The difference today between Rick Monday and Steve Rogers, between the Dodgers and Expos, was one run, one pitch, the infinitesimal difference between a smile and a frown.
"See, the problem is in a very close game, in the fifth game of the championship series, the difference between comedy and tragedy is really sitting on a thread," said Monday, all crow's-feet and bloodshot eyes. "There's a pair of scissors ready to cut it. But you don't know who is gonna do it or when."
He did it with a home run in the top of the ninth to a man who deserved better. "It's funny," Rogers said, "I can see those two faces, the smile and the frown. They were both right there to put up on the wall. I got the one with the frown."
Rogers, who had pitched the Expos into October (with three postseason victories), came in to pitch in relief, for the third time in his career, in the top of the ninth with the score tied, 1-1.
On Saturday, Tommy Lasorda benched Ken Landreaux and made Monday, a part-time player and pinch hitter in 1981, his playoff right fielder. "I'm just glad nobody stole his crystal ball," Monday said.
With two outs, and the count 3-1, Monday, who had 11 home runs in 130 at bats in the irregular 1981 season, hit one over the center field wall.
In the Expo locker room, there was a sign on the chalkboard: "Plane leaves for New York after the game." The bags slumped below it weren't going to New York. "I guess it's ironic," Rogers said. "I guess I'll have to put up with all those questions again, 'Why can't I win the big ones?' "
He smiled wanly. "I was one pitch short of a fairy-tale ending. One pitch short, that's all."
Andre Dawson, the Hawk, looked more like a wounded dove after failing to drive in a single run this month. "I'm not putting the blame on myself," he said. "I'm just disappointed that when the team needed me most, I wasn't at my best. It's been that way for the last three or four weeks, the longest slump of my career. After two weeks, I thought I'd come out of it." He shrugged.
Down the hall, the Dodgers were drinking and spraying champagne. None of that tacky California stuff; it was imported French Mumms. Dusty Baker pushed through the crowd, yelling: "I gotta get in; they drink fast in there."
Inside his teamates were crooning, an ironic, final chorus of "Fol-der-eee, fol-der-aaa," the fight song north of the border.
Monday, who has the mellifluous baritone of an incipient color commentator, slapped backs, and intoned: "The Fall Classic, the Fall Classic."
Today, Monday -- "Old Blue," they were calling him -- was the Fall Classic.
"There's a few old goats on this team too," he said, referring to the Yankees, and his former roomate Graig Nettles, who helped save some of his teamates from social security during the American League championship series. (Monday and Nettles were roomies in 1964 when playing on a semipro team in Fairbanks, Alaska). "We had to save the vets."
A lot of things go through a man's mind when he hits a home run to win the pennant. Monday, who is 35, and a 15-year veteran, said: "One of the things that went over, I mean, through mine was the decision I have to make whether or not to play baseball next year. Why the hell that went through my mind, I don't know."
Monday, who has several broadcasting opportunities open to him, spoke with Al Campanis, the Dodgers' vice president of player personel, about it after the Dodgers were down two games to none to Houston. They will speak again after the World Series. Today, Monday says, "will make the decision pleasantly more difficult."
Monday's wife Tere was standing somewhat dazed, and more than somewhat wet, outside the clubhouse, when her husband rushed by (on his way to the interview room), depositing a kiss on her lips, and a bottle of champagne in her hand.
"You always like to go out on the top of your heap," she said. "But I never thought he got to the top of the heap. If the Dodgers want him (his contract is up this year), I think he'll play. He won't go anywhere else."
Monday did not see the ball clear the fence and could not remember what his teamates had to say afterward. "I think they were bored with me," he said.
His wife never saw him cross the plate. "I was swarmed," she said.
If he had to make the decision whether to quit, right then, in the swarm of emotion that followed the home run, what, he was asked, would he have done?
Monday smiled and said: "When I crossed the plate, my teammates were really beating on me and I might have elected to go into broadcasting."
After all, it was a prime time.