Sweet Music

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November 2, 1987

Sweet Music

by Steve Wulf


GET OUT YOUR HANDKERCHIEFS. If you're a Minnesota Twins fan — and there should be a few million more of you than there were a few weeks ago — wipe away those tears of joy and flick your Homer Hankies one more time for Sweet Music, Kirby, Herbie, Wrench, Dr. Crank, Groove, Lombo, Gags, Buck-Ninety, Bruno, the Dutchman, the Panamanian Express and the Terminator. "We are no longer the Twinkies," said second baseman Steve Lombardozzi. "We're the World Champion Minnesota Twins."

If you're a St. Louis Cardinal fan, dab your eyes and give your team a big hand. The Cards almost overcame their lack of power with true grit and determination. "It's amazing we got this far with a spring training B team out there," said first baseman Jim Lindeman.

And if you're a baseball purist, mop your brow and admit that the World Series actually survived, even though four games were played indoors and, for the first time in its 84 years, the Series winner failed to win a game on the road. You may not like the giant trash can liner that passes for a fence in rightfield and balls that are in play after bouncing off speakers, but you had to like Sunday's seventh game.

The Twins and Cardinals certainly played it the way the seventh game of a World Series should be played. Masterful pitching. Clutch hitting. Nice catches. Runner thrown out at the plate. Controversial calls. Thousands upon thousands of Homer Hankies. And noise, so much noise, as the Twins won 4-2. "It was a pretty good game," said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog.

It didn't begin too well for Minnesota. St. Louis scored two quick runs off Frank (Sweet Music) Viola in the second inning on singles by Lindeman, Willie McGee, Tony Pena and Steve Lake, who was a surprise starter at catcher, replacing Pena, who became the designated hitter. That turned out to be a good move by Herzog, though not quite good enough to make a difference.

The Cardinals did most of their damage against Viola's changeup, so he decided to go with his fastball after that, and St. Louis could only get two more hits through the next six innings. The vaunted Twins attack, however, kept stalling. Leftfielder Vince Coleman threw out Don (Groove) Baylor at the plate in the second, although replays showed that home plate umpire Dave Phillips missed the call. The Twins did get a run in that inning on an RBI single by Lombardozzi. They could have broken the game open in the fifth after Kirby Puckett doubled in the tying run. But Lake caught Puckett trying to get to third on a pitch in the dirt, and Coleman unloaded again to nail Gary (Dr. Crank) Gaetti trying to score from second on a single by Baylor. Gaetti crashed into Lake, but the catcher held on to the ball.

 St. Louis coudn't stop the Minnesota Twins

1987:
St. Louis coudn't stop the Minnesota Twins

photograph by
Heinz Kluetmeier


The Twins scored the go-ahead run in the sixth after reliever Danny Cox lost his control and walked the first two batters. Cox also lost control of himself, and, shades of Joaquin Andujar (see Cardinals, Game 7, 11-0 loss, 1985 World Series), Phillips threw him out of the game after Herzog had already removed him. Reliever Todd Worrell walked another batter to load the bases, and with two out Greg Gagne hit a 3-2 pitch on the ground just inside third base. Tom Lawless stabbed the ball, but his throw to first arrived a tad too late as Tom Brunansky crossed the plate.

Dan (Wrench) Gladden got the Twins some insurance when he doubled home Tim (Buck-Ninety) Laudner in the eighth. By that time Minnesota manager Tom Kelly had decided that Viola had played enough music, and he brought on the Terminator, Jeff Reardon, to pitch the ninth. With the crowd on its feet and getting louder, Reardon got Tommy Herr and Curt Ford to pop up and McGee to ground to third.

It was poetic justice that the final out was a grounder that went 5-3, Gaetti to Kent Hrbek. The third baseman and first baseman have been the cornerstones of the Twins since 1982, when the team lost 102 games. "I think even then we knew we would be here someday," said Viola, who was also on that team, with Brunansky and Laudner among the regulars.

Gaetti also gives the team heart, and he wanted that last out. "I saw the ball and took off after it," he said. "It was like in a dream. I wasn't even there, I was the leftfield camera. I wasn't in my body at all. It's like I'd been there before, seen it before. But I hadn't. It was definitely an out-of-body experience."

Hrbek caught the throw, toed the bag and leaped up, arms in the air, as a huge pileup of Twins began to build between first base and the pitcher's mound. "I was on the bottom," said Reardon, "and Gaetti was bridging his body over mine so I wouldn't get crushed." There was delirium on the field and in the stands, where Minnesotans rejoiced in their first major professional championship since George Mikan led the Minneapolis Lakers to the NBA title in 1954. The Homer Hankies seemed to take wing, like doves, in the hands of the fans.

The players hugged each other and turned to thank the crowd. This remarkable show of affection was topped 30 minutes later when the players returned to the field to join their families and friends. Many of the Twins took up a microphone to give a little speech, and then they all ran a victory lap around the Metrodome. "Wasn't that something?" said Gaetti.

The entire Series was something. Like the Mississippi River itself, the Mississeries took some strange twists and turns as it moved from the Twin Cities to St. Louis and back again. When Minnesota fans waved goodbye to the Twins after they had driven the Cardinals to distraction in the Metrodome in Games 1 and 2, they were toying with hubris. Surely their team would win at least one of the three games downriver. What chance did the Cards have, with the likes of Lawless and Ford in their lineup, against Minnesota's Fab Four of Puckett, Gaetti, Hrbek and Brunansky? Sure, Les Paul Straker might be a throw-away starter in Game 3, but after Straker would come the aces, Viola and the Dutchman, Bert Blyleven. "Send the Clydesdales south for the winter, St. Louis," wrote columnist Dan Barreiro in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "This one's over before it's over."

The Cardinals, however, were not exactly ready to jump off the Delta Queen. If one quality distinguished St. Louis this year, it was its ability to laugh in the face of doom. The Cards had won 95 games in the regular season despite disabling injuries to McGee, Pena, Herr, John Tudor, Joe Magrane and, not least, Jack Clark. They had won the last two games of the national league Championship Series against the Giants without Clark. In the World Series they were having to make do without Clark and with only the lefthand-hitting half of switch-hitter Terry Pendleton, who would not play third base at all because of a rib injury.

The Cardinals took their never-say-die lead from Herzog, who may be the greatest stoic since Marcus Aurelius. Whitey was so worried about being behind 0-2 that he spent the afternoon of the off-day before Game 3 kibitzing and drinking with writers at their St. Louis hangout, the Missouri Bar & Grill. His counterpart, on the other hand, was a bit uptight. When one writer asked Kelly for some biographical information, the manager said, "You fly here in an airplane?" Yes, he was told. "Next time you're in an airplane, with time to kill, read the Twins' press guide. Everything about me is in there."

Then there were the Cardinals fans, who were very nearly in the same league as the Twins fans. What with their twirling towels (which predated Homer Hankies) and red ensembles, Busch Stadium resembled a bowl of cherry vanilla ice cream — and the temperature was nearly cold enough to keep it frozen — before Tuesday's Game 3. The Cards seemed to have the better of the pitching matchup this night, Tudor against Straker, the latter a 28-year-old rookie and the first Venezuelan to pitch in the World Series. Straker had left his glove behind in Minneapolis, and Federal Express delivered it to him that day. Pregame psychoanalysts decided this meant Straker did not want to pitch.

They were wrong. He kept St. Louis at bay for six innings, allowing four hits and two walks before leaving for a pinch hitter in the top of the seventh. The Twins, meanwhile, had touched Tudor for a run in the sixth on two walks and Brunansky's single.

Enter Twins reliever Juan Berenguer in the seventh. Also enter a chorus of second-guessers. Berenguer is so popular in the Twin Cities that he has his own rock video, The Berenguer Boogie, but the Cardinals must not have seen it. Jose Oquendo singled. Pena twice tried and failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt, then singled. Pendleton came to bat for Tudor. Immediately the chorus cried, "Where's the Minnesota lefthander, Dan Schatzeder?"

Pendleton put down a perfect bunt and nearly beat the throw to first. That brought Coleman to the plate. The Man of Steal had been playing this Series as if he had never come out from under the tarp that swallowed him during the 1985 National League Championship Series, and he quickly fell behind 0-2. But then he lashed a Berenguer fastball the other way, inside the third base bag for a two-run double. He also stole third and scored on Ozzie Smith's single. "That's about our offense," Herzog said. "We play for one run and get three."

The Twins scared the Cardinals in the eighth when Puckett tripled off Worrell with two out. As Gaetti came to the plate, Herzog and coach Nick Leyva frantically waved Oquendo closer to the third base line. On the ABC telecast, analysts Tim McCarver and Jim Palmer questioned Herzog's strategy. No sooner had Palmer finished saying, "They've moved [Oquendo] to where Gaetti is not apt to hit the ball," than Gaetti hit a screamer right at Oquendo. When someone asked Herzog later if he knew exactly how to position his third baseman against Gaetti, the White Rat said, "I moved him because we've been guarding the line with a lead in the late innings for a hundred years in the National League."

And that, basically, was what Game 3 came down to. The Cardinals guarded the line and the Twins didn't. When the chorus asked Kelly why he didn't bring in Schatzeder sooner, Kelly said, a bit petulantly, "I think I know my team better than you do." The Panama-born Berenger gave an even shorter response: "No talk. I pitch crap. That's it. No talk."

Tudor was talking, though. Vilified in the 1985 Series for his rudeness — the press box habitues gave him a standing ovation after Kansas City shelled him in Game 7 — Tudor patiently took on all reporters after his 3-1 win. He even joked, "I asked Whitey to petition the National League to get rid of the fourth inning," referring to the seven- and six-run fourths the Twins enjoyed in Games 1 and 2.

In Game 4 the fourth inning again proved to be the big inning for the home team, and again Herzog came out looking like a genius, particularly in light of an offhand remark he had made after Viola beat St. Louis in Game 1. "Lawless is a pretty good hitter," Herzog had said. "He just might be the guy to deal with Viola next time."

Herzog was talking about the utility player referred to as "Hitless" in the Oct. 19 issue of this magazine. A lot of people wondered why a player who had gotten two hits in the regular season (Aug. 12 and Oct. 4) was starting at third base in Game 4, including David Herzog, Whitey's 30-year-old son. "He was all over me about Lawless," said the manager. So were the fans on the radio call-in shows in St. Louis, as Lawless and his wife, Cheryl, heard on their drive to the park.

Now it was the bottom of the fourth, the score tied 1-1. The Cardinals had runners on first and third with none out when Lawless came to the plate for the second time against Viola. He had struck out looking the first time. This time Viola three him an 0-and-1 fastball, and Lawless turned on it. He stood at the plate watching his drive with all the insouciance of Reggie Jackson, who was working the Series for ABC and had admitted before the game he didn't know who Lawless was. The way Lawless stood looking, the ball might have been heading for the Mississippi, right through the Gateway Arch, but actually it just cleared the fence in left, hitting the concrete facade and bouncing back onto the field. He flung his bat in a daze and made a slow trot around the bases, like a man who has hit 600 home runs in his major league career and not just a single dinger. "He has hit 600," Herzog said afterward. "Only they've all come at six o'clock." The Cardinals went on to score three more runs in the fourth to take a 7-1 lead, but the game wasn't over yet. They had a tense moment or two in the fifth. With runners on first and third and one out, Lawless — he fields, too — held Puckett to a single by knocking down his shot near third base. Then Smith made a sensational play, diving to his right to stop a shot by Gaetti and recovering quickly enough to throw from his knees to force Puckett at second. Brunansky followed with a sinking liner to left that Coleman caught with a headfirst slide. Using the bucket brigade of starter Greg Mathews and relievers Bob Forsch and Ken Dayley, the Cards had beaten Viola and the Twins 7-2, tied the Series at two games apiece, and guaranteed that it would go upriver.

Best of all, the Series gained a hero in the great tradition of Hank Gowdy, Al Gionfriddo, Al Weis and Brian Doyle. When Viola, who grew up on Long Island as a Mets fan, was asked if he recalled Weis's dramatic homer in the 1969 Series, he said, "Did you have to remind me?" Lawless thus became the fourth nonpitcher in history to hit a home run in the World Series without having hit one in the regular season.

Until this night Lawless was known (if at all) for two things: He was the only player ever traded for Pete Rose (from Cincinnati to Montreal, 1984), and he got his first hit of the season later than every other player on an Opening Day roster in each of the last two seasons. Now people were learning he is the best golfer on the Cardinals and that he was a political science major at Behrend College of Erie-Penn State U. Asked what career he would be pursuing if he weren't playing baseball, Lawless said, "Playing golf." How big a thrill was the home run? "Well, I'll probably go home and sleep in my uniform tonight."

While some of the Twins took umbrage at his trot, most Cardinals got a kick out of it. "Really funny," said Dayley, who had served up Lawless's only previous homer when Dayley was a Brave and Lawless a Red. "If he'd done that to me, I'd have drilled him next time up," said Tudor, Lawless's best friend on the club.

The only aspect of Game 4 that was stranger than Lawless's homer was the fan spotted in the stands wearing an old man's mask, cheering wildly for the Twins. The fan turned out to be none other than Steve Carlton, a resident of the St. Louis area and former Cardinal who pitched in nine games for Minnesota this season.

At dawn on Thursday, some 15 hours before Game 5, Herzog went angling and caught nine fish. Earlier in the week, he had tried to bait Blyleven, accusing him of balking by not coming to a stop in his delivery with runners on base. But Blyleven wasn't biting. "Tell Whitey not to bother if he's trying to mess with my mind," said Blyleven, "because I have no mind." When the message was relayed to Herzog, the Rat said, "Tell Bert I know that."

The pitching matchup for Game 5 was the same it had been for Game 1 — Blyleven versus Cox. Blyleven was bidding to become the second pitcher, after the Yankees' Lefty Gomez, to go 6-0 in postseason play. The balk controversy never materialized, and both pitchers settled into a scoreless duel. The Cards had a nice opportunity in the fifth when Oquendo's base hit and Pena's hit-and-run single put runners on first and third with one out. But St. Louis tried a squeeze play with Cox at bat, and Oquendo was tagged out between home and third as Cox struck out.

Until the bottom of the sixth, the most notable error in the Series had been the one by commissioner Peter Ueberroth on a foul ground ball to his box in Game 3. But now the Twins fell apart — at the seams, in a way. Coleman led off the inning with an easy grounder to Hrbek at first, but the ball hit a seam in the turf and handcuffed Hrbek. Smith got a base hit out of a bunt that Blyleven couldn't handle. After Herr flied out, Coleman and Smith pulled a double steal, so Blyleven had to walk Dan Driessen intentionally. With the bases loaded and one out, and an 0-and-2 count on McGee, Blyleven smiled. Then he threw a beautiful curveball that caught McGee looking. It seemed as though the Dutchman might once again stick his finger in the dike.

Ford was next. Not much is known about Ford, the smallest (5'9", 140 pounds) and quietest Cardinal. He played with Oil Can Boyd at Jackson State. He came into the St. Louis system as a second baseman and moved to the outfield. His nickname is Ernie, not after Tennessee Ernie Ford, but because he likes the music of Busch Stadium organist Ernie Hayes. But Herzog knew, and Blyleven didn't, that Ford has one of the quickest bats of any of the Cardinals' lefthanded hitters. So when Blyleven tried to sneak a fastball — a good fastball — by him, Ford lined it up the middle for the game's first two runs. Gagne's error on Oquendo's routine grounder gave the Cards their third run. Three runs produced with only one ball hit out of the infield. "They're pretty much like a bunch of gnats swirling around you," Gaetti said.

Speed got St. Louis another run in the seventh when Coleman walked, went to second on a balk by Keith Atherton, stole third and scored on Smith's infield single. The Cardinals stole five bases in the game, the most for one team since the 1907 Cubs.

Cox's only real trouble came when he gave up singles to Gladden and Gagne in the eighth. He got Puckett to fly out and then handed the ball to Dayley, who go Hrbek to fly out and handed the ball to Worrell. Gaetti hit a shot to deep center that McGee had for a moment, then lost as he hit the wall. Two runs scored, but Gaetti was left at third. When pinch hitter Baylor popped out with two men on in the ninth, the Cards had a 4-2 victory. The Twins were left wondering what had become of their two-games-to-none lead. "I'm glad to get out of here," said Gaetti.

Said Hrbek, "There isn't one team in the American League that beats you like that. They slap, run, have a good bullpen. I figure the only way to beat them is by going out of the ballpark."

So the Series headed back up the Big Muddy. While there had been some interesting plays and players, the five games generally lacked real excitement. None of them had gone to the bottom of the ninth inning.

Game 6 perked everybody up. It wasn't just the crowd in the Thunderdome, though it was certainly loud enough. This was the best game of the Series so far, even if its outcome was decided by the bottom of the sixth. Again Tudor was facing Straker, but this time they seemed to be serving batting practice. The Cardinals scored first in the first, on a majestic homer by Herr — yes, his first lefthanded this year — into the upper deck in rightfield. The Twins scored second in the first, taking a 2-1 lead on a triple — the dinkiest in recent Series history — by Gladden, the first of four singles by Puckett, a Gaetti groundout and a single by Baylor.

St. Louis tied it in the second in typical guerrilla fashion: walk, fielder's choice, AstroTurf single. Minnesota blew a chance in its half of the inning when Hrbek was picked off second with none out. The bottom of the third brought another Series first when Baylor's pop foul, following a parabola that would have taken it into the seats behind home plate, hit one of the ceiling speakers (they're in play), rattled around and plopped into Pena's glove.

In the fourth, Driessen's double off the rightfield Hefty bag fence, two singles and a sacrifice fly made it 4-2, Cardinals. It went to 5-2 on McGee's RBI single in the fifth. But Tudor was not himself. Puckett singled for the third time to lead off the bottom of the fifth, and Gaetti drove him home with a double down the leftfield line. Next came Baylor, who had last faced Tudor in 1983, when Baylor was with the Yankees and Tudor the Red Sox. Baylor homered off Tudor on July 4 of that season.

Preparing to face him in Game 6, Baylor said, "I reminisced about the way he pitched me then. Let's just say I was somewhat more ready for him than he was ready for me." When Tudor tried a fastball inside, Baylor hammered it deep to left for his first homer since coming from Boston on Aug. 31. The blast tied the score, sent the crowd into a frenzy and caused more than a few Red Sox fans to wonder again what Baylor might have done had he batted against the Mets' Jesse Orosco in Game 6 of the '86 Series.

Brunansky's single chased Tudor, and after Brunansky moved to second on a groundout, Lombardozzi drove in the go-ahead run with his third hit, off Ricky Horton.

A 6-5 lead in a game of this sort was slim indeed. The Twins loaded the bases in the sixth on a single by Gagne, a walk to Puckett and an intentional pass to Baylor. So, with two outs, the Cardinals brought in the lefthanded Dayley, who hadn't allowed a run in seven Series appearances, to face Hrbek, who was 1 for 13 against the Cardinal lefties. "If we don't score there," Kelly said later, "I saw them taking the lead again."

The Cardinal's scouting report called for fastballs inside on Hrbek, but for some reason Pena set up on the outside part of the plate, which is where Dayley threw his first pitch. Hrbek swung, and the ball took off into the gloaming under the doming, landing 439 feet away. As Hrbek — HOMETOWN HRO one sign read — rounded the bases, he held out both arms in triumph. "I wanted to circle the bases twice," he said. The Twins led 10-5 after the grand slam, and they scored another run in the eighth to win 11-5. Another sign said: 4 AND 20 REDBIRDS BAKED IN A PIE. Hrbek dedicated his homer to the memory of his father, who died in 1982 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. "Even though there's a roof on this place, he had the best seat in the house," said Hrbek.

Baylor had a special feeling as well. He had been in six league championship series and one other World Series, and now he was only one win away from his first Series ring. "This one seems as if it was meant to be," he said. "The feeling around here is different than the one we had in Boston last year. We had the weight of New England on our shoulders. Today, before the game, guys were joking, Gaetti was doing somersaults in the outfield. We just have to go out and have fun tomorrow. Yes, I have a good feeling about this one."

Baylor was right. After Viola's Game 7 masterpiece, after the fans had takenthe victory celebration to the streets of the Twin Cities and after the Tosti Asti Spumante had run out, Gaetti stood exhausted in the Twins clubhouse and talked about what it all meant.

"When I'm 65 years old, I'm going to take my grandchild to his first baseball game," he said. "We'll take our seats, and I'll say to him, 'Baseball is the national pastime, the greatest game in the world. And the greatest thing you can do in baseball is win a World Series.' Then I'll pause and say, 'I once played for a World Series winner.'"


 

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