For the Kansas City Royals, it was history, hysteria and joy. It was also July 4, New Year's Eve and Christmas all packed into one incredible night.
For the St. Louis Cardinals, it was disaster, embarrassment and humiliation in a night that seemed as if it would never end.
And for baseball, it was a dramatic finale to a remarkable season.
This was the final night of baseball's longest season and the climax of a World Series that began as an intrastate squabble. It finally grew into a magic drama that seemed to capture the nation's imagination because, of all the comebacks in baseball history, this may have been the most improbable.
The Royals, who trailed by three games to one, completed a remarkable comeback by routing the Cardinals, 11-0, in Game 7 tonight, becoming the first team to win the Series after losing the first two games at home.
They did it behind the five-hit pitching of Bret Saberhagen and a relentless offensive that drove star pitcher John Tudor from the mound in the third inning.
Tudor, after he was knocked out of the game, had to be taken to a hospital for stitches after he cut his left index finger on an electric fan in the clubhouse.
Also frustrated, St. Louis Manager Whitey Herzog and out-of-control relief pitcher Joaquin Andujar were ejected from the game by home plate umpire Don Denkinger in the fifth, when Kansas City scored six runs to open up an 11-0 lead.
Besides the masterful pitching of Saberhagen, the Royals were led by Darryl Motley, who hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs; Steve Balboni, who drove in two runs, and George Brett, who had four hits.
When the game ended tonight, thousands of people rushed into the streets of this city, celebrating the most unlikely of triumphs. In July, the Royals trailed the California Angels by 7 1/2 games in the American League West. With five games left in the season, they still trailed by one game. In the penultimate game of the season, with a chance to finally clinch the division title, they trailed the Oakland A's, 4-0, in the sixth inning before rallying to win.
In the American League Championship Series, the Royals lost the first two games to the Toronto Blue Jays. In Game 3, they trailed, 5-2. Brett hit two home runs, and the Royals won that game. But the Blue Jays won Game 4 and led the best-of-seven series, 3-1.
The Royals won Games 5, 6 and 7. They won the pennant.
The Cardinals won the first two games in Kansas City. No team in baseball history had lost the first two games at home and come back to win the World Series.
In St. Louis, a city bathed in red and ready for a swim in champagne, the Royals won Game 3, as they had won Game 3 from Toronto. But Tudor, the unflappable starter with a 23-2 record since June 1, shut them out in Game 4. It was 3-1 again.
Then, as he had done against Toronto, left-hander Danny Jackson kept the Royals alive in Game 5 with a masterful pitching performance, winning, 6-1.
The Series came back to Kansas City one last time. Regardless of who emerged the victor, this was a weekend for baseball to savor. The days were warm, the evenings radiant. The fans here, celebrating their second World Series, planned a Monday parade, regardless of the final outcome.
Then came the miracle of Game 6. In spite of the courageous pitching of Charlie Leibrandt, the Royals trailed, 1-0, entering the ninth inning. Todd Worrell, the previously untouchable Cardinals reliever, was on the mound. Three Kansas City outs, and St. Louis would have its 10th world championship, second only to the 22 won by the New York Yankees.
Dane Iorg was about to have his moment in history. It was a moment that Iorg had dreamed of all his life. Once a Cardinal, a World Series hero (nine for 17 at the plate) in 1982, Iorg was sold to Kansas City in 1984. He is 35 and nearing the end of a solid (.280 career batting average) but undramatic career.
But that all changed in one grand moment that will remain frozen forever in this city's history. Two St. Louis mistakes set the stage for Iorg. One was by first baseman Jack Clark on Balboni's foul pop; Balboni then singled. The other was by catcher Darrell Porter on a passed ball that led to an intentional walk and loading of the bases.
"All my life," Iorg said, "I dreamed of a moment like this."
Now, he can savor that moment for the rest of his life. The 41,638 in Royals Stadium, many of whom simply refused to leave when the game was over because they didn't want the evening to ever end, also will savor it.
Iorg hit a 1-0 Worrell fastball to shallow right field. The pitch was on his hands and it broke his bat, but he still stroked it for a single. Pinch-runner Onix Concepcion scored to make it 1-1, and Jim Sundberg came right behind him, diving to beat Andy Van Slyke's desperate throw. He did, and the victory belonged to the Royals, the night to Iorg.
With the flash of Iorg's bat, it become one of the most compelling World Series since 1975, when Carlton Fisk's home run for the Boston Red Sox forced Game 7. The Cincinnati Reds won that game, but Fisk's home run is remembered.
It was Royals Manager Dick Howser, who has been second-guessed, third-guessed and fourth-guessed all season, who said that good pitching stops momentum. Tonight, in Game 7, Tudor tried, but couldn't do it. Motley got the Royals going with a two-run homer in the second, followed by three more Kansas City runs in the third, routing Tudor.
Then came the six-run blitz in the fifth that ended the Cardinals' chances of coming back and cost them some of their dignity with their antics.
Saberhagen, the baby-faced kid, woke up at 6:15 a.m. Saturday to take his wife, Janeane, to the hospital. Five hours later, she gave birth to their 9-pound, 3-ounce son, Drew William. Thirty-two hours after that, Saberhagen walked to the mound to pitch the seventh game of the World Series.
So the Royals became the fifth team to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win the Series.
It was a spectacular evening in Middle America as all America watched and applauded the Royals. Tonight was for history.