Crystal afternoons like this with sweet, crisp breezes off Lake Michigan perfuming Wrigley Field once prompted the great Chicago Cub Ernic Banks to fill his lungs and crow, "Let's play three."
Today, two games were more than enough for his suffering cub heirs. This turned out to be a beautiful day for a baseball funeral.
The Philadelphia Phillies buried the Cubs two more times, 10-2, 4-2, as Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt crashed three against-the-wind homers and produced a dozen runs.
"Isn't this fun?" grinned Phil catcher Bob Boone after his gang had won its 12th straight game (longest string in Philadelphia history) to finish a four-game sweep here.
The Phils came to town punch drunk after a murderous Thursday that saw them finish a doubleheader at 3:35 a.m., play a getaway-day afternoon game at 4 p.m., then fly out the same evening.
Tonight they left town with a 3 1/2-game lead on Pittsburgh, a seven-game bulge on both Chicago and St. Louis and at least one leg up on another divisional flag.
"I was exhausted, disoriented, sleepy and so starved when we landed at O'Hare on Thursday that I couldn't remember the last full meal I had had," explained Boone, who made the typical Philly transformation this weekend from groggy to giddy.
"In fact, I think on English muffin was the biggest thing I had eaten since Wednesday morning," said Boone, who had two doubles and scored the winning run in the nightcap. "On the flight out here I kept asking the stewareness for 'more macadamia nuts, please."
By the close of battle today the Phils were, in Schmidt's words, "still dog tired, just like when we arrived. But being victoriously tired is definately not as tired as the way the cubs must feel now."
It was Schmidt and Luzinski once again who beat down the Cubs. Schmidt, who had nine hits for the series, was 4 for 5 with two homers and six RBI in the opener to back pitcher Larry Christonson's four-hitter.
"Naturally, I tried to let out the shaft oven more in the second game," laughed Schmidt," and all I got was a couple of long high fly outs."
Luzinski took up the slack, breaking a tie with Schmidt at 30 homers with his 31st, a poke over the bleachers into waveland Avenue. What's a little 15 mile-an-hour wind in your face?
This noon two bills started with the Cub faithful giving their boys a standing ovation of encouragement for the third straight afternoon. "One-O, two-O, Trillo," trilled the Chicagoan as Manny Trillo stepped up.
But a fast 10-0 Phil lead turned their mood sour. The fact that 61-year-old Wriley Field - this uncluttered, ivy-dropped jewel of a park - does not have the score of the game posted anywhere, did not keep the crowd from adding up the inning-by-lining damage and discovering the truth.
"Sit down, Jerry," a fan with a Suma wrestler's build trayed sarcastically at one Cub pinch hitter. "You're too hurt to play. You're knnee's sore. You cauld walk up and down Rush Street last night but you can't start the next day."
After a three-pinch strikeout, the fan bid his hero adieu with the farewell, "Limp, Jerry, limp."
"It's kind of hard to believe the Cub's fans are turning on them," said Schmidt, commiscrating. "I hope they start winning again."
This long afternoon seemed too full of skill and even courage to warrant any hoots. Young Christenson (11-5), for one, who is learning to relax and pop the ball effortlessly, looked like a 20-game winner of the neat future.
"I'm learning to stop trying to crank the curve, jerk the slider and strangle the fast ball," said the 23-year-old. "This game should be easy."
Jim Lonborg, second-game winner, showed the craft and patient nibbling that he has had to learn now that he is 34.
But the day's real inspiration was sore-ankled Cub Bill Buckner, the one-wheel warrior, who hobbled his way to four more hits, including a drag bunt single. He seemed the perfect image of a Cub team that has taken its talents even further than seemed possible.
Earlier this season Cubs fans stayed in this little corner of heaven long after victory to see the flags in center field changed, when the Cub banner was moved to the top of the pole, signifying first place. Today, when the blue flag fell into a tie for third, the stands were empty.
A fantasy built on names like Biittner, Ontiveros, Hitterwald and Sutter seemed to have been blown apart like a puff of smoke in the Chicago wind.
Meanwhile, the Phillies, who have not won a world little in a century, suddnely find themselves not only the hottest item in the sport, but the club with the best record at 71-44.
"We're a deeper and more mature team now," said catcher Tim McCarver. "But I know from experience that as soon as you thing you're bigger you've got it figured out, it humbles you. Every time, I just hope we keep that in mind."
Nevertheless, these "dog tired" Phillies, with their dozens wins in a row and their dozen home runs in one Chicago weekend, are making this old game look very easy. Pass the macadamia nuts, please.