The Minnesota Twins had two distinct advantages in this World Series. First, the St. Louis Cardinals were coming off an emotionally draining National League playoff series with the Giants, and half their power supply—specifically, Jack Clark and Terry Pendleton—was crippled. Second, the first two games were in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, where Minnesota's 58-25 regular-and postseason record should have removed any doubts about which team was the underdog.
In fact the Dome itself was the dominant story in the days leading up to the Series, followed closely by the screaming, Homer Hanky-waving crowds the Cardinals would find inside it (see page 51). Several St. Louis players, including the Game 1 starter, rookie Joe Magrane, wore earplugs to block out the noise, and the outfielders practiced locating fly balls against the billowy off-white ceiling by the hour. Though the hype mercifully ended when Harmon Killebrew threw out the first ball Saturday night, the Dome did affect the game after all. Cardinal centerfielder Willie McGee and leftfielder Vince Coleman lost track of fly balls in the ceiling; Coleman thought his actually grazed the canvas. McGee drifted in toward a popup but couldn't hear if second baseman Tommy Herr had called for it. In his confusion McGee dropped the ball. By his own admission, Magrane "messed around too much" in the third inning by making nine consecutive attempts to pick Dan Gladden off first; with his ears plugged, Magrane couldn't hear manager Whitey Herzog and pitching coach Mike Roarke telling him to forget the runner and pitch.
"Hey, everything's different here," said Twins third baseman Gary Gaetti. "The atmosphere isn't like anything in the baseball experience. Other crowds are relatively quiet during uneventful moments. This crowd screams the whole time, so it's more like college basketball in the Carrier Dome or the Notre Dame arena. It's crazy."
October 26, 1987
But the Dome had only a little bit to do with the Cardinals' losing the opener 10-1. Lefthander Frank Viola had a lot. Had Minnesota not won the American League pennant, Viola would have spent Saturday as best man at his brother's wedding. Instead, he helped the Twins administer what Herzog called "an old-fashioned butt-kicking." After seven Minnesota hitters went to the plate in the fourth inning and produced seven runs, the game was effectively over. "We were not going to score seven runs off Viola," said Herzog, who presumably spent the rest of the game thinking up ways to use his famed managerial genius in Game 2.
Viola was the absolute master of a tattered St. Louis lineup that was without Clark and Pendleton, who had combined to hit 47 of the Cardinals' 94 home runs and drive in 202 runs during the season. The Cardinals faced Viola with a cleanup hitter (Jim Lindeman) who had all of 28 RBIs and with a third baseman (Tom Lawless) and designated hitter (Tom Pagnozzi) who, for the season, had 11 hits between them.
For all that, the Cardinals scored first, though through no fault of Viola's. Lindeman led off the second inning with what should have been a routine flyout. But Kirby Puckett, who plays a deep centerfield, broke back and couldn't prevent the ball from dropping in for a double. Another fly and a ground ball brought Lindeman home.
The way Viola was throwing, two runs would have been enough for the Twins. In eight innings, he allowed five hits, ran a count to three balls only once and fell behind 2 and 0 only twice. Of his 100 pitches, 79 were strikes. The St. Louis hitters were stunned by the quality of Viola's changeup. "He perfected that pitch this spring," said his catcher, Tim Laudner, "and it changed him from a good pitcher into maybe a great one." His first time through the Cardinal order, nearly half of Viola's pitches were changeups. "What surprised us was that he threw so many," said St. Louis shortstop Ozzie Smith. The second time around, Viola threw his 90-mph fastball almost exclusively. "They couldn't catch up to it at that point," Laudner said. By the time the Cardinals came up for their third at bats, the Twins led 9-1. "I felt I was totally in control of the game," Viola said.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, seemed to lack confidence even when they had the lead, because Magrane was so out of sync. "Holistically speaking, I put us in a lot of holes," quipped the rookie. Though he didn't allow a hit in the first three innings, he struggled with his control, walking three batters. Then, in the fateful fourth, the Twins knocked him out with a spray of turf hits that might have seemed more appropriate coming off Cardinal bats.
"We carry the reputation of being a free-swinging, go-for-the-downs bunch of hitters," said Minnesota rightfielder Tom Brunansky. "I think that probably got us in trouble on the road during the season. Most of us realized that in the postseason we had to try to hit the ball through the middle. I changed my whole approach. I couldn't have cared less whether I pulled anything. When Gaetti, who's normally a dead pull hitter, homered to right center off Doyle Alexander in the American League playoffs, it carried us right through that series into this one."
The fourth inning began with Gaetti pulling a ground ball deep behind third, beyond the range of Lawless's arm. Magrane next got a good fastball in on Don Baylor's fists, but the veteran DH muscled a hit up the middle, and when Brunansky lined a single to center, the bases were loaded, and Herzog had Bob Forsch warming up. Kent Hrbek then slapped a ground ball through the middle and into centerfield. "If it's at Tommy Herr, it's a double play. But that's life on the turf," said Herzog, who should certainly know. Still, it was only 2-1, so when Magrane reloaded the bases with a walk, Herzog summoned righthander Forsch to face a parade of seven righty batters.
One good pitch and one bad pitch later, it was 7-1. The good pitch was a slider that Laudner, who batted .191 this season trying to pull homers, volleyed into right for the third run. The bad pitch was a hanging curveball that lead-off hitter Gladden pulled over the Plexiglas wall in left center for the first World Series grand slam since pitcher Dave McNally connected for Baltimore in 1970. The Twins had scored seven runs without making an out.
Minnesota scored twice more in the fifth on second baseman Steve Lombardozzi's homer. Though the Twins' starting lineup boasted five players—Brunansky, Gaetti, Puckett, Hrbek and Baylor—who had hit at least 30 homers in one or both of the last two seasons, it was Gladden and Lombardozzi, with 16 homers between them in 1987, who provided the power. "You know you're on a roll when you get a grand slam from your leadoff man," said Baylor.
Out in the Minneapolis streets, car horns blared. Inside the Dome, however, Twins manager Tom Kelly was in his office only 20 minutes after the game, chowing down on a pork chop with applesauce and squash. "Danny Cox is their best pitcher," he told a visitor. It was his way of saying no team ever won a World Series with one victory. Just then the phone rang. "It's about time Reagan called," Kelly said.
The difference between Game 2 and Game 1 was that it was 7-0 after four innings instead of 7-1. "Cox had very good stuff," said Gaetti, "but when little mistakes get made against a hot club, they turn into major mistakes." The first mistake was a second-inning slider that Cox hung in what Gaetti calls his "wampum zone." Hello, leftfield bleachers, 11th row. The second mistake came with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth. Cox got two quick strikes on DH Randy Bush with change-ups and decided to try just one more. He laid it in the fat of the strike zone, and Bush ripped it over first baseman Dan Driessen's head for a two-run double. When the inning was over, Bush had provided the Series' most exciting play to date with a headlong slide into home under Tony Pena's tag, and six runs had scored. Bert Blyleven then coasted through seven innings for his third straight postseason win. For his part, Cox said he "looked up to see if the roof was falling down," then exited, stage left.
Driessen was one of the few Cardinals who had been around when Blyleven pitched for Pittsburgh from 1978 to '80. "He's still got the great curveball," Driessen observed. "But he might be better now because he throws different types of fastballs and changes speed and arm angle on the curve." The 36-year-old Blyleven, who increasingly seems to take on the look of fellow Dutchman Vincent van Gogh, said, "They obviously scouted my last few games and saw that I threw a lot of curveballs. They seemed to be sitting on that pitch. So I threw a lot of fastballs."
He began the game with three fastballs that Coleman watched into Laudner's glove. Owing to the large leads and Coleman's absence from the base paths until his eighth at bat of the Series, the famed Cardinal running game was inoperative. Herzog had done little but watch the last five innings of Game 1. This time he acted and, yes, got a head start on managing Game 3. In the fifth inning he stormed out of the dugout to complain to home plate umpire Lee Weyer of the National League about Blyleven's delivery. "He balks on every pitch because he doesn't come to a stop in his stretch," Herzog argued. When Coleman finally stole second in the eighth inning, the Cardinals were trailing 8-2. It was the Cardinals' first theft because, balk move or no balk move, the Minnesota pitchers had held the top of the order—Coleman, Smith and Herr—to two hits in the two games.
"The reason we won only 85 games during the regular season was because we were a little thin in pitching depth," said Minnesota's Roy Smalley. "But in the postseason that doesn't become much of a factor. We're more like a team that won 95 games." Indeed, the victories made the Twins' overall record 51-28 in games started by their two aces, Viola and Blyleven, 40-50 in games started by pitchers who belong in a plain brown bag marked OTHERS.
As the Cardinals packed off to St. Louis, hoping for an opportunity to return to the unfriendly confines of the Metrodome for Game 6, Herzog insisted that "two things in baseball that mean nothing are last year and yesterday." Ah, but did Whitey forget that last year the Mets came back to win the Series after trailing 2-0, as the Cardinals had in '85 and the Dodgers had—against the Minnesota Twins, no less—in 1965?
This year, though, the Twins seem to have taken to the spotlight very quickly. After Game 2, Gaetti stood in the interview room answering questions about the team that had so dominated the postseason. "We're on a mission," he said. Then someone asked about his DR. CRANK T-shirt, which featured a caricature of Gaetti, emphasizing his rather large nose. "When I broke Killebrew's spring-training home run record, some kids started a fan club for me," Gaetti explained. "It grew to three or four hundred around here, but now I hear it's gone nationwide."