We savor most those things which are denied to us the longest. The worse the wait, the greater the want.

Also, we tend to covet most what we can't buy, but can only win on merit. Anything with a price is automatically cheapened.

That's why Ted Simmons of Milwaukee couldn't contain himself Saturday.

When the final flag-clinching strike from Rollie Fingers' hand had smacked into his mitt, the six-time All-Star catcher suddenly discovered that his huge Clydesdale legs were chugging toward the mound. Then, unexpectedly, his 200-pound body was flying through the air. The next thing he knew, Simmons had leaped into the 6-foot-4 Fingers' arms like a little kid running to daddy.

A photo of that jubilant moment -- reminiscent of Yogi Berra pouncing on Don Larsen 25 years ago -- is tucked in Simmons' locker, ready for framing when the season ends. Fingers has one, too.

"For 11 years, I've struggled to accomplish this," said Simmons today as the Brewers prepared to open the American League East Division playoff here Wednesday against the New York Yankees at 8:10 p.m. (EST) when Milwaukee's Moose Haas meets Ron Guidry. "So many years (in St. Louis) of waiting and hoping, always ending in frustration.

"There for awhile, I thought I was going to end up like Ernie Banks -- have what they call a great career, but never get into the playoffs, never get to that last level of my sport.

"My first few seasons in the majors, I always watched the playoffs and World Series on TV. Then, about four years ago, I realized I wasn't watching anymore. It bothered me too much that I'd never been there.

"No matter how much money you make in this game, a World Series ring is the one thing you can't buy. So, of course, that's what you want the most."

Fingers has had the same feeling that his talents, his great moments, were slipping away from him unused. Simmons suffered from the longing for something he couldn't get. Fingers was tormented by knowing exactly what he was missing.

"I feel like I've been in exile for five years," said Fingers, who starred in five straight AL playoffs from 1971 through '75, and was World Series MVP in '74. "Those four seasons in San Diego were like dropping off the end of the world. It's a terrible feeling to be out of the race in July and still have to come to the park every day for months and be forced to cope with defeat.

"The last straw came when (General Manager) Jack McKeon said, 'We'll be a contender by 1985.' I just had to get out of there."

Fingers, whose 272 career saves are the most in baseball history, and Simmons, who averaged .302 with 90 RBI for his last 10 St. Louis seasons, made their escape to Milwaukee when Brewer General Manager Harry Dalton hornswoggled the Cards' Whitey Herzog. Dalton grabbed Fingers (28 saves, 6-3, 1.04 ERA), Simmons (61 RBI) and Pete Vuckovich (14-4). In exchange, the Cards got Sixto Lezcano (injured all season), Lary Sorensen (7-7) and minor leaguer David Green.

That deal is the cornerstone of the new Brewers.

"I'm having the best year of my life," said Fingers, 35. "My stuff and my control are better than ever. It was only after I got to San Diego that I was forced to learn how to pitch."

"I'd compare Fingers to Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton," said Simmons. "His slider just locks you out. By that, I mean that you think it's his fast ball four inches outside and all your reflexes call your swing to a halt. Then, his pitch seems to stop in flight and bore in. And it ends up a strike."

"We call that a backdoor slider," said Reggie Jackson, an ex-A's mate. "Rollie's always had that, but now he's got a fork ball and sinker with his fast ball and slider. As Fingers got older, he got smarter. He adjusted so he wouldn't go downhill too fast. Instead, he got better than ever."

"Rollie is the only four-pitch reliever in baseball," said Simmons. "Most have just two good pitches, or one great trick pitch. But Fingers has perfect control with all four, every time out."

Like all playoffs, this match will resolve itself around a few crisis at bats with the bases congested with runners. Simmons defined the nature of that center pressure moment.

"With men on base, the pressure is completely on the pitcher, not on me," said Simmons. "The expression, 'The pitcher's in trouble,' means exactly that."

"The first seven innings are the key in this series," said Milwaukee Manager Buck Rodgers, "because whoever hands the lead over to Fingers or (New York's Goose) Gossage is probably going to win."

"We might not be in at the same time, because our job is to protect a lead. Both teams can't have the lead at once," said Fingers.

"If we do both end up in a tie game," Gossage said with a grin, "it may never end."