When they told George Brett exactly what he had, he laughed a bit through the agony. Hemorrhoids: the universal indelicate discomfort. Funny when the rest of the world has them, but unimaginably painful for a player expected to lead his team to World Series triumph. A nation of knowing fans felt for him tonight.
"I'm checking into a hospital as soon as the plane lands (in Kansas City)," he was saying nearly 90 minutes after he left the game in the sixth inning and more than an hour after the Royals botched another lead to the Phils and fell 0-2 in the Series.
"I've had friends who have gone through this, who've gone through a lotta lancing -- and they say it's much better after 24 hours of rest. I've got more than 24 hours (with the off day Thursday). Instead of going home and doing what's got to be done myself, why not go right to the hospital and let them do it?"
Baseball's best hitter felt the misery coming on about 12 hours after striking the three-run homer that lifted K.C. to its first American League pennant. That came late Friday. Yankee revenge followed around noon Saturday, in Billy Martin's western wear store, of all places.
"Me and my brothers and Jamie (Quirk) were there," Brett said, "and I mentioned something was wrong. I went to a drugstore across the street and then told him (the K.C. trainer) about it during the workout (in Yankee Stadium) Sunday. We been doing work on it ever since."
Brett's pain extended to the Royals in the fifth inning tonight. Larry Gura was working on a no-hitter when Keith Moreland chopped the ball between third and short.
"If I'm 100 percent, I get that ball and he's out," Brett said.
Still, Moreland's hit seemed harmless enough.
But the next batter, Gary Maddox, smashed a double between Brett and the third base bag.
"I get that one, too, if I'm normal," "brett said, stretching on the metal frame of his locker and moving back and forth trying to find a comfortable position.
So instead of two possible outs and the Royals out of the inning -- or at the worst Maddox dying on second when Manny Trillo's sacrifice becomes the third out, the Phils score the first two runs of the game. And set a pattern for the rest of the night.
They were enormously more resourceful than the Royals -- and more efficient. Their first three hits produced two runs. Of their first three base runners, two scored. By that time, the Royals already had left seven men stranded.
"We should have scored 10 runs off (Steve) Carlton," Gura insisted, almost accurately. "We've got him on the ropes almost every inning. Some Phils told me we'd have scored five more runs if we'd have gotten fly balls instead of those grounders (the Phils converted into double plays). Carlton certainly didn't have his best stuff, so I figured we'd score a bunch and win if I held 'em to a couple runs."
What was Gura's reaction when he learned of Brett's trouble?
"I laughed a little," he said. "And I felt sorry for him."
Even the Phils were sympathetic.
"(Mike) Schmidt sent some stuff over to help," Brett said. "Some of the others said they'd had the same thing. Maddox was one of 'em.
"Anyone here ever had 'em?"
At least half of the 50 reporters crowding around his locker shouted yes.
But theirs are sedentary jobs -- and as Brett then said:
"Imagine running. The more you move the more it hurts. I played everybody a lot more shallow. And going from first to second was awful."
The he even got to first defied belief.
During batting practice, he had been ashen-faced, in terrible pain and also terribly embarrassed. He had heard the jokes -- about the Royals being in a situation that called for preparation DH, that sort of hard humor.
"Quirk said they wanted me for that commercial," Brett said. "He said 100,000 people wanted to see 'em."
The least ailment to the game's most exciting player at the moment throws normally staid baseball into near panic.
Brett's butt became part of the World Series notes. The third item on Page 2 of the Series notes tonight was a definition of hemorrhoids, with the addition: "These are dictionary definitions.
We didn't make them up."
Remarkably, Brett singled his first two times at bat tonight. With an ailment that causes almost every movement to bring tears, he stroked a single to center his first time up and a single to right his second. Ornery Pete Rose pretended to slap Brett on the behind after the first hit.
"I even went to a doctor today," Brett said. "I did what he said to do, and it got better. But as the game went along it got worse . . . I was no help to the club." After five innings, Dave Chalk replaced him at third.
Was tension part of what caused his problem? Brett had talked about the final month of the season not being especially joyful, that what mattered most was not whether the Royals won but whether he could muster enough hits to bat .400.
"If that's the case, it was a delayed reaction," he said. Then he laughed. "I might not have lost any hair, but I got me a good case of hemorrhoids."
There were two red roses stuck between the wire supports of his locker.
Several telegrams and messages of good luck were scattered about the floor as Brett stiffly dressed, tried to smile and said: "It's a pain . . .I've had more pain, but never such discomfort."
Nearby, Dan Quisenberry also was in discomfort, the mental variety. He is arguably the best reliever in baseball, he was rocked for four runs in the eighth as the Phils mustered another big inning rally for victory.
"Usually," he said, "Bake's chop goes right to somebody.
"Usually, I don't walk anyone.
"Usually, I have a good sinker."
He smiled and added:
"Usually, I get a cab as soon as I step outside the hotel. Today, it took five minutes."
His expressive face turned sour and he said, "Tonight I was throwing my 'poop sinker.'"
As the game ended, the Royals' owner, Ewing Kauffman, his tie loose and a hard smile painted on his face, bounced from behind the dugout, up a ramp and toward an exit. He forced a handshake on a guard wearing a Phillies' cap.
"Three straight," he said. "Sorry, but you're gonna lose."
His players were not as publicly confident.
"We're up two runs with six outs to go tonight with our best reliever," said Hal McRae. "We're four up last night with our best pitcher (Dennis Leonard) out there. We just can't hold anything. It's not an ideal situation we're in, but anytime you get a lead twice you think you can get it again."
Brett was in his dressing ordeal a few feet away. Like some other Royals, McRae tried not to notice.