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The Gang Of Four Shoots To The Top
Steve Wulf
October 19, 1981
Baseball came out of the doldrums as the Expos, Dodgers, Yankees and A's won one cliffhanger after another in the first divisional mini-playoffs
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October 19, 1981

The Gang Of Four Shoots To The Top

Baseball came out of the doldrums as the Expos, Dodgers, Yankees and A's won one cliffhanger after another in the first divisional mini-playoffs

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The Montreal Expos brought a baseball title north of the border for the first time last Sunday by defeating the world champion Philadelphia Phillies 3-0. It was the fifth and deciding game of the National League Eastern Division Championship Series, and it came in the lucky 13th year of the franchise. "Our bar mitzvah year," said owner Charles Bronfman. The Los Angeles Dodgers now face the unpleasant prospect of having Jack Frost—not to mention Steve Rogers, Gary Carter, Chris Speier and Jeff Reardon—nipping at their noses when the League Championship Series moves to Montreal for a little Chilly Ball this Friday.

Actually, the Expos thought they had the division title iced when they left Montreal last Thursday with a two-games-to-none lead over Philadelphia. They should have known about Phillie Ball, though. Last year's world champions play best when they haven't a prayer. They tied the series 2-2, and the Expos were presented with the task of having to beat Steve Carlton—again.

They did just that. For the second time in the series, Rogers outpitched Carlton, giving up only six singles. He also drove in the Expos' first two runs with his second single of the game, a grounder through the middle off a hanging slider with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. "I'm from the hitting school known as 'whale and bail,' " Rogers modestly allowed after the game.

Elsewhere in the clubhouse First Baseman Warren Cromartie glanced at a TV picture showing the Phillies' victory parade last year. "Not anymore!" he shouted. "Not anymore! We beat the world champions!"

It was in the first game of the series that the Expos discovered how to bat against Carlton. "You have to be patient," said Speier, who had two game-winning hits, a game-saving catch and a .400 average in the series. "If you start chasing his low sliders, it's Katie-Bar-the-Door." The Expos showed their patience by putting the leadoff man on in every inning en route to a 3-1 victory. Even though he outpitched Carlton, Rogers allowed 10 hits before giving way to reliever Reardon with two men on for the final out—a frightening line drive by Manny Trillo that Leftfielder Terry Francona snared on the warning track. Carter, Speier and Cromartie all had RBI doubles off Carlton.

It was cold the night of the second game. As Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe wrote, "The temperature was 7 degrees Celsius, 46 degrees Fahrenheit and 72 degrees Kuhn." The commissioner watched the game from Expo President John McHale's box, taking off his coat in favor of a sweater, and he revealed to one reporter that—gasp!—he wore no undershirt. Actually, Bowie was cheating, because his vantage point was under a heat lamp.

Warming the cockles of Expo fans' hearts, though, was Speier's single to drive in the first run in the second inning and Carter's towering two-run homer in the third. In the meantime, starter Bill Gullickson shackled the Phillies on three hits over the first seven innings. After Gullickson gave up a double, single and double with two outs in the eighth, Reardon came on to face Mike Schmidt. With the count 2-1, the Expos' neophyte manager, Jim Fanning, ordered Reardon to walk Schmidt intentionally, thus putting the potential winning run on—an ill-considered move according to baseball traditionalists. The ploy worked, though, as Reardon got the next hitter, Gary Matthews, to foul out on a 3-2 pitch and then pitched a perfect ninth.

The Phillies, stung by criticism from Manager Dallas Green and unsettled by reports that he was headed to Chicago to run the Cubs' front office, came right back to tie the series with 6-2 and 6-5 victories. Strangely enough, the Expos showed as much character in their second loss as they did in any of their wins. They trailed 4-0, but tied the score at 4-4 before falling behind again, 5-4. Woe Canada.

The old Expos might not have come back after that. But this time they did—and that ability is a cold truth the Dodgers will have to face.

I love these situations. I'm a lot happier being a participant than a spectator," said Houston's Nolan Ryan late Saturday, the night before the Astros and Dodgers met in the fifth game of the National League West Division championship. Ryan had good reason to be joyous. In his two previous starts against the Dodgers, he had pitched a no-hitter and a two-hitter and struck out 18. Before beating L.A. 3-1 with a two-hitter in Game 1 on Tuesday, Ryan had boldly announced, "The Dodgers aren't going to beat me." Asked now if he felt as strongly again, Ryan replied, "I'm not any less confident."

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