There was almost no wind in Royals Stadium tonight, but a huge Gale was blowing -- twice: during a royal foulup, and after Kansas City had survived it and avoided a near-fatal World Series loss.
By now, a nation of insomniacs and devoted baseball fans are convinced, through what they saw and heard on television, that Rich Gale came dangerously close to costing the Royals the World Series. After Gale's failure to throw Manny Trillo out at home on a bases-loaded grounder in the second, no big-game sheep would have had larger horns than the pitcher, had Willie Mays Aikens not driven in the winning run in the 10th inning.
Gale had an excuse ready five minutes after Kansas City escaped a 3-0 Series deficit with its extra-inning victory -- and fair play demands that we allow him to say of that smash off his glove with one out:
"We are taught, from spring training on, that on a ball like (to the pitcher) to get the sure out. I didn't field it cleanly and my back was to the play (at the plate). My instinct was to go to first on the play (which he did, getting Lonnie Smith as Trillo was crossing the plate)."
But instinct also told him to look at second for a split second after he picked up the ball that had glanced off his glove. Clearly, he was thinking double play. Why not the home-to-first variety?
"I figured the guy on third would get a bigger jump on the play than the guy on first," Gale said. "Something like that happened to me earlier in the year -- and that's what happened. The guy on third was scoring easily. I'd have gotten the second-to-first double play, except nobody covered second."
Having left the game in the fifth inning after surrendering just two runs and leaving seven Phils stranded, Gale was able to hear criticism of his play over a clubhouse television. He was quietly burning.
"It really, really irritates me that somebody who doesn't know the background of something like that would be so sure of himself," he said. "I'm not a good fielder. I admit it. But to give up one run in the second inning to get a sure out isn't so bad. If one run in the second beats you, you're in bad trouble."
Didn't the catcher -- or someone -- yell to Gale to throw to home, to get his sure out there?
"Somebody may have called," Gale said. "But with 45,000 people screaming, how are you gonna hear it."
There was another Royal embarrassment.
Inexplicably, one of the swiftest Royals, a man accustomed to baseline basics, U. L. Washington, was outwitted by Phillie catcher Bob Boone during the winning inning, thrown out at third with none out.
Instincts also told U. L. to go recklessly to third instead of taking a U-turn after that long lead when a Tug McGraw pitch sailed by Frank White.
"I let them take over," Washington said. "I was more than haflway -- and I thought I had a good chance (at a steal)." Boone faked a throw to second, then nailed a perfect peg to Mike Schmidt.
"I was just trying to get a good jump," Washington said. "But if I had it to do over, I'd do the same thing."
Clearly, instincts ought to be banned from the Royal bench.
In truth, the final questionable Royal tactic of the 10th was planned, Willie Wilson's steal of second with George Brett at bat came on orders from manager Jim Frey.
"We usually have a no-steal sign on something like that," Wilson said. "But this time he gave me the steal sign. I did't go on the second pitch, because we've been told that's when they usually pitch out."
So Wilson stole on the third pitch -- and the Phils pitched out on that one. He beat Boone's one-hop throw anyway.
Why would Frey take the bat out of the hands of the best batter in baseball, allow Brett to be walked intentionally?
"Because," Frey said, "I thought Aikens had a better chance of hitting a single than Brett did of hitting a double."
The mood in the Royal clubhouse was more of relief than elation. They had dodged too many Phillie shots to be cocky.
"Anyone want to buy me a hit?" Wilson said to about 75 reporters as he walked into the clubhouse. He is the most slump-ridden Royal, but in a way also the most efficient. He has gotten on base just twice in three games, but scored each time.
"We won, so I feel great," he said. "If I go oh for 50, I don't care as long as we won."
The chances of the Royals winning with that sort of Wilson drought would be bleak. Even with George Brett hitting his hemorrhoids off. His misery became almost unbearable after he hit a double during his last at bat of Game 1. So he singled twice and walked before being forced out of Game 2.
After lancing and an overnight stay in a local hospital here, Brett homered his first time at bat tonight and later flied to deep center field and doubled before the final-inning intentional walk.
He was in fine humor.
"Didn't feel a thing in the field," he insisted. And he did seem comfortable during two tough chances and a near-bellyflop into the stands chasing a foul pop. "I was trying to keep this a secret, but since it's out I'm gonna have as much fun as possible."
He rattled off several barely-tolerable one-liners, then sat back on his rubber cushion and said; "Like I said before, my problems's behind me."
But, the Royal's problems are not. They were exceedingly fortunate tonight. One of their overlooked breaks came soon after Gale's blunder in the second. After allowing that tainted run, Gale got Schmidt to fly out deep to center with the bases loaded.
The next time up Schmidt hit a solo homer. But in the second Gale forced him into yet another no run-swing. The runners Schmidt has left stranded during his five postseasons might populate a small town.
For one of the few times, Gale laughed a bit when he talked about his Schmidt experiences.
"The fly-out actually was hit harder than the homer," Gale said. "Good thing for me he uppercut the fly."