankle, doubled into the gap in left center. After an error and two singles St. Louis led 3-2. Then with two out and the bases loaded, Mathews slapped Reuschel's two-strike slider over second for a two-run single.

Mathews, the hero of the 5-3 victory, said he would not have played "18 rounds of golf on Monday had he known he would start Tuesday. He probably meant 18 holes, but with Mathews you never know. "He and the other lefty [Magrane] are from Planet 7," said Herzog. Asked if he knew where Planet 7 was, Herzog said, "I don't know. I'll have to ask them when they get back from there."

The Cardinals love to tell stories about Mathews, who pulls his cap far down on his head the way another left-handed flake, Bill Lee, used to. There was the time in Chicago when Mathews took his clothes to the cleaners on Friday, not realizing they wouldn't be ready before the team left town on Sunday; he even forgot the name of the cleaner. "Those stories get exaggerated," said Mathews. "Wait a minute. Did anybody tell you about the time I gave Magrane perfect directions to a bar we were going to meet at, and then I got lost myself?"

The Humm Babies took over the next day, winning Game 2 rather easily, 5-0, thanks mainly to Hymn Baby Dave Dravecky, who pitched the fourth two-hitter in league championship history; to Ham Baby Leonard, who hit another homer, into the centerfield seats; and to Just Plain Baby—he's only 23—Will Clark, whose two-run homer in the second put the Giants on the scoreboard.

Dravecky, a devout Christian, came over from San Diego on the Fourth of July, along with Mitchell and lefty reliever Craig Lefferts, for Brown and pitchers Mark Davis, Mark Grant and Keith Comstock, and went 6-2 with three shutouts in his first 13 Giants starts. In fact, he's the reason why Padre president Chub Feeney threw a piece of bread at a bartender at San Francisco's Washington Square Bar & Grill the other day. It seems the bartender told Feeney, who had been the Giants' vice-president from 1948 to '69, "Thanks, Chub. You finally made a trade that helped the Giants."

Where Leonard was coming from, nobody knew. Contrary to the protocol of postseason diplomacy, he popped off after Game 1, saying the Cardinals weren't all that good. Consequently the fans in left heaped him with abuse—and he loved it. "I liked it when they told me my IQ was the same as my uniform number," he said. His number is 00.

When he homered in the fourth inning of Game 2, he trotted around the bases with his left arm pinned against his side—"left flap down," as he put it. He slowed to a walk between third and home and soaked in the colorful invective of victimized Cardinal pitcher John Tudor. He was also secure in the knowledge that he has a clause in his contract calling for a $50,000 bonus if he is named the playoff MVP.

After the game Leonard explained that he has five different home run trots. "That's part of my creativity," he said. Once Leonard wouldn't talk to the press—yes, he was a Mum Baby—but in St. Louis he clearly enjoyed the attention. Says Giants general manager Al Rosen, "Remember the movie The Three Faces of Eve? There are three faces of Leonard. A warm, caring person. A shy kid. And a dour-countenanced guy who's the meanest, most miserable player on the field."

Will Clark didn't make any friends in St. Louis, either, when he laid into an interviewer who slipped and called him Jack. "I'm Will, not Jack," Clark said. "Jack is over in the clubhouse, and he's not playing. People are always pushing his bubble gum card in front of me, asking me to sign it. I respect the guy, but hey, I hit 35 home runs this year."

The Giants seemed to have all the answers before Game 3. The venue had moved west to the Stick, the most dreaded stadium in baseball. "The lion's den," Dravecky calls it. Wind. Fog. Cold. Grass. Yes, it has come to this: A team complains when it has to play on real grass. "If they had an Easter egg hunt in this stuff, nobody could find the Easter eggs," said Herzog.

Adding to Herzog's woes was the news, just before game time, that third baseman Terry Pendleton could not play. Pendleton had sprained his ankle during a workout the day before, so Herzog would have to use Tom Hitless, or rather, Lawless, who got his first hit of 1987 in August and his second on the last day of the season. All told, the entire Cardinal lineup had hit 31 homers in the regular season, four fewer than either Jack or Will Clark.

The Giants didn't get a helping hand from the weather—it was a beautiful evening—but then they didn't seem to need it. They jumped on Magrane early, scoring three in the second inning and another in the third on a blast to left center by the Hac-Man, who celebrated his third homer in as many games by taking his sweet time around the bases, left flap down. In the meantime Atlee Hammaker, who rarely loses at home, was cruising along with a three-hitter after five innings. He even got to face a pinch hitter and former Giant named Jack Clark in the fifth and struck him out.

In the bottom of the fifth, Leonard came up again and—he had to know it was coming—took a pitch by Forsch on his right shoulder. Forsch soon found himself with the bases loaded and one out, but he got out of the jam, retiring Davis and Will Clark. "That was the turning point right there," said Herzog.

Other Cardinals thought the turning point occurred in the top of the sixth when the rookie starting in place of Jack Clark, Jim (Lucky Lindy) Lindeman hit a two-run homer over the rightfield fence. "We hadn't scored in 16 innings," said McGee. "That kinda picked us up."

Then came the seventh. Leonard described it thus: "One lousy inning again. You know, it was a typical Cardinal inning, too. Single, then boomboom-boomboom. Hit-and-run. Blip-blip. First-and-third. Hup-hup."

Translated, this means that the murderers' row of Jose Oquendo, Curt Ford, Driessen and Coleman strung together four hits, with a stolen base by pinch runner Lance Johnson thrown in. Three of the hits came off reliever Don Robinson; one of them went through his legs. He failed to retire a batter and took the 6-5 loss. While Leonard vowed vengeance for what he viewed as headhunting, the other Giants felt like a bunch of Numb Babies for the way they blew the game. Over in the visitors' clubhouse, Herzog, resplendent in navy-blue silk long Johns, was asked if he was surprised the Cardinals had won. "I'm not blowin' any more smoke," said Herzog. "It was a bloody miracle."

St. Louis's outlook brightened for Saturday's Game 4: Pendleton was back in the lineup, and Cox was on the mound. And after their second turn at bat, they had a 2-0 lead on RBI singles by Cox and Coleman. Giants starting pitcher Krukow came stalking into the dugout after the inning and told everyone, "They won't score another run."

Thirty-six years ago Bobby Thomson hit the Shot Heard 'Round the World for the Giants. In the fourth inning Saturday night, second baseman Robby Thompson hit a shot heard, if not 'round the world, at least 'round the Bay. It easily cleared the fence in left and cut the Cardinals' lead to 2-1.

Then, with two outs in the fifth, Mitchell doubled and Leonard came to the plate. Cox threw him an inside fastball on the first pitch, and Leonard lofted it into the air in left. He actually slammed his bat in disgust because, as he said later, "I didn't get all of it." But the wind took it and deposited it just over the fence. Leonard was so surprised he forgot to select a special home run trot, and the Giants led 3-2.

Later Leonard would credit his three-year-old son, Marcus (Day Care Facility Face) Leonard, with an assist. "I went to the clubhouse just before my at bat, and I saw Marcus running around with some other kids, having a good time. That relaxed me, reminded me to have fun out there. He saw me and said, 'Daddy, are you playing baseball?' I said, 'Yeah, I'm playin' baseball.' "

And how. Leonard set an LCS record with his homers in four consecutive games. And his $50,000 bonus was looking awfully good. His next time up, the 57,997 fans gave him a standing O. Or in his case, a standing 00. In the meantime, Krukow was being true to his word. The Cardinals got only five hits after the second inning, and the Giants won 4-2.

Afterward Craig told the assembled media, "Some of you have been asking what Humm Baby means. This game is what it means." Later, alone in his office, he said, "You know, if I were a fan and didn't have a ticket to tomorrow's game, I'd pay $1,000 for one."

In artistic terms, Game 5 might not have been worth a grand, but if you had a rooting interest in the Giants, the price—not to mention Joe Price—was right. As one fan's sign read: ALMOST HOME BABY.

PHOTOANDY HAYTPena tagged Leonard's Correctional Facility Face (left) after Jeffrey had tagged a record four homers in the series' first four games.PHOTOBILL SMITH[See caption above.]PHOTOV.J. LOVEROUribe's steal of third in Game 5 helped the Giants outswipe the fleet-footed Cards 3-0.PHOTOWALTER IOOSS JR.With Uribe at short, the Giants were long on double plays, getting 10 to St. Loo's two.PHOTOV.J. LOVEROThe Cardinals began to get that run-down feeling when McGee was caught in Game 5.PHOTORICHARD MACKSONThe speedy Coleman had to tip his cap to the Giants after they got him on a DP in Game 4.PHOTORICHARD MACKSONOh, oh. Leonard's home run early in Game 3 later won him a place on Forsch's hit list.PHOTOV.J. LOVEROMotivated by their battle cry, the Giants were one win away from the World Series.PHOTOWALTER IOOSS JR.Reuschel allowed three runs in four innings in Game 5, but after that the Price was right.