SI Vault
 
HUMM-DINGER OF A PLAYOFF
Steve Wulf
October 19, 1987
The Giants homered and fielded their way to a 3-2 lead over the Cardinals in the NLCS
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 19, 1987

Humm-dinger Of A Playoff

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

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

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."

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 cliché 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.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4