Gorman Thomas was being a party pooper, a spoilsport. The Milwaukee slugger, no stranger to partying himself, kept hanging in there against the Cardinals' invincible Bruce Sutter, fouling off Sutter's unhittable split-fingered fastball as he tried to avoid becoming the last batter in the last inning of the last game of the 1982 World Series. St. Louis led by three runs, there were two outs and the count had reached 3 and 2, but Thomas wouldn't leave like a gentleman and let the Busch Stadium crowd have its celebration. His tenacity created an uncommonly anxious atmosphere in a ball park where, what with the repeated appearances of the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales, the endlessly repetitive Budweiser jingles and the oleaginous public address announcer who introduces home-team batsmen as if they are talk show hosts, a spectator can feel that he's merely one of 50,000 extras in some colossal beer commercial. The fans' edginess increased as Thomas hacked three more split-fingers into the seats. Then Sutter changed his M.O. and tossed up a conventional fastball. Thomas took another mighty cut and hit nothing but the cold night air. Cardinals 6, Brewers 3 in the game. Cardinals 4, Brewers 3 in the Series. The crowd, freed of frustration, spilled onto the artificial turf and sprinted past the mounted police and canine corpsmen deployed to stop them from reaching the jubilant Cards. "This Bud's for you...."
The Redbirds' Series triumph was about as agonizing as those last extended moments. It was, as Cardinal Second Baseman Tommy Herr described it, "an odd Series," one in which the slugging Brewers, Harvey's fearsome Wall-bangers, often played as deftly as their supposedly more artful opponents. And there were games—the third, for example—in which the Cards won on power. The teams traded blowouts, the Brewers winning the opener 10-zip and the Cards the sixth game 13-1. The swiftly changing character of the Series drove trend-spotters dotty. There seemed to be no thread. What was supposed to be a classic matchup of power vs. speed scarcely materialized until the finale.
After Game 5, which the Brewers won 6-4, the experts thought they'd finally found the point on which the Series would turn—the surprising Milwaukee defense. The Brewers made at least six defensive gems in the fifth game, including sprawling catches by First Baseman Cecil Cooper and Second Baseman Jim Gantner that prevented critical runs. Now there was something a pundit could hang his reputation on! The Cards, after all, were supposed to be the defensive specialists. Yes, it seemed that those who lived by the shield would die on the shield. So what happened next? In the sixth game, Milwaukee committed four official errors and a couple more that the charitable scorers didn't count against them. Gantner had two of the most egregious bobbles, and the peerless Robin Yount, whose middle initials seem to be M.V.P., had two more. (The Brewers would finish the Series with 11 errors.) By this time the trend-seekers had given up the ghost.
Even the managers were cooperating in the campaign to keep everyone befuddled. Their roles were clearly defined before the Series began. St. Louis' Whitey Herzog was cast as the genius, the man who, when he also wore the general manager's hat, made the daring trades that rebuilt the Cardinals in his image. Herzog is a latter-day Branch Rickey who holds to the philosophy that arms and legs win pennants, not big bats. Under Herzog's platinum thatch throbs a brain so alive with stratagems that it might as well belong to a football coach.
As for Milwaukee's Harvey Kuenn, well, he takes out a lineup card with the same Brewer names on it every day. The pitchers, whoever they are, are another matter. When he reminded a sportswriter from Phoenix during the Series that he would be seeing him on the first tee of an Arizona golf course four days after the seventh game, Kuenn chuckled at his own insouciance. "See, I can't even tell you who's pitching tomorrow, but I can remember when my next golf game is," he said.
Clearly this would be a managerial mismatch, especially dire news for the Brewers because conventional wisdom has it that in a best-of-seven series every oversight tends to be magnified. Not necessarily, as it turned out. Herzog made all the debatable moves in the early going. In Game 3, he brought in Sutter in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and St. Louis leading 5-0, an unorthodox deployment of someone who is usually brought in late to protect a narrow lead. The next day, Herzog didn't—or couldn't—use Sutter as the Cardinals vainly attempted to stem the Brewers' six-run, seventh-inning rally.
Herzog also persisted in sending righthand-hitting Gene Tenace up to face lefty Bob McClure as a pinch hitter for Ken Oberkfell—even though in Game 4 Obie was 1 for 2 and in Game 5 he was 3 for 4. Tenace was the last out in both games, the Designated Last Out, as it were.
And Herzog seemed so intent on using St. Louis' speed in an attempt to embarrass Brewer Catcher Ted Simmons, an erstwhile Cardinal—Lonnie Smith was thrown out attempting to steal third in the fifth game and home in the sixth—that, as one baseball man put it, "He's managing like a general manager, trying to justify that trade."
Kuenn, meanwhile, handled his Rollie Fingers-less bullpen with uncommon mastery, inflicting McClure, a starter for most of the season, on the Cardinals at inopportune, for them, moments. In the eighth inning of the fourth game, for example, Kuenn brought McClure in to protect a 7-5 Milwaukee lead with one out and runners on first and third. The runner on first was the speedy David Green, a threat to steal. The batter was Willie McGee, a switch hitter. McClure's arrival did two things, both bad, to the St. Louis offense. Because he has an excellent move to first, McClure effectively froze Green on the bag, and as a lefthander, he forced McGee to bat right, his weaker side. It also takes McGee longer to get to first from the right side. McGee promptly ended the inning and the rally by grounding into a remarkable double play—remarkable in that Green and he are two of the swiftest Cardinals. The game ended 7-5. Score one for Kuenn.
The Brewers, in fact, seemed to have a pronounced edge returning to St. Louis for the final two games. In winning the fifth game, the last in Milwaukee, they put the odds squarely in their favor. In the previous 30 best-of-seven Series in which teams were tied at two apiece after four games, the winner of Game 5 went on to win the championship 23 times. Brewer fans celebrated that fifth-game win as if it were the seventh. From County Stadium to Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukeeans toasted what they considered to be the inevitable triumph with a bibulous vigor not seen around those parts since 1957, when the National League Braves, who kept shop there from 1953 to '65, whipped the Yankees in seven.