George Vukovich stood and watched the ball, just like Reggie Jackson and all the other big shots do. And why not? His pinch hit home run in the bottom of the 10th inning was nothing if not a big shot.
The count was 2-0, the score 5-5. Vukovich swung, and the ball landed 330 feet away over the right field fence. Vukovich, who said his heart was beating 8,000 times a minute, had performed CPR on the Phillies. They had defeated the Montreal Expos, 6-5, and tied the National League East Division playoff at two games each. The deciding fifth game will be played Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
As he rounded first base, it seemed Vukovich was the only person in Veterans Stadium, other than losing pitcher Jeff Reardon, with his head down.
"I wanted to make sure I touched it (first base)," he said. "If I hadn't been looking down, I might have run right out into right field. There's no telling where I might have gone."
Vukovich, the last man to make the Phillies' roster when they had to trim it for the playoffs, is 25, bearded and prematurely graying. The Phillies can do that to you. And after a game like today's, Vukovich said, "There's a good chance I'll wake up tomorrow and be all gray."
The Expos, who came to town Friday needing only one victory to become the NL East champs, now must beat Steve Carlton if they are to come back from a two-game deficit and win the best-of-five series, something no other team has done.
"This team thrives on controversy," Phillie shortstop Larry Bowa said. "I don't know if it was the Dallas story (reports that Manager Dallas Green will become the Chicago Cubs' general manager), but every time something isn't kosher around here, this team says, 'Let's play ball.' "
Until today, there had been many unexpected things happen in the series -- the Expos beating Carlton, the hitting of Chris Speier -- but nothing terribly dramatic. Today made up for all that.
There was Tug McGraw, the winning pitcher, with three innings of scoreless relief, even though he had not pitched more than an inning at a time since Sept. 4 because of a sore elbow. "I was glad I was able to come through," he said. "I wasn't any more sure than they were (that he could do it). I have more doubts than people realize."
There were home runs: the one that won it; Mike Schmidt's in the first that "ignited us," as Bowa put it, and gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead; Gary Matthews' with the bases empty in the sixth to put the Phillies ahead, 5-4, after the Expos had tied, and Gary Carter's in the fourth that gave Montreal its first run.
And there were defensive gems and defensive lapses.
With the Phillies ahead, 2-0, in the bottom of the third, Pete Rose led off with a single to right that skipped under first baseman Warren Cromartie's glove. With one out, Montreal starter Scott Sanderson, working very carefully to Schmidt, walked him on a 3-2 pitch.
Matthews (two for four, with one RBI) bounced sharply to short. Speier went to his right, backhanded the ball and flipped it to second baseman Jerry Manuel, who made the pivot but forgot to step on second. He did, however, relay the ball to first to get Matthews.
Rose and Schmidt were safe, Sanderson flustered. When he fell behind, 2-0, on Keith Moreland, he was replaced by Stan Bahnsen. It didn't matter: Moreland got an opposite-field single and two RBI. Manuel, who had back-to-back errors in the eighth Friday, got another one.
But the Phillies squandered their lead. After Carter homered, they were ahead, 4-1, in the top of the fifth when Speier (two for four with two runs scored) led off with a double to center. Center fielder Lonnie Smith backed up, came in, grabbed the ball and dropped it. Phillie starter Dickie Noles, as disconcerted as Sanderson had been, walked two men and left the game.
Cromartie lined a ball toward center. Manny Trillo, the graceful second baseman, flung himself toward it, a still-life in extension, and made the catch. The Expos scored only one run.
They got two in the sixth to tie at 4. And, in the top of the seventh, when they had to tie again after Matthews homered, they did.
But in the eighth, ninth and 10th, they could do nothing with McGraw.
"You might have noticed," Schmidt said the other day, "we never do things the easy way around here." And so, in the top of the 10th, after Carter, who had had two hits in four at bats to drive in two runs, singled and Larry Parrish bunted the ball high in front of the mound, McGraw chose to do it the hard way: he threw to first for one out and let Trillo, who was covering there, try to catch Carter with a throw to second.
"I never saw the throw until it came over his shoulder," Bowa said. But it came in time. Double play. When Reardon struck out to end the inning, McGraw had his Irish up, his arms pumping and flailing.
Vukovich, sent to the minors at the end of spring training, recalled just in time for the strike, sent down again three days before play resumed and told on the last day of the season that he would remain eligible for the playoffs, came on to pinch hit for McGraw. Rose says Vukovich hits the ball so hard he won't let Pete Rose Jr. play in the infield when Vukovich is taking batting practice.
The shot he hit to end the game was definitive, the kind that provides its own punctuation. When he hit it, McGraw was in the clubhouse drawing himself a beer. "It was closer to the television than the Irish whiskey I had in my locker," McGraw said. And when he saw the homer? "I hauled myself on out there so I could be at home plate to congratulate him."