In the upper echelons of Olympic Stadium, grown men kissed when Jerry White hit the three-run home run that won the game. And in the Expos' dugout, the continental mood prevailed.
"As a matter of fact," said White, who hit three home runs all year, "when I hit the pinch-hit home run (to beat the Pirates on Sept. 23 in the bottom of the ninth inning), Bobby Ramos came up and hugged me and kissed me. Tonight, there were a lotta hugs . . . I don't think I got any kisses."
Every fall, someone in baseball, like Jerry White -- a .218 hitter in 1981 -- is briefly kissed by fame. He becomes the fulfillment of the Andy Worhol prophecy, that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.
Tonight, White had an hour and 15 minutes. Perhaps, a minute of it was consumed by the time it took to round the bases, when he hit the home run that put the Expos ahead, 4-1. The rest was consumed by undulating waves of reporters who probed and poked at this quiet, unassuming man, who kept saying quiet, unassuming things. Like about how he put in his high school yearbook that he wanted to grow up to be a major leaguer.
"Toy, toy," yelled Warren Cromartie, as White made his way through the thicket to his locker.
"They call me the 'Toy Cannon' 'cause I'm small, not like the bigger guys," White explained, almost apologetically.
He had broken his bat in batting practice, the way cannons are wont to do.
Whose did he borrow?
"Valentine's," he said.
Of course. Ellis Valentine was the Expos' starting right fielder until he was traded to the Mets on May 29 (for reliever Jeff Reardon). When he left, White, who has been up and down (to the minors four times since 1974), and over and back (traded to the Cubs in May, 1978 and reacquired in December of the same year), thought he would get his chance. "But Dick (Williams, then the Expos' manager) didn't say nothing to me," he said.
He was 30 in August and still sitting on the bench.
"When Jim (Fanning) came over, I think one of the things the front office had in mind was that Jerry hadn't played enough," said Steve Rogers, the winning pitcher. "He hadn't been given the opportunity. He had a lot of talent and wasn't getting a chance to stay sharp . . . He's the kind of guy, you ask him to do something, he tries his hardest. That's Jerry White."
When Tim Raines broke his hand in the first week of September, Fanning asked White to start; he has been ever since. He is hitting .429 in the first three games of the championship series.
Of course, he dreamed it would come earlier. But always it would have been at a friend's expense. Sure, he thought he would get a chance when Valentine left, but, "I hated to see him go. We were roomies when we were signed . . . Most of my good friends play the position I play. Me and Andre (Dawson), me and Ellis, me and Cro, Tony Scott, when he was here. It's been like that my whole career."
And, besides, "Dick liked to stick with his nine," he said.
In 1978, White went to the Cubs and was named their starting center fielder. First thing, he separated his shoulder, making a catch, listening to a friend. It was on a ball hit by Mike Schmidt. "Bobby Murcer told me to move over," he said. "I was playing it right. But I idolized him when I came over. I was doing what he said. I was the center fielder in charge. I shouldn't have done it."
The ivy covering the center field wall could not cushion the blow separating him from his shoulder and his first starting job. In December, he was back in Montreal, and back in limbo. "I didn't know what to feel," he said. "I wasn't playing. I was coming up, going down, back and forth."
Tonight, he had no problem knowing what to feel. It was a 2 and 1 pitch, a fast ball up and in from a guy who had been "pitching me down and in since I've been facing him . . . He was starting to come up with his pitches, so I was looking for the ball up."
"I'd like to give him 10 game balls." Rogers said.
But they couldn't possibly make up for the one that landed in the left field seats, the one White didn't get back.
"That's okay," he said. "If I was a fan I don't think I'd give it back, either."