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K.C. Had A Blast
Ron Fimrite
November 04, 1985
With three straight Series victories, ranging from sublime to ridiculous, the Royals triumphed over history, the odds and the Cardinals
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November 04, 1985

K.c. Had A Blast

With three straight Series victories, ranging from sublime to ridiculous, the Royals triumphed over history, the odds and the Cardinals

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In the second inning of Sunday's final game of the 1985 World Series, The War Within the State, Darryl Motley, Kansas City's stocky rightfielder, whacked a fastball thrown by St. Louis lefthander John Tudor deep into the leftfield seats at Royals Stadium. Deep but foul. Motley, frustrated because there was no score—the count was 3 and 2 at the time and there was a runner on base—slammed his bat hard into the dirt at home plate. He could tell by the sound of it, even above the thunderous din of the home crowd, that he had broken it. He called for another. The bat boy gave him a choice—a light bat or a dark one. Motley took the dark, stepped back into the box and hit Tudor's next pitch deep into the left-field seats. Deep and fair. The Royals, seeking to make a comeback unprecedented in World Series history, were ahead 2-0.

In a Series in which so few runs had been scored (30 by the two teams combined in six games), Motley's blast seemed of incalculable significance. Actually, it was just a drop in the bucket. Before this night would end, the Royals would score nine more times, humiliating the proud Cardinals 11-zip, and take, as their manager, Dick Howser, likes to say, "the whole enchilada."

What was to have been a pitching duel between the staff aces, Tudor and the Royals' Bret Saberhagen, had become an embarrassment for the Cardinals and the crowning triumph of a memorable week for the wispy 21-year-old Saberhagen. The win was his second in the Series and his second complete game. He had allowed but one earned run. He was unanimously voted the Series' Most Valuable Player. And, most important to him, the day before his wife, Janeane, had given birth to the couple's first child, a nine-pound, three-ounce boy named Drew William. On the other side, Tudor, who at his most engaging might charitably be called grouchy, was so enraged by his shabby 2⅓ innings (five earned runs and four walks) that he took a poke at an electric fan afterward and had to be packed off to a local hospital for repairs.

Motley, who started it all, was keenly aware of what he had wrought. "I knew," he said in a riotous Royal clubhouse afterward, "that we were making history." And so they were. The World Series championship was the first in the 17-year history of the franchise. The Royals became the first team ever to lose the first two games of a Series at home and win, and they were only the fifth team—the 1979 Pirates were the last—to trail in a Series three games to one and win. And their magnificent young pitchers had held the Cardinals, the National League's batting and scoring champions, to just 13 runs in seven games—a mere six runs in the five games played last week—and to the lowest average, an appalling .185, ever in a seven-game Series. Said St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog, "The Clydesdales have been on second base more than our runners." So few Cardinals reached base that a team that had stolen 310 bases during the season was held to only two in the Series. "With pitchers like those," said an astonished St. Louis coach, Red Schoendienst, "that team should've won 140 games."

Actually, Kansas City won 91 in the regular season and eight more in the playoffs and World Series, almost all but the last one the hard way. The Royals must now rank as one of the great comeback teams in baseball history. As late as July 21 they trailed the California Angels by 7½ games. By the last week of the season they were still a game back. Then they beat the Angels three out of four and won the division. They lost the first two games and three out of four to Toronto before winning three in a row and the American League pennant. And they did exactly the same thing to the bewildered and angry Cardinals.

The Cards' anger came to the surface in an ugly way during the Royals' six-run fifth inning in the seventh game. With the score 9-0 against him, Herzog, for reasons known only to himself, called on Joaquin Andujar, a failed starter in the third game, as his fourth pitcher of the inning. Andujar didn't last long. After plate umpire Don Denkinger, an American Leaguer who had proved a Cardinal menace the night before, called an obvious third ball on Royal catcher Jim Sundberg, Andujar flew into one of his patented tantrums. Herzog rushed out to restrain him and ended by arguing so vehemently, Denkinger ejected him. He thus became the first manager to be tossed out of a Series game since Billy Martin got the heave in '76. Herzog was not exactly displeased by his dismissal. "I'd seen enough," he said later in street clothes. "That wasn't a damn ball game. Like Casey says, 'Ain't no sense livin' in misery.' " The next pitch by Andujar was also obviously a ball, a call that prompted another shouting confrontation with the umpire. Andujar became the first player to be tossed out of the Series in 15 years. "I'm not sorry for nothing," he said. It was the first time both a manager and a player had been ejected from a Series game in 50 years.

The Cardinals were truly a sorry sight this night. Only a few days earlier they had seemed certain Series champions. Now they were exiting as buffoons. And it was only the day before that they had been this close to the title in a game as sublime as the finale was ridiculous.

The sixth game Saturday had that magical combination of excellence, luck, foolishness, irony, courage and gut-wrenching suspense that seems to find its way into this great sporting event year after year. But not since the sixth game of the '75 Series between the Reds and the Red Sox (won on Carlton Fisk's 12th inning homer) had all of these ingredients been present in such rich abundance. On the mound for the Royals was Hard Luck Charlie Leibrandt, who had carried a 2-0 lead and a two-hitter into the ninth inning of the second game and then lost 4-2 to a chain reaction of heartbreaking bloopers. On Saturday Charlie was once again hooked up with the Cardinals' glowering Danny Cox. It was a meeting that seemed a replica of their first in nearly every jarring detail. Leibrandt pitched a perfect first five innings, and he had another two-hit shutout entering the eighth. The Royals, meanwhile, were pecking away steadily if futilely at Cox. By the eighth, they had seven hits, but they didn't have any runs to show for them.

George Brett, Kansas City's Lochinvar, had killed a couple of rallies on his own, hitting into a double play in the sixth and striking out with a runner on in the eighth. In what appeared a sad piece of irony, the Royals' best chance to score came in the seventh when Leibrandt himself came to bat with two outs and runners on first and second. Before this Series Leibrandt had not batted since his National League days three years ago, but Howser refused to pinch-hit for him, and he struck out miserably on three pitches. It was déjà vu for all the second-guessers, who had said that the second game was lost because of Howser's reluctance to lift Leibrandt in the ninth. Now they were saying fidelity to Charlie was again jeopardizing the cause. Howser was unmoved. Charlie was pitching too well to be taken out. The manager had obviously forgotten the dark cloud that hangs above poor Charlie, the only one around in Missouri skies so warm and crystalline.

With two out and runners on first and second in the Cardinals' eighth, Herzog sent Brian Harper, a virtually unused utility man, to bat for his pitcher, Cox. Harper hit a fastball into shallow center for another damaging bloop single off Leibrandt. The first run of the game scored. "I guess you could say it was my biggest hit ever," said Harper, who would enjoy a Warholian 15 minutes of celebrity. Charlie stared long and hard at the mound. "Why," he asked himself, as the Cardinal dugout erupted, "can't I get the third out?"

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