Willie Stargell's Pirates and Earl Weaver's Orioles can take their rest now, lie down for an eon or, at least, a long warm winter of content.
Every Buccaneer and Bird should buy a golden easy chair with his series share, for they were very good and deserve a happy hibernation.
The teams which just stretched baseball's season down to the last vivid innings of a seventh World Series game are not so much reflections of their towns as they are extensions of their leaders.
Those who try to chew this October feast by mixing Iron City beer with Chesapeake crab cakes will get only indigestion. The cities -- Pittsburgh and Baltimore -- are not at issue here. The men -- Stargell and Weaver -- are.
The whole flow and feeling of this classic emanated from these two central characters -- the brainy, excitable Weaver with his chain-smoking strategy and the stoic, brawny Stargell with his phlegmatic, wine-sipping dignity.
Weaver, his tactical battle plan drawn for weeks, almost won in a blitz before the Pirates knew what hit them. But for a half-dozen tantilizing "ifs" in the second game, the Orioles might well have swept. Don't laugh. The Pirates didn't.
The Orioles attacked like rabid gamblers -- scoring five runs in the first inning of the first game -- throwing conventional strategy out the window, disdaining the bunt and the "take" sign, and finally building a six-run, eighth-inning comeback around a wave of pinch hitters to take a 3-1 lead in games.
The little Napoleonic manager's tactic was simple: Win fast, before they can figure us out, before they understand our hidden strengths and our equally concealed weaknesses.
That's why Mike Flanagan pitched the fifth game in Pittsburgh, going for the kill instead of letting the majors' leading winner get extra rest for a return to Baltimore. The first rule of the blitz is to forget the supply lines.
The Pirates were on their knees -- reduced to left-hander Jim Rooker as a starting pitcher.
Other champions might have waited, head bowed, for the ax, especially when one final flow fell -- the death of Manager Chuck Tanner's 70-year-old mother on Sunday morning.
If the Orioles mirror Weaver's manic intensity and alertness -- a team of superstitious students who analyze the game, yet fear black cats -- then the Pirates are the opposite.
Stargell, naturally, sets the mood. He is the quintessential patient slugger -- the stolid man who is willing to ignore the aggravation of striking out more than any player in history for the sake of these 471 times when his syrupy slash of a swing has sent the ball out of the yard.
On the next-to-last day of the regular season, Stargell made a nationally televised error to lose an extra-inning game that might have ruined the Pirate season. His reaction was to yawn, play cards with the clubhouse man, and say, "I screwed up. I've done it before and I'll do it again."
The next day he hit a home run.
No team in baseball is so placid under pressure as the Bucs. The reason is Stargell.
Figuratively, the Pirates rub the stomach of their baseball Buddha for a sense of peace. Within The Family -- a notion which is entirely Stargell's creation -- the aging 230-pound first baseman has mastered the role of "Pops." c
Like an actor who seemed miscast in the flashy parts of his youth, Stargell has been reborn to play the guru. He knows it, loves it and wouldn't cast aside the persona for the world.
"What goes around, comes around," thePirates say. Which means, the wheel of fate turns.
So, in the sixth inning of the fifth game, with Baltimore ahead, 1-0, and Flanagan cruising along with a three-hitter and six strikeouts, the wheel turned, the karma changed.
Flanagan walked Tim Foli -- a lead-off man who chokes the bat a foot. The Pirates stirred like Frankenstein when the first lightning jolt hits him.
A single, a bunt and Stargell was at the plate.
Moments later, the Oriole center fielder was by the warning track, catching Stargell's long sacrifice fly.
The game was tied, 1-1, and the Birds' spell broken.
Weaver gambled once more, pitching to two-time batting champion Bill Madlock, instead of walking him to get to rookie Steve Nicosia, who hit .063 for the Series.
The percentages blew up in Weaver's face -- you can only buck them so long.
Madlock singled, the Pirates led, 2-1, and the big Baltimore crap-out had begun.
Flanagan had lost and Rooker had not -- the 23 game winner trumped by the four-game winner.
When the Orioles feel a chill, it is always the bats that freeze first.
Few clubs are as prone to profound team slumps as the Orioles, or admit to being so totally bewildered by them. The Birds' normal remedy -- the only one Weaver has any faith in -- is old-fashioned witchraft.
Their drought -- two runs in the last 28 Series innings, compared to those five runs in the first inning of the first game -- had reached such a desperate point that Weaver refused to take the lineup card to home plate before the final game.
Instead, he gave it to his good-luck charm coach, Frank Robinson, who handed it to the umpire left-handed behind his back. When your trump card for the seventh game is the triple-reverse whammy, you're in a World Serious of trouble.
One deep, dark Oriole secret -- the mere suggestion of which brings a glare of betrayal to Weaver's eyes -- is that a diet of slow southpaw curve balls is often a harbinger of The Slump.
Weaver feels about left-handed junk ballers the way the pharoah felt about locusts. Sure, often the O's light up a lefty like a pinball wizard. But when they don't, there's a snowballing effect -- a shudder through the team -- like the five consecutive games in August when left-handers held them to a .114 team average.
When the syndrome strikes, the Orioles assume the fetal position, close their eyes, and try to ignore the horrid thing until it goes away of its own accord.
The Birds thought they had frightened away their private ghoul -- like flashing a crucifix at Dracula -- when they kayoed John Candelaria in the third game. Maybe Tanner had not noticed how pathetic they looked against Rooker in long relief in the opener.
But the Bucs, who apparently scouted the O's backwards and didn't know that southpaws were the best way to incorporate Kiko Garcia and Bennie Ayala into the Bird defense, finally had to do the right thing as a last resort.
Rooker was the bogyman in the fifth game who got the Three Rivers Stadium crowd back to boogieing to Sister Sledge. Candelaria did the same for six shutout innings in the next game and who should get the final win but lefty Grant Jackson.
Even including the O's five-run inning off the Candy Man after a 67 minute rain delay in the third game, the ERA of the Pirate left-handers was 2.47.
If Stargell's quiet, lumbering calm was the perfect remedy for the Pirates' 3-1 deficit dilemma, then Weaver's frenetic superabundance of nervous energy was left without an outlet as his team slid.
For one thing, it's tough to be feisty and combative when you've got such a rotten head cold that you have to carry a towel to blow your schnoz and wipe your eyes.
Also, one of Weaver's pet tricks was denied him. In times of crisis, he invariably draws pressure to himself to take it off his players, whether the method be a tirade at umpire (his favorite), a protest, a strange lineup shakeup, or any sort of curious behavior he can dream up.
It is absolute baseball doctrine not to argue -- not to say one tiny word -- against an umpire during a Series. in 76 classics only two managers have been ejected, and one of those was Billy Martin.
And Weaver obeyed the precedent -- never turning his cap around and going beak to beak, never playing ring around the maypole.
Without Weaver as a lightning rod to draw the flashes of media and television attention to himself, the Oriole players had an unusual experience. t
When things went wrong, suddenly they were the ones getting grilled by 500 reporters. The torture left at least three Orioles as stiff as if they had visited the electric chair.
In the first three AL playoff games, Al Bumbry reached base eight times. The O's offense purred. Then, he helped end Game 3 with a disastrous game-losing muff of a liner.
The Bee was stung by megamedia overkill. Thereafter, he was 3 for 24 (.125) and stole zero bases.
DeCinces, after making two errors in one inning in the Series opener, got the same harsh, "Well, Doug, how does it fell to fall on your face in front of 70 million people?"
DeCinces didn't get a hit in the next four games and had a terminal case of the fielding jitters. He finally found himself with four hits and what might have been a Series-turning defensive gem in the last two games.
Then, it was Eddie Murray's turn. He hit .417 in the playoffs, then started the Series by reaching base in seven of his first eight at-bats. He was going to be October's child.
However, he closed the Game 2 show with a debatable cutoff grab, and suddenly he was on the couch of the nation's sports psychiatrists. From that moment on, Murray was 0 for 21.
Perhaps the correlation is accidental. But it's dramatic.
Just as dramatic was the way that Weaver's game strategy, so tactically sound for the 162-game haul, seemed slightly out of sync with the realities of short-term Series play.
Weaver is a roll-the-dice, leave-the-players-alone manager who breaks out in hives when he sees other managers bedeviling their players with constant sacrifice bunts and "take" signs.
If the stone were rolled away from the baseball crypt and Weaver were allowed inside to read the sacred hieroglyphics, he is certain that they would say, "A walk, a bloop and a three-run homer is the secret of baseball."
"If you play for one run, you lose by one run," says Weaver, the king of the baseball big-bang theorists.
2n the three games that Baltimore won, the O's erupted for explosions of three, five, five and six runs. In their other 58 innings, Baltimore generated just seven runs.
Traditionally, run-scoring is lower in the Series, and home run hitting, in particular, is down. The reason is simple. Cold October air, chilly hitters, enormous pressure and a warm, constantly active hurler create all the conditions for a dead-ball-style game.
Weaver has taken four teams to the Series in 11 years. Once, the home run bats came through -- in 1970 when the Birds hit 10 four-baggers off a weak Cincinnati staff in five games.
But three times, Weaver has taken his big-inning style of ball to the Series and been shut down.
In 1969, his O's hit .146 with three homers in five games and lost to the Miracle Mets despite a 2.72 Baltimore ERA.
In 1971, Baltimore hit .205 in a seven-game loss to Pittsburgh with just five homers. The Bucs won despite modest runs totals of two, two, three, three, four, four and five.
Now, in 1979, the Birds hit .232 with just four homers in seven games from a club that had 181 homers in a 159-game regular season.
Once again, Baltimore's starting pitching was superb with six excellent efforts out of seven.
But, in the final three defeats, that big inning never came. Meanwhile, the O's Big Three -- Flanagan, Jim Palmer and Scott McGregor -- never had the aid of those little one-run innings that keep a hurler from thinking that boxes of dynamite are buried under the mound.
In a seven-game Series, the O's never deviated from 1927 Yankees-style station-to-station baseball. Baltimore had one sacrifice bunt, one attempt for a bunt hit, no hit and runs, and only two steal attempts.
O's attack was either thunder or stagnation. Ironically, all four of Baltimore's big innings, worth 19 of their 26 runs, were opened up not by their own hitting but by Pittsburgh errors or blatant misplays.
Weaver's tactical style has given him the third-best regular-season winning percentage in history -- which probably is an accurate reflection of his spectacularly high status in the game. However, postseason play remains his Achilles' heel -- the place where his record is solid, but could be better.
While the Orioles tried to pull, swinging for the fences, the Pirates amassed the second-highest team average in Series history (.323) by spraying the ball to all fields. Stargell took care of the limited Buc power -- all three Pirate homers.
In fact, the eight regulars in the Pirates' normal starting lineup -- the one they used most frequently all year -- had a combined .372 mark.
The lowest average among those Pirate regulars was .333.
In the end, this Series was the pleasantest sort of anomaly -- an event without losers, an affair that revealed the worth of several lesser-known characters.
Even the Orioles, once they have time to reflect, will have a hard time castigating themselves. Even those who are probably berating themselves most cruelly now, will take a kinder view of their performance if they view the whole postseason as one great test.
For those 11 October games, Ken Singleton hit .364, Kiko Garcia .355, and Rick Dempsey .323. Those two deep end-of-Series slumpers -- Murray and DeCinces -- each produced 11 runs in 11 games, which is excellent. Only Bumbry (.189) and Gary Roenicke (.143) -- who were probably the two biggest team-transforming surprises of the regular season -- really suffered.
When this Series is recalled, it will not be the great swaths of boredom that flash to mind -- the rain and snow delays, the procrastinating to accommodate TV, not the longest night game in Series history (3:18) and not the longest day game (3:48).
Rather, it will be the marvelous indeterminancy of this Series.Neither team was clearly better. As late as the bottom of the eighth inning of the final game -- with Murray at bat and the bases full in a 2-1 game -- there was no way to know who would win, who should win or why they would do it.
Only in retrospect is there a visible shape -- a shadowy one at that. These Birds 'N Bucs were not all-time great teams -- except perhaps in toughness and heart.
A case could be made that each of the first six games was not so much won as lost. Every vital rally, every turning point was an equal mixture of heroism and defensive flustration.
It is impossible to imagine the Oakland A's of 1972-74, or the Cincinnati Reds of 1975-76 or the New York Yankees of the past two years beating themselves under pressure so frequently as these foes managed.
These were teams of vivid personality, not clubs with fully formed, forged-in-the-fire baseball characters.
Despite their swagger and bulk, their high jinks and professed brotherhood, the Pirates made enough fundamental gaffes that they could have lost in a rapid four or five games.
By the final three games, the Orioles had shown how a team that has no Hall of Fame everyday players can go into its shell, each man hoping someone else will shoulder the load -- a few players even looking like they couldn't wait for the last out to arrive so that the eye of millions would leave them alone.
Amidst this Series of bright personalities, unpredictable successes and failures, two famous and totally developed baseball characters stood above the rest -- those of Stargell and Weaver -- each dominating the mood and performance of his team.
This October stage suited Stargell best, because, finally, he was able to take matters into his own strong hands.
Weaver was left only with proxies.By the end, even his left-handed, behind-the-back lineup-card whammy had failed him. He could only wipe his eyes and watch.