For Mike Schmidt, baseball had become a spectator sport.
He was five for 24 in the playoffs, with one RBI. The man who led the major leagues in home runs (48) had a .191 batting average for four playoffs (1976-78, '80) going into his first World Series. He left so many men on base in Houston he could have fielded his own all-star team. And then, on Sunday, with the pennant in the offing, he struck out three times, once with the bases loaded in the eight inning.
Later, when the pennant was secure and the champagne flowed around him, Mike Schmidt said. "I just watched."
Tonight, in Philadelphia, 65,775 people watched as Schmidt drove himself and a Dan Quisenberry sinker out of his private hell, a Dante-esque inferno populated with men in scoring position. In the bottom of the eighth inning, with the score tied, 4-4, Schmidt doubled off the right-field wall, driving in Bake McBride with the game-winning run.
Suddenly, Schmidt was no longer a spectator.
"The champagne might have tasted a hair sweeter in Houston if I had gotten involved, if I had gotten my uniform dirty," he said, holding a Budweiser in one hand, and a shrimp in another.
Perhaps, it was suggested, the beer tasted a little bit like Dom Perignon tonight. "Whatever I drink right now is going to taste awfully sweet," he said.
Earlier in the game, there had been two long, loud fouls, and the noise in the crowd was foul and long when their destination became clear. But Schmidt knew better. "It felt good to get my shoulder in and drive the ball," he said.
That was something he had not been doing much of lately. "Earlier today, my dad and I were watching the replay of yesterday's game," he said. "He said, 'One thing I can't understand is why you take the first pitch so much.' Anyone watching a guy who is not pounding the ball, and who is giving the pitcher the first strick is going to say, 'Why take the first pitch?'"
When he came up in the eighth inning against Quisenberry, he was resolved not to take it. Not so much because he is his father's son. "I had an idea what the ball was going to look like (from watching Kent Tekulve, of the Pittsburgh Pirates). I knew he didn't throw it as hard as Tekulve . . . He is a one-pitch pitcher. He has 33 saves because he has the best sinker in the American League. It's not like McGaw, with a sinker, a screwball, a fast ball. It's not like I had no idea what he was gonna throw."
The pitch sank in equal proportion to how much Schmidt's feelings rose when he saw it carom off the right-field wall. "Aw, I can't sit here and explain why I hit that pitch," he said finally. "I just went up and whaled at it. Sometimes, it works."
If the postseason is hellish for a man like Schmidt from whom much is expected, it is delicious for a journeyman like Del Unser, a man from whom s much and so little is expected at the same time.
"Del Unser has done everything we have asked of him," said Manager Dallas Green. "We have asked him to sit on the bench a lot when he would prefer to be playing. And we have asked him to come off the bench and deliver in key situations. Del Unser has produced in 1980."
It was Unser who had the game-tying hit Sunday in Houston, and Unser whose pinch-hit double in the bottom of the eighth made the score 4-3, and gave Mike Schmidt his chance for redemption. "I wouldn't be here in this room, or in the World Series without Del Unser," said Schmidt, "he is unreal."
And a realist, the only thing a man can be after 14 years in the major leagues, and five different teams (including the Phillies twice). "What is your role on the team?" he was asked. "Whenever he (Dallas Green) says Del, I get a bat or a glove," he said.
Unser exudes the new Phillie confidence, the confidence that when they get behind, they won't be behind for good; that when they get down, they won't get down on themselves for good. "When I first came here in 1973, I never knew anything about confidence, coming from the Senators and the Indians. I saw it in the Phillies. In the Luzinskis and the Schmidts. I said, 'Gee, this is fun.' But then I got traded away, banished to the Mets. Then I came back (in 1979)".
"All the travel has brought me closer to a lot of people. I've been getting calls from around the country, everyone wishing me well. That's one of the beauties of knowing so many people."