Whitey Herzog came home to Kansas City last weekend from that other place across state and proceeded to break a few local hearts in the opening games of the Championship of Missouri or, as folks outside the Show Me state prefer to call it, the World Series. Whitey's St. Louis Cardinals left town on I-70 leading the Series two games to none, with the next three to be played in St. Louis, where they win about 70% of the time and where they can lay more than 100 years of baseball tradition on you. They came by their lead with an exciting enough 3-1 victory on Saturday and a weird, God-awful 4-2 win on Sunday that even people outside Missouri will be talking about for a long time. They may be questioning the tactics of Whitey's counterpart even longer.
Before this happened, Herzog had a lot of friends in Kansas City—his house in Independence is only a couple of miles away from Royals Stadium—he played in K.C. for three years and managed there most of five. He had nurtured Royals stars George Brett, Willie Wilson, Hal McRae and Frank White when he'd been in the home dugout. Three other K.C. players, Lonnie Smith, Dane Iorg and Jamie Quirk, had played for him in St. Louis, Smith as late as this past May. His own catcher, Darrell Porter, had also played for him in Kansas City. In fact, Herzog and Royals manager Dick Howser missed each other by a year as players for the old Kansas City A's. The Show Me or I-70 Series, as Missourians resolutely call it, has been more like old home week than anything so presumptuous and stuffy as to have the word World a part of it.
This is hardly the first time a World Series has been contained within the borders of a single state. In fact, 17 Series have been; the last 11 years ago in California between Oakland and Los Angeles. And in 1944, there was an all—St. Louis Series between the Browns and the Cardinals. For the moment (and after last weekend, that's all there may be), the people in Missouri were just happy to have this great big sports event all to themselves, and let the rest of the so-called world be damned.
The Cardinals and the Royals are different sorts of teams, one reliant on speed and defense; the other on pitching and George Brett. But they took similar routes to the Series. Both lost the first two league playoff games and came back, the Cardinals, uncharacteristically, on ninth-inning home runs by Ozzie Smith in Game 5 and Jack Clark in Game 6; the Royals on big hits off the little bats of Buddy Biancalana (a climactic double in Game 6) and Jim Sundberg (a three-run triple in Game 7). And both entered the Series short one big star. The Cards lost their primary base stealer, rookie Vince Coleman, to a mechanized tarp in Busch Stadium. And the Royals lost their designated hitter, Hal McRae, who had 70 RBIs during the season, to the rule that disallows DHs in odd-numbered years.
With McRae's in the rack, the bats the Royals took up against the Cards for Game 1 belonged in a belfry. White, who had batted eighth in the last two playoff games because of an injured hand, was now elevated to cleanup, the first second baseman to bear that burdensome responsibility in a World Series since Jackie Robinson hit fourth for the Dodgers against the Yankees 33 years ago. The eighth hitter was now Biancalana, who, as television personality David Letter-man calculates, is still more than 4,100 hits shy of Pete Rose. The ninth hitter, without the DH, was the pitcher, Danny Jackson, who last batted for Trinidad (Colo.) State Junior College in 1981.
Saddled with hitless wonders (the Royals were next to last in the American League in runs scored), Howser tried to score every which way. In the second inning, after Steve Balboni had singled in a run, K.C. had men on first and third with one out and Biancalana at the plate. Howser's first ploy came a cropper, not because Buddy can't hit but because, on this dreadful occasion at least, he couldn't bunt. Biancalana squared away for a squeeze bunt. The Cardinals' John Tudor, who, like Jackson, was starting his first Series game, threw a fastball that tailed away from the little hitter. Biancalana missed it cleanly, and Darryl Motley, caught like a fox among hounds, was run to the ground.
In the fourth, Howser had yet another runner, catcher Jim Sundberg, on third with one out. The hitter, Balboni, lunged wildly at a changeup and lofted it into what is generally no-man's land in foul territory down the third-base line near the leftfield seats. Third baseman Terry Pendleton miraculously caught up with this despicable looper and fielded it, Mays-like, over his shoulder while running with his back to the plate. (It was the catch of the night, if you discount the one made by a gentleman in the upper deck who allegedly barehanded a duck in flight in the sixth inning.) Sundberg was instructed by K.C. third-base coach Mike Ferraro to hold his ground if the left-fielder reached the ball but to tag up and run if the third baseman caught it, the theory being that Pendleton, running away from the action, could never make a strong or accurate throw to the plate. Wrong. After the catch, Pendleton whirled like a figure skater and rifled the ball home. The unswift Sundberg was out by yards.
In the seventh, McRae finally got his call, as a pinch hitter for Jackson. He was hit on the shoulder by a Tudor pitch. And when Tudor's successor, Todd Worrell, walked Lonnie Smith, the bases were loaded. But Wilson, the next hitter, figured, what the hell, nothing else is working, and swung at the first pitch. He sliced it foul to left, and this time Tito Landrum, Coleman's super sub, ran it down for the third out.
Time now, obviously, for Brett. He'd started swinging for the downs as early as the sixth inning, realizing that was probably the only way his team was going to score another run. In the sixth he got a fastball in the wheelhouse and gave it his best home run cut. But he got under the ball and it shot straight into the stratosphere above the infield. "I went to the bathroom just as that ball was hit," Herzog recalled. "When I came back, it was just coming down." Brett had another chance in the eighth, the Royals' last, when he drove a Worrell fastball through the mist into deepest rightfield. "God, I let him hit it out," Worrell moaned to himself. But Andy Van Slyke, chasing his first fly ball in Royals Stadium, caught it, albeit with some unnecessary theatrics. Van Slyke was as convinced as Worrell that only a miracle catch would save the day, so he braced himself for a history-making leap at the fence. He jumped...and caught the ball at his waist. The Cards, meanwhile, just pecked away for three runs. Cesar Cedeno got the game winner in the fourth inning with a broken-bat RBI double. "My bat," said Cesar, "died a hero."
There were flesh and blood heroes and victims in Game 2, which had one of the most electrifying and surprising finishes in World Series history. For eight innings, Royals lefthander Charlie Leibrandt breezed through the Cardinal batting order, allowing only two hits, neither mightily stroked, and no runs at all. He struck out six, two each in the second, third and fifth innings, and walked just one. He was ahead 2-0.