In up-to-date Kansas City, Royals have gone as far as they can go
This year's World Series produced less offense (except for the final game), and sparked more controversy than any baseball has seen in a long time. It was weird, the kind of Series Salvador Dali might have wanted to paint. The unbelievable Kansas City Royals started by losing the first two games at home -- a hole from which no previous World Series team had been able to extricate itself. Later, facing a 1-3 deficit, they averted elimination in Game 5 at St. Louis. Next they were within three outs of going on vacation in Game 6. Then they turned around and made the clincher as one-sided as a Russian trial.
In the one that counted most, the Royals routed St. Louis pitching ace John Tudor and a bullpen cast of thousands, 11-0. This was particularly notable since Tudor had already beaten them twice, one of his victories a 3-0 shutout in which he climbed every mountain.
A two-run homer by outfielder Darryl Motley in the second inning got things started in the finale, and a 4-for-4 night by George Brett helped keep them going.
Thus the Royals completed a remarkable postseason in which they trailed 0-2 and 1-3 in both the playoffs and the Series only to eventually win both.
Brett, who had been the MVP of the playoffs, continued his outstanding postseason performance in the Series. The veteran third baseman hit .370, while his hustling play in the field and fiery leadership lent inspiration to his team thorughout the seven games.
In the end, though, the 1985 all-Missouri World Series belonged to Bret Saberhagen, a precocious 21-year-old right-hander who combines a blazing fastball and the poise of a veteran corporation lawyer. He is the youngest pitcher ever to start the seventh game of a World Series.
Three years ago Saberhagen was leading Reseda's Cleveland High School to the Los Angeles city title, tossing a no-hitter in the title game, which was played in Dodger Stadium.
The Cardinals, who boast one of baseball's most persistent offenses spearheaded by National League batting champion Willie McGee, touched Saberhagen for only five hits in Game 7. That's one fewer than they got off him when he beat them 6-1 in Game 3.
``Bret is like a great pianist who never had a lesson,'' explained Kansas City pitching coach Gary Blaylock. ``The first time I saw him throw in the Florida State Instructional League three years ago his mechanics were almost perfect. He already knew how to deliver a baseball to home plate. He had poise way beyond his years, way beyond his experience.''
Saberhagen was named the Series Most Valuable Player, completing quite a weekend for the young hurler. Just 48 hours earlier, Bret's wife, Janeane, had presented him with their first son, a boy whose baby shoes might be sent back if they don't come equipped with a toe plate.
Going into this Series, the Cardinals looked to be the better team. They had won more regular-season games, had two 20-game winners in Tudor and Joaquin Andujar, often upset other teams with their speed, and probably had the tightest defense in baseball.
Even when rookie base stealing whiz Vince Coleman was lost to a freak tarpaulin accident, people said it wouldn't make any difference. Perhaps it did, though, for without Coleman to trigger the attack from his leadoff spot, the offense never really got untracked. St. Louis hit only .185 for the Series, getting just 40 hits in 216 at-bats and scoring just 13 runs.
Kansas City, which was under so much pressure at the end of the regular season that it had to win three of four games from the California Angels in one late series to effectively nail down its division title, always seemed to be struggling. More adversity piled up when the Royals lost the first two games of the playoffs to a Toronto team which also looked superior. Yet when that best-of-seven set ended, it was Kansas City that was making World Series reservations.
Still most people continued to identify the Royals as a team with pretty good pitching and Brett. This seemed particularly true in the Series, with no designated hitter, and with the educated bat of Hal McRae relegated to occasional pinch-hitting duty. In these circumstances, many observers felt, the Cards could probably nullify Brett by pitching around him and handle the rest of the K.C. batting order without that much trouble.
However, Kansas City Manager Dick Howser didn't see it that way. Explained Howser: ``While we have been able to come back all year because of our pitching, we are not a one-dimensional ball club. Like the Cardinals we have the ability to get the big hits when they count. And we are also sound defensively. As for our flair to come back after getting behind in a series I don't have an answer. But I do know that this is a team that never gets down on itself. I felt if we could get this Series back to Kansas City by winning two of the three games in St. Louis [which the Royals did] then we still had a chance.''
As for the Cardinals, they never recovered their cool after umpire Don Denkinger called Royals' leadoff hitter Jorge Orta safe at first base in the last of the ninth inning in Game 6 with St. Louis leading 1-0. That decision seemed to affect the Cardinals mentally.
Four different TV angles of the play, which had St. Louis pitcher Todd Worrell taking a throw at first base from Jack Clark, indicated that Orta was out. However baseball has no provision in its rule book to permit such evidence, so Orta was safe -- opening the gates for the K.C. rally that pulled out a 2-1 victory.
With Denkinger working home plate in Game 7, St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog was on the umpire early for not giving Tudor, who seldom walks anyone, any low strikes or the corners.
Eventually Herzog got thrown out of the game for protesting too vigorously, later to be followed by Andujar, who had to be restrained by teammates for wanting to rearrange Mr. Denkinger's features. Andujar's complaint was the same as Herzog's. Both can look forward to fines by the Commissioner's office, and there may also be a 30-day suspension at the beginning of next season for Andujar, who bumped Denkinger with his body.
Once the game was over and Whitey had calmed down, he pinpointed the Cardinals' Series problems by saying: ``We should have put the Royals away in St. Louis when we had them 3 games to 1. After that we didn't deserve to win.''
Said Howser: ``I'm not surprised that we beat the Cardinals, because we've been coming from behind all year. But I am surprised at how we beat them. One thing I never expected was a blowout!''