- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
St. Louis is the older of the two cities (incorporated in 1823, Milwaukee in 1846) and the more established in baseball, too. The franchise has been a member of the National League since 1892. And yet in this World Series, the Brewers seemed to be the more traditional team. Their fans and the ball park were the reasons. County Stadium is, at age 29, an old park by contemporary standards. It was built for baseball. It has pillars and posts. The stands are close to the field, and the P.A. guy doesn't sound like the floorwalker on the old Jack Benny show. There are no commercial jingles to respond to in County Stadium, but the fans, mostly working-class folk, are dedicated singers, The Beer Barrel Polka being a logical favorite.
Cesar's Inn, the bar/rooming house owned by Harvey and Audrey Kuenn two miles from the ball park, in West Milwaukee, became an informal rooters' headquarters during Series week. The one-legged Harvey, in bathrobe and on crutches, would be up early to greet the morning imbibers, and Audrey, a charming woman who is Harvey's second wife—he's her third husband—would purvey the suds. One noon hour, a factory worker named Chuck La Joice dropped in with his boxer, Harley, a matter of little moment except that Harley, who's normally all white, was painted from muzzle to tail in Brewer blue and gold. "Harley was almost on PM Magazine," La Joice said over a Pabst. "They asked me if he could do any tricks. I said, yeah, he can. He can sit still for an hour while I paint him." It's a folksy place.
It had been bitterly cold in Milwaukee, but mostly dry. The reverse was true when the two teams trekked back to St. Louis for the sixth game. There may have been evenings more meteorologically diverse than that of Oct. 19, but it seems unlikely. The game started at 7:21 in summery 70° temperatures. It ended five hours later nearly 30° colder. And in between, it rained. The rain started pouring in the top of the fifth inning when the Brewers were already behind 5-0. It rained so hard, for that matter, that Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who would wear only his blue blazer on the tundra, actually slipped into a trench coat. In the bottom half of the inning, Lonnie Smith led off with a bloop single to right that might have been a double had he not fallen on his keister between first and second. Smith falls down a lot, both on the bases and in the outfield, but the wet rug, not questionable equilibrium, was at fault here. Oberkfell grounded out, but Keith Hernandez hit a ball that all but disappeared in the rain clouds before it descended beyond the rightfield fence. The score was now 7-0, and Kuenn, who had rested his hopes for a six-game Series on Don Sutton, his most experienced and Series-hardened starter (this was Sutton's fourth Series), limped out to the mound. This gave Kuhn ample time to call a rain delay.
Twenty-six minutes later, the action resumed. But not for long. Jim Slaton finished the fifth for the Brewers. Doc Medich started the bottom of the sixth for them. He also finished it—some two-and-a-half hours and six runs later. The good doctor had given up three hits, thrown two wild pitches and allowed another run before the game was mercifully called again. The delay this time was two hours and 13 minutes, as a veritable monsoon swept across the Busch Stadium carpet, transforming it into another Great Lake. There seemed little enthusiasm on the part of the Brewers or the fans to resume the desultory action. Milwaukee was trailing 8-0, and Cardinal rookie John Stuper had given up only two singles. St. Louisans were returning in droves to their homes and taverns, not necessarily in that order. Gantner remarked on national television that the field was hazardous and that serious injury might result from a resumption of play. He had already committed one of his two errors, on a ground ball hit in the third by Lonnie Smith, and he would protest later that fielding grounders on this night was a little like handling "a slippery fish." Kuhn immediately followed Gantner on the tube, remarking diplomatically that the second baseman was entitled to his opinion, but that this, mind you, was the World Series and the game must goon.
When it finally did, the temperatures were in the 40s. Gantner made another error, and Medich gave up five more runs. The score was 13-0 when Stuper returned to the mound to start the seventh, eons since he had last left it. Stuper was allowed to continue, Herzog said, because he had a shutout working and because he hadn't thrown many pitches—the total would be 103 for the whole game, or only 20.6 an hour. Stuper spent his long supper break having his arm rubbed down and inspecting the field, possibly for trout. He's an engaging 25-year-old Pennsylvanian who was a journalism student in college and now employs that training as the anchorman on the John Cosell Show, a Bob-and-Ray-type interview spoof he and several other young Cardinals perform after every game. "I've always prided myself on my ability to lie," Utility Infielder Mike Ramsey will reply in answer to an inane, albeit embarrassing question from his interlocutors.
Stuper stood for some time after the game answering similar questions from real journalists. He wore a Budweiser Light cap. He acknowledged that he, too, had second thoughts about prolonging his participation in the bizarre enterprise the sixth game had become. "There's a fine line between being a hero and being dumb," he said. "I didn't want to go out there and give up three or four quick runs." He gave up only one, and that in the ninth, just before the players and the 18,000 or so fans remaining from an original crowd of 53,723 fled for shelter.
Stuper's performance was surely one of the most unusual in World Series history. He had a shutout for nearly five hours. He went more than four hours without giving up a hit—from Charlie Moore's leadoff single in the third to Gantner's double in the ninth. He pitched in almost everything but snow and sleet. And, he said, he never got over his nervousness in all that lost time. "But my nervousness has never adversely affected me. I actually need to be nervous."
It was a big win for the Cardinals, as well as a long one. They had beaten, nay clobbered, a confident team, and they would play the seventh game in their own park. And now they had history on their side. St. Louis had won the seventh game six of seven times in previous Series. But caution seemed the watchword for both sides. "There are no edges," Simmons had said earlier in the Series, "only games. People who look for edges set themselves up for extreme disappointment." The 13-1 win meant no more than the 10-0 defeat to either team, said Hernandez, the matinee-idol first baseman who was a sixth-game hero with his homer and four RBIs. Hernandez had learned patience in this Series. He'd gone 0 for 15 through the first four games and committed two errors. But in the next two games he had five hits and six ribbies and fielded flawlessly. Hernandez had mocked his fielding misfortunes by taping forks to all 10 of his fingers in the clubhouse. His hands were free of utensils now, and he was holding a hot bat. He was also in the unique position of playing two World Series games on his 29th birthday, the sixth finishing in the early morning that day, the seventh starting that night.
There was no rain for Game 7, just cold. But the Cardinals would finally play their game of slap-hit, run and defend. Ozzie Smith, the acrobatic shortstop, set the tone by executing two backflips on the way to his position before the start of the game. The flips, he explained, are his way of celebrating the end of this or any other season. Smith played four years for San Diego, where the end of a season was indeed cause for celebration, simply because, at last, it was over. Now he was jumping for joy. This was the big one.
The starters would be Pete Vuckovich for Milwaukee and Joaquin Andujar for St. Louis. Vuckovich had won 18 games in the regular season, but he hadn't won anything in a month. Andujar, who had won 15 games during the season, hadn't lost in two months. But in the seventh inning of the third game, while working on a shutout, he was felled by a wicked hopper hit by Simmons that caromed off his right leg just below the knee. Andujar was carried off the field. His leg was still sore five evenings later, but no one was going to keep him from pitching the climactic game. He retired the first nine Milwaukee hitters and shut out the Brewers through four innings before throwing a leadoff homer to Oglivie in the fifth. The Cardinals, meanwhile, were spraying the park with line drives, but leaving runners on at a fearful clip. They had eight hits and two walks off Vuckovich through five, but had scored only one run. "I was afraid we'd never get that two-out hit," said Herzog.