-- "This is something you dream about," Scott McGregor was saying. "Pitching the seventh game of the World Series." What never intruded into this fantasy was the pregame pressure of a pressure game, the kind that began falling on McGregor around midnight.
"I hate those questions," he snapped as he walked toward a herd of even more reporters than immediately surrounded him. It was after the Pirates forced a seventh game with a 4-0 victory tonight. "What do they mean: 'Will you be putting more pressure on yourself?'
"If you put a tremendous amount of pressure on yourself every time you pitch, it means there won't be that much difference when you do face something like tomorrow."
This quiet left-hander, the Orioles' Whitey Ford pitchalike with strands of gray sneaking out from his cap, is probably the best matchup possible against the Moreno-Parker-Stargell Bucs.
"The club likes to play behind him," the pitching coach, Ray Miller, said, "because he works fast and throws strikes. This is the most dramatic and exciting club I've ever seen. Everybody doubted us from day one.
"When we won Game 1 (of the Series), I said we'd go to a seventh game. We've got 'em right were we want 'em."
They have the Bucs with a less-than-rested Jim Bibby and themselves the fellow who won both the deciding game of the American League playoff and Game 3 of the Series. But where are the Oriole bats?
That concerned McGregor more than his arm.
"All I can do is try and keep it close," he said. "(Jim) Palmer pitched a great game tonight, but we couldn't get him anything. I pitched and we got eight runs and a rain delay that helped me.
"That worked out nice. I guess there always was meant to be a seventh game."
McGregor was as candid and outward as he ever gets, with just a touch of edginess when somebody mentioned "pressure" for the zillionth time. No one who has never been in such a situation can fathom how the same question over and over by well-meaning people can play on the mind.
"They asked me about the rain delay when Game 1 had been delayed," said Mike Flanagan. "Then right away the next morning they called me at home and wanted me to talk about the rain delay some more."
So Flanagan and McGregor determined all the probable cliche questions ("How do you feel? Is this your biggest game ever? Did you learn anything about the Bucs from your last outing?) and winked at one another when they came.
"We can't let the mood after this game do anything to us, if we're gonna' be any kind of club," McGregor said. "We'll find out what kind of club we are. Me? I could go 0-0 for nine innings or get knocked out after one.
"The sun'll still come up the next day either way."
Perhaps 100 yards away, Pirate starter Jim Bibby was verbally fencing with a similar herd. Unlike McGregor, Bibby had learned of his seventh-game assignment moments before in the dressing room, though he sensed it during the game.
"Bert (Blyleven) got up during the game," he said, "and so did (Bruce) Kison. So I knew I'd be starting. the Orioles are a fast-ball hitting club and I'm a fast-ball pitcher. I'll be pitching my game -- fast balls.
"I cherish going out in the seventh game."
Apparently, so does McGregor. Before his shutout victory over California in the playoffs, he had predicted victory. "I guarantee it," he said on the team bus after a loss the O's fumbled away.
Would there be similar predictions now? McGregor's jaw tightened.
"I've done it once or twice," he said, ice coating every word, "and somebody told you guys and you hyped it up. Since the press raised the whole thing, if we win maybe I'll tell you I guaranteed it. I'll lie."
The mystery about McGregor vs. the Bucs is whether he can keep from throwing fly balls, or fly balls that sail beyond the Memorial Stadium walls. The enduring memory of him in Pittsburgh was ever so many warning-track outs.
"Down in the strike zone is the key," he said. "They have some low-ball hitters, so I'll have to adjust. You can pick up some ideas after facing 'em once and watching 'em. But you never really know till the game begins.
"If you go out and have really exceptional stuff, you sorta throw away the book and throw what you want."
McGregor won 10 of his last 13 regular season decisions and is not likely to wear out the carpet with early morning pacing.
"Usually," said his roommate, reserve catcher Dave Skaggs, "he's more nervous after a game than before. Lots of time he can't sleep after a big game. He hasn't let things upset him too much since midseason, when (Pat) Kelly baptized him.
"He really calmed down a lot. He was never one to throw things, to wreck a room or anything. But where something behind him during a game might bother him before, he just goes out now and does the best he can."
There was more than a hint of fatalism in McGregor's voice.
"The key thing is can we hit?" he said, "and can I keep them out of big innings, keep them from getting four and five guys on base at a time.
"All this is like Kent (Tekulve) was saying. The other day he put his pitches in the wrong spot and got beat. Tonight everything went right.We'll have to wait and see. You prepare for games like this by what you do in the past."
With that, a microphone was thrust under McGregor's nose and a deep voice said: "They got a couple runs early tonight. Will you try anything different?.
"Yeah," said McGregor, rolling his eyes heavenward, "try to keep 'em from getting runs early."