Shortly after the Pirates had swept the Reds in the best-of-five playoff to win the National League pennant, Pittsburgh's Tim Foli, clad in his underwear, sprang into Manager Chuck Tanner's office. Foli was smoking a fat cigar, and on his head was a cowboy hat that John Candelaria, in celebration, had taken a bite from. Foli was holding a bat down by the knob—ordinarily he chokes way up—and waving it menacingly in the manner of a home run hitter. "How's this look for the World Series?" he asked.
"That's all we need," Tanner replied with an uneasy grin.
From the hallway Second Baseman Phil Garner shouted, "I'll bat second, Skip. He's going to go for the fences. Bat him fourth."
Willie Stargell, who has been the Pirates' clean-up hitter for at least 100 years, nodded his approval. While his teammates were celebrating with champagne, the man they call Pops was working on his customary postgame bottle of wine, this one being a 1977 Napa Valley Chardonnay. Willie's approval is a must on any matter concerning the Pirates, and he doesn't dole it out grudgingly. Some superstars are referred to as my man or the man, but to one and all Stargell is simply a man—the consummate encomium. Champagne in hand, Garner was telling anyone who would listen that he would go to war for Stargell, or, at the very least, "jump off a bridge." Shouting above the disco vibes of Ain't No Stop-pin' Us Now, Lee Lacy added, " Willie Stargell made the whole city happy!" But it was Pirate trainer Tony Bartirome who most succinctly voiced what nearly everyone was feeling. As Stargell waved his wine bottle at him, threatening, "Drink it or wear it," Bartirome put his hands on the sloping shoulders of the 38-year-old Pittsburgh captain and said softly, "You deserve all of this and more."
Stargell had made the whole city happy. The Pirates had got back-to-back extra-inning wins in Cincinnati—the first of which had been decided by Stargell's three-run homer in the 11th—so that the team which calls itself "the Family" returned to Three Rivers Stadium on Friday poised for a sweep. The Pirates were already ahead 2-0 in the finale when Stargell led off the third inning with a towering home run that Reds Manager John McNamara described as having been "deposited somewhere in the ionosphere." After Stargell had done his trot, the 42,240 fans, sensing the kill, set off fireworks and screamed until he came out of the dugout, doffed his cap and blew them a kiss as the organist played Jesus Christ Superstar. In his next at bat, Stargell drove in Pittsburgh's fifth and sixth runs with a two-out double, effectively silencing McNamara's band and ending the afternoon's suspense. With Pirate starter Bert Blyleven snapping off nasty curveballs, exhibiting a seldom-used changeup and thoroughly frustrating the overmatched Reds, the festivities began in earnest during the seventh-inning stretch. The Pirate theme song, We Are Family, was struck up, and who should appear behind home plate in an impromptu chorus line but a contingent of players' wives, kicking, waving pompons and discoing in anticipation of the first Pittsburgh pennant in eight years. For Pops and Pirate fans who remembered all too clearly the 1970, '72 and '75 playoff losses to the Big Red Machine of old, the 7-1 final-game victory and the sweep constituted oh-so-sweet revenge.
As for Cincinnati, all McNamara could say was, "Where did our bats go?" The Reds scored just five runs in 30 innings, one less than Stargell (.455, two home runs, two doubles) knocked in by himself. "We just didn't hit well enough to win. That's the sum and substance of it."
Tuesday night's opener matched Tom Seaver, who had won 14 of his previous 15 decisions, against Candelaria. The Candy Man, as he is known within the Family, had been hampered late in the season by a muscle pull in his rib cage, but he gutted out seven painful innings, allowing only five hits and two runs, which came on a 450-foot blast by George Foster into a vacant area beyond the fence in left-centerfield. "Your basic George Foster home run," said Pittsburgh Catcher Ed Ott. "It probably would have killed four people and broken three seats. Candelaria was in pain from the moment he got to the mound. I finally went out and asked him, 'Are you grunting because you're throwing hard or because it hurts?' With every pitch, he'd scream 'Aaaaah!' "
Things sounded different to the denizens of the Reds' dugout. "His ribs definitely weren't hurting him," Dave Collins stated flatly.
The Pirates got their two runs off Seaver in the third inning when Garner led off with an opposite-field home run—"Once in a while a blind dog finds a bone," he would say—and the fleet Omar Moreno, whose speed on the bases was a factor in all three games, scored on a sacrifice fly by Foli. Moreno had reached third when Collins ill-advisedly tried to shoestring his line drive, and the ball bounded over him off the wet artificial grass. "I was trying to keep him off base," Collins said afterward, referring to the Pirate centerfielder's 77 stolen bases during the regular season. "I went down so it would hit me, but the way the ball was skidding off that wet turf, it probably would have killed me if it had."
It was still 2-2 in the 11th when Foli, who batted .333 during the series, led off with a single against Reds reliever Tom Hume. Dave Parker followed with a hit to left, which set the stage for Stargell. He hit Hume's first delivery 300 feet high and 400 feet deep for the first home run allowed by Hume in 52 innings. As Tanner hugged him in the dugout, Stargell winked and told him, "Fine me, Skip, I missed the bunt sign."