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 Missis-series 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
. "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."