Amidst a snowstorm of confetti and a thunder of bilingual cheers, l'Expos of Montreal defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-1, tonight before 54,372 rapturous fans in Olympic Stadium to come within one victory of bringing the World Series to Canada.
The most-likely, and least-likely Expos were the heroes on this evening full of song as the Expos took a two-games-to-one lead in the National League Championship series.
A seven-hit victory by right-hander Steve Rogers is the norm in Montreal; he's the money man who now is three for three this postseason.
"This was not an atypical game for me. It will suffice," said Rogers, whose fondness for hair, books and ideas put him permanently in the doghouse of former Expo manager Dick Williams.
A three-run home run by slender right fielder Jerry White off Dodgers' fast baller Jerry Reuss is the sort of shock the Dodgers might be more likely to feel if they were back home by the San Andreas Fault. When White struck in the sixth, decimating a 1-1 tie, the Dodgers disappeared from this game as though the earth had opened under them.
"What I remember about the home run," said White, who is teasingly called "The Toy Cannon" by teammates because he lacks an outfielder's power, "is that I saw a lot of toilet paper."
When the Dodgers' Burt Hooton takes on Bill Gullickson at 1 p.m. here Saturday, the Expos, created only 13 lucky seasons ago, will have a chance to introduce the World Series to another nation for the first time in baseball's 113 seasons.
This was, in essence, a one-swing game.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, White, a 172-pound No. 6 hitter with only 18 homers in his five-year major league career, hit a Reuss fast ball 100 meters.
Fortunately for the Expos, the fence in the left field corner is exactly 99 meters (325 feet) away. As the liner crawled over the wall, the Expos, so recently among baseball's meek and humble, crawled within one win of a meeting with the American League champion New York Yankees.
That would indeed be a meeting of baseball heritage and baseball innocence.
This parka-and-stocking-cap evening in Olympic Stadium was warmed by the enthusiasm of a somewhat naive but marvelously jubilant crowd that screamed and sang at all the right times. And a few of the wrong ones, too.
"Fol-der-ee, Fol-der-aaah," sang the crowd in unison, full-throated and perfectly on key. They were in harmony tonight. And so were their Expos.
"The weather really was nice tonight," said Rogers, straight-faced, talking about a game that began in 46-degree temperatures and ended in the high 30s. "If you think this is cold, come in April when they have to thaw the infield with blow torches. This was a nice crisp autumn night . . . of course, sometimes your hands get numb. Anybody who says the weather affected this game is looking for a crutch."
Commissioner Bowie Kuhn -- hatless and coatless -- would have agreed. Standing in an exposed box, sipping a cold beer, Kuhn might have been on Miami Beach. Except for the times he surreptitiously rubbed his hands and sneezed.
The Dodgers may not have been looking for a cold-weather crutch tonight, but they didn't particularly look as though they were hunting for a victory, either. Maybe it was the way first-base coach Manny Mota cheered on his hitters with fur-lined leather gloves. Maybe it was the way pitching coach Ron Perranoski trudged back from the mound, hands deep in pockets, as though he couldn't wait to get back to Malibu.
It was Montreal, not the Series-seasoned Dodgers, who turned three vital double plays tonight, one on a fairly decent sacrifice bunt attempt by Reuss. It was the Expos who made a half-dozen fairly tough bang-bang infield plays to support Rogers. And it was Expo Manager Jim Fanning who made the game's bravest and, as it turned out, correct decision by leaving Rogers on the mound when the first two Dodgers of the ninth singled and dangerous Pedro Guerrero came to bat.
"The evidence is on the table as to what kind of money pitcher Rogers is," said Fanning. "I went out and told him that he was our best and to go get 'em."
Those are words Rogers never heard from the surly Williams, who concurred in the general view that Rogers was a poor pressure pitcher (career record 114-113), who usually found a way to lose well-pitched, close games.
"When the manager comes to the mound in that situation, it's usually to hook you," said Rogers, obviously proud Fanning had left the Expos' fate in his hands.
When the count on Guerrero fell to 3 and 1, Rogers was in hot water on a cold night. But his next pitch, a sinker, got a double play grounder to third.
Until the ninth, Rogers had seen little trouble, except for a piddling Dodger run in the fourth when Dusty Baker singled to left, moved to third on Steve Garvey's broken-bat hit-and-run single to right and scored on Ron Cey's weak ground out.
For the most part, the Dodger batters looked like men in a relay race as they chugged to first base; in their hands were what appeared to be batons. Actually, they were the remains of the bats that Rogers was sawing off in their fists.
Reuss also played the bees-in-the-bat-handle game with jamming heat. But he played the game once to often. With two out and none on in the sixth, the Expos tied the game when Andre Dawson singled, Gary Carter walked and Larry Parrish grounded an RBI single to left.
Up stepped White, who had stranded a pair of runners in his previous trip. Reuss, strong for a month, came up and in on the little fellow. But White was waiting for just that pitch. His stroke shortened, his hips well out in front, White lashed the bat head around, then did an involuntary jump as he realized he'd gotten it all.
For a few seconds, the novice crowd was unsure what to do. Even when Baker turned his back and fled to the wall, they seemed unable to believe.
The Expos told them by their acts. Carter began to dance and jump as he came home. White invented an impromptu Cadillac trot that was more a Peugot prance. The Expos erupted from the blow-torch warmth of their dugout to engulf White.
"I knew that was all Rogers would need," said White.
On the field, the Dodgers were motionless, like statues.
They seemed to be turning blue.
And not Dodger blue.
When White entered the Expos' locker room after this game, a long row of white towels was strewn from the clubhouse door to his locker and an incense candle had been lit in his stall, courtesy of Warren Cromartie and Bill Lee.
White never noticed the Expo equivalent of a red carpet; he meandered to his locker by a path that never touched a towel. "Jesus, Mary and Joseph," muttered an old clubhouse man, "he don't know what they're for."
White, like a true Expo, isn't accustomed to heroism yet. But, like his mates, he's learning fast.