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Then the game began. He danced off the bag, shifting his weight from his left leg to his right, then right leg back to his left, and he inched a little bit closer to second base, and he had that smile, the Joe Morgan smile, the one that said, "Oh, yeah, I'm about to steal second base, and there's nothing you can do about it." That smile was yet another reason people didn't like Joe.
But he was right. There was nothing anyone could do to keep him from stealing. On the bases Joe Morgan was an artist at work. Reuschel threw over to first base to chase him back to the bag. Morgan looked at Reuschel, and his smile grew larger—now it said, "You poor man. You think throwing over to first base will stop me? You cannot stop me. I have spent hours studying you, hours looking over your every physical quirk, how your left leg twitches, how your shoulder slumps, how your back leans. I have studied you, and I know when you will pitch. You cannot fool me. I'm already at second base. It's futile for you to throw over here." Reuschel threw over to the bag again, and Morgan dived back in.
"This guy knows he can't pick me off, right?" Joe said to Cubs first baseman Andre Thornton, and he dusted himself off. But Reuschel did not seem to know that at all. In fact, Morgan noticed that something in Reuschel's face had changed. He wore a look of weary apprehension, as if waiting for something to happen, a balloon to pop, a gunshot to go off. He started to throw over to first base again, only this time the umpire raised his arm.
"Balk!" the umpire said as he pointed at Reuschel.
Morgan jogged easily to second base. He had done what he wanted to do. He had broken something in Reuschel. Pitchers, Joe believed, are fragile creatures. When they felt good, powerful, invincible, they pitched easily and you couldn't do much against them. But when you got underneath that somehow, when you made pitchers nervous even for a second, you had them. Reuschel looked back at Joe, and then he threw a fat fastball to Johnny Bench. And Johnny turned on it, crushed it, hit it just to the right of the leftfield foul pole. That was a home run. The Reds won again. They won the second game of the doubleheader too. And when the day ended, Cincinnati was all alone in first place.
BOSTON, OCTOBER 22, 1975
This had been a World Series for the ages. Each of the first six games had had something to mesmerize the nation—a hero, a goat, a moment of controversy, a dramatic and unexpected turn. The tension had peaked the night before, in Game 6. The improbable kept happening. Brilliant catches. Perfect throws. Far-fetched home runs. Comebacks. The Red Sox loaded the bases in the ninth, nobody out, winning run on third, and Boston phenom Fred Lynn lifted a shallow fly to left. Don Zimmer, the Red Sox' third base coach, screamed, "No! No! No!" Denny Doyle, the runner at third, heard, "Go! Go! Go!" George Foster's throw beat him to the plate, and Bench slapped Doyle with the ball. In the 11th inning Morgan crushed a fly ball to rightfield, a home run for sure, but the ball died in the thick Boston air, and the Red Sox' Dwight Evans ran back, leaped, desperately stabbed his glove upward. The ball hit it and stuck there. Exhaustion. Nobody could see straight. Rose saw. He babbled like a child hours past his bedtime.
"Isn't this great?" he kept asking teammates, opponents, umpires, anyone. "Isn't this great? This is the best game I've ever played in. Isn't this great? People will remember this game forever. Isn't this great?"
Boston won the game in the 12th inning. Carlton Fisk cracked a home run that bounced off the leftfield foul pole. He elbowed his way around the bases through the frenzied and drunken crowd. They rang church bells in small New England towns. But Rose still felt good. He knew the Reds would damn well win the seventh and final game. They were too good to lose it.