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The Royals' revival may be attributed in good measure to a team meeting called by Frey before the game that wasn't so much inspirational as tranquilizing. "It was a loosey-goosey speech," said the loosey-goosey Quisenberry. "It got us laughing. We were all amused at the quality of his [Frey's] four-letter words." "I felt the players were a little tight in Philadelphia," Frey explained. "The crowds, the World Series atmosphere seemed to intimidate them. I told them I thought they were the best baseball team in America and that if we lost the third game, it wasn't the end of the world, that we could become the first team in history to win after being three down. I told them that even if we lost the fourth game, it was still not the end of the world. I told them I wanted them to go out and have fun."
The fun continued unabated on Saturday, thanks to the bat of Aikens. It would be hard to find a more deserving hero. Aikens is a large man—6'2", 220 pounds—and his black beard and deceptively gloomy face make him appear almost menacing. But he is extraordinarily polite, friendly and sensitive. He banged two homers on opening night, which happened to be the occasion of his 26th birthday, and in the Royals' Series-tying 5-3 win this day in K.C., he hit two more, the four homers placing him in the distinguished company of such Hall of Famers as Ruth, Gehrig and Snider. The onslaught left him one shy of the Series record, set by Reggie Jackson in 1977 against Los Angeles.
"They talk about Babe Ruth," shouted Hurdle in the Royals clubhouse. "They talk about Lou Gehrig. They talk about Duke Snider. Now they'll talk about Willie Aikens."
It should be noted that Hurdle was careful to refer to Aikens simply as "Willie," not "Willie Mays Aikens," which is his full, though definitely not preferred, name. Earlier in the week Aikens had quietly chastened media people who had been referring to him as if he were a sort of adjunct to his own middle name. The doctor who delivered him "put in the Mays thing," he explained, forever linking him with a baseball legend. He was born, after all, following the 1954 World Series, which was distinguished by Mays' famous catch of Vic Wertz' mammoth fly ball in the old Polo Grounds. "I don't feel that calling me Willie Mays Aikens is fair to me," he said. "I want to go out and make a name for myself. Announcers don't say 'George such-and-such Brett' or 'Hal such-and-such McRae.' I just feel more comfortable being called Willie Aikens." Aikens has never met his middle namesake, though he did try to effect a meeting at the Atlantic City casino that now employs Mays. "He wasn't there," says Aikens. "Hopefully, I'll get a chance to meet him before he dies."
Not even Mays had accomplished what Aikens has in a World Series. In a four-run Royals first inning, Aikens hit a line-drive homer into the waterfall in right-center, a prodigious blast that scored Brett, who had tripled, ahead of him. And in the very next inning he pumped an equally tremendous shot to the very limits of the Royals' bullpen in right, advancing the score to 5-1 and effectively putting the game out of reach, even for so resourceful a team as the Phillies. "I gave that second one a long look," said Aikens. "I guess I kind of copied Reggie on that one.""
The Phils' frustrations came to the forefront in the fourth when Reliever Dickie Noles threw a fastball under Brett's chin on an 0-2 count. Frey charged onto the diamond, demanding that Noles be thrown out of the game or even worse for his crime. Noles wasn't ejected, and Brett struck out, but he had his triple for the day and McRae stretched two singles into doubles as the Royals continued to play their kind of baseball. McRae said he had observed that the Philadelphia outfielders tended to throw "lollipops" back into the infield after base hits, so he just kept running. But it was Aikens, acquired by Kansas City from the Angels over the winter, who carried the day. "The kid," said Green, "is just on a roll."
Aikens was enveloped by reporters in the clubhouse after the game. Hurdle smiled and shook his head. "We got some crazy guys on this club, and they got Willie out of his shell," he said. "He was afraid to talk before because of his stutter. But just look at him now." Aikens' biggest triumph of the day may have occurred earlier when he stepped before a battery of microphones to comment on his accomplishments. A stutterer since childhood, he regards a roomful of people with more terror than he does an inside fastball. "I'm sometimes able to talk pretty good," Aikens says. "Sometimes I will have no problem stuttering. But talking on TV, I have a tendency to stutter a whole lot. I was afraid when I was a kid to go into a store and ask for anything. The kids used to laugh at me all the time. I'd get so upset I'd want to fight. But I'm around adults now, and they're able to accept me for what I am. I'm a stutterer and I'll be one for the rest of my life."
The questions, said Mike Schmidt, made him slightly ill. "Somebody asked me if we'd run out of miracles," the Phillie captain recalled. "Everybody keeps talking about luck and miracles and heart and character. But we've got talent. We've got Del Unser coming off the bench." That they did and they also had Schmidt and a little bit of luck and lots of character, and they mixed it all up in a crazy, movie-script ninth inning to bring off another, well, miracle. The ninth, which can compare for raw excitement with any played in the World Series, gave the homeward-bound Phillies a 4-3 win and the edge they so desperately needed after consecutive defeats in Kansas City. Now they led three games to two, with the rest of the season to be played in their own noisy ball park.