Toronto Blue Jay third baseman Garth Iorg sat in his locker Sunday afternoon contemplating the Jays' 2-0 whitewashing by the Kansas City Royals, a game that postponed, at least for the moment, Canada's first-ever pennant. The scrappy Jays still held a three-games-to-two lead in the best-of-seven series, which would now return to Toronto, giving Iorg and the Jays a feeling not just of confidence but of manifest destiny. "We'll beat them up there," Iorg smiled. "Maybe we're supposed to win this thing in Canada."
Over in the Royals' dressing room, the feeling was less of manifest destiny than of destiny squandered. "It's amazing what a fine line it is between winning and losing," said catcher Jim Sundberg. "We could be sitting here with a championship now."
Indeed they could have. If only the Blue Jays, a team that supposedly was too young to win, had not twice turned losses into victories when K.C. failed to nail down the last three outs in Games 2 and 4. If only pitching and one great big bat—George Brett's—were a match for pitching and nine small ones. If only, if only, if only....
The series, the first American League championship to be played on foreign turf, as well as the first played entirely on phonyturf, opened on Tuesday in Toronto's Exhibition Stadium on an overcast yet temperate 63� evening that answered, for now anyway, the Four Nagging Questions: Could postseason baseball and the Great White North coexist without kindling and mittens? Could the Jays, possessors of a 24-26 record against lefthanders during the regular season, hit the southpaw starters of the Royals? Could Dave Stieb, the best 14-13 pitcher ever to scowl and stomp from a rubber, rebound from an end-of-season fizzle (he won only one of his last six starts)? And, finally, would Kansas City manager Dick Howser, the losing skipper in nine straight playoff games, finally break his maiden? The envelopes, please. Yes. Yes. Yes. And no, not yet, not now, maybe never.
Game 1, a 6-1 Blue Jays win, belonged to Stieb, the enigmatic Stieb, as he has come to be known—he of the smallest ERA (2.48) in the league and the grandest, most insufferable ego. The only people to touch Stieb during his eight masterful innings (no runs, three hits, eight strikeouts, one walk) were the indomitable Brett (2 for 3, one double), pinch hitter Dane Iorg (a double) and a 19-year-old stripper by the name of Juanita Smith, who led off the second by loping in from the rightfield stands and Morganna-ing Stieb on the kisser. "I'm going home now, and I'll be blowing kisses to him on TV, and then I'm going to work," she said shortly after being escorted from what she had turned into Exhibitionist Stadium. Her show at the Chez Paris in Mississauga began at 11.
Had Juanita waited a couple of innings she could have seen the whole show at the ball park, too. By the third, the Jays had converted a succession of carpet-scooting seeing-eye base hits into a 5-0 lead that chased Royals starter Charlie Leibrandt (17-9, 2.69 ERA). So much for the question of whether Toronto could hit lefties. The Royals had no chance of overtaking Stieb. Summed up K.C.'s Willie Wilson, "The way Stieb pitched tonight, you wonder how he ever loses."
The way the Royals played in Game 2—an odd one—you wonder how they ever win. Every time the Royals made a mistake, it cost them a run. Every time the Blue Jays made one, they scored. Brett started the shenanigans when, with one out in the fourth and the Royals leading 3-zip, he bobbled a ground ball to third hit by George Bell. Cliff Johnson, Toronto's DH, followed with the Blue Jays' first hit off southpaw Bud Black (10-15), a double down the leftfield line. Here comes Bell. Up go the arms of Jays third-base coach Jimy Williams. There goes Bell. Here comes a helium balloon from Lonnie Smith, an outfielder so bad he recalls visions of Leon (Daddy Wags) Wagner. Bell scores easily.
With two out, none on in the sixth, Black plunked a curveball off Bell's belly that sent Bell stalking toward the mound, gesturing and taunting, the only show of passion in what was otherwise a remarkably brotherly series—fittingly, since it featured Garth and Dane Iorg, the first brothers to oppose one another in postseason play. "They pick on me because I'm Dominican," said Bell. "They probably think I'm a hot dog."
Not impossible. Certainly more logical than the supposition that Black would want to put the tying run at the plate. A single, a wild pitch and a single followed, and the game was tied.
Cut to the top of the 10th. Both clubs had their top relievers in—Tom Henke for the Jays, Dan Quisenberry for the Royals—and each had already been nicked for a run. Enter Lloyd Moseby, Toronto's garrulous, theatrical centerfielder. With two out and the go-ahead run on second, K.C.'s Frank White hit a sinking line drive to center that Moseby charged and appeared to catch off his shoe tops. Second-base umpire Ted Hendry should have made the call. Rightfield ump Dave Phillips, 70 feet away, ruled no catch, which handed the Royals a 5-4 lead. "I caught the baseball," said Moseby later. "I wouldn't be out there acting the fool in front of 100 million fans if I didn't catch the baseball."