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Cardinals win teeter-totter Series played mostly on Herzog's terms

By Larry EldridgeSports editor of The Christian Science Monitor / October 22, 1982

St. Louis

In a World Series that teetered back and forth between the ridiculous and the sublime, the St. Louis Cardinals prevailed in the end by being the team best able to play its own game to the hilt while neutralizing that of the opposition.

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The anticipated speed vs. power matchup between the go-go Cardinals and Milwaukee's major league home run leaders never really did occur. Instead it turned out to be a Series played almost entirely on St. Louis Manager Whitey Herzog's terms - stressing speed, defense, pitching, and overall execution.

Early in the Series, though, the first big surprise developed: the Brewers could play this kind of game too - and a lot better than most people had realized. They were close enough to the Cardinals, in fact, that it seemed their supposed advantage in power might be the eventual difference.

But then came the second surprise: that advantage just never materialized. In these seven contests, at least, the power games were a virtual standoff. In fact the light-hitting Cardinals, whose 67 home runs were the lowest total in either league, actually outslugged their supposedly awesome foes. They barely lost the battle of homers, 5 to 4, but had more doubles and triples to wind up on top in extra-base hits and total bases.

So it came down to the things that the Cardinals do best - especially on the artificial turf of their own spacious Busch Stadium, where four of the seven games were played. And although they had to fight back from a 3-2 deficit and survive some anxious moments, their advantages in that kind of game eventually proved decisive.

The Cardinals' superior speed showed up in a lot of ways, such as their 7-1 lead in stolen bases and the way they were able to keep constant pressure on the Brewer defense, even scoring two runs on a sacrifice fly at one point. Both teams got brilliant defense at times, but the Cardinals were much steadier overall, as shown by their seven double plays to Milwaukee's three and their 7 errors compared to the Brewers' 11. In pitching the St. Louis starters were a bit sharper, while Bruce Sutter, with a win and two saves, was the big man of the Series in the bullpen.

Milwaukee had its strong points too, however, even if the Brewers never did find the power game that had been their trademark. Led by Robin Yount, who had a near record 12 hits, and Paul Molitor, who had 11, they batted right around .300 as a team for the first five games before tailing off at the end. And manager Harvey Kuenn got the most out of a pitching staff that had to go all the way without its injured bullpen ace, Rollie Fingers, and with an obviously sub-par and struggling No. 1 starter, Pete Vukovich.

It will hardly be remembered as a classic World Series. There were far too many misplays and amateurish moments for that. Sometimes, in fact, it seemed more like the first game of spring training than what is supposed to be the game's ultimate showcase - such as when Milwaukee kicked the ball around in Games 4 and 6, or when St. Louis pitcher Dave LaPoint dropped a routine throw covering first base to open the gates for a six-run inning, or when teammate Joaquin Andujar didn't even bother covering the bag on another occasion.

The way St. Louis won Game 2 - a walk to load the bases and another to force in the winning run - wasn't exactly the ideal formula for exciting World Series play either. And of course the long rain delays in Game 6 followed by the bitter cold in Game 7 (both following pleasant late fall afternoons that would have been fine for baseball) reminded us once again of the inconvenience the games' leaders are willing to inflict on the players and fans in their quest for TV ratings.