The unshaven visage of Gorman Thomas glittered with a coating of champagne in the bright lights of victory. His left ankle bled. His right knee was bandaged. Thomas is the hairy-chested type. He once went hunting deer with a revolver and a knife. You get the feeling it's always Miller time for Stormin' Gorman, who took a swig of champagne before putting this thing in perspective.
"Right now we're all talking garbage, afterthoughts and hindsights and bullfeathers," he said in the madding crowd of the Milwaukee Brewers' clubhouse. "Next week we're all going to be as high as Georgia pines, and if you've never seen Georgia pines, they are tall."
Next week is the World Series, the first ever for the Brewers.
"The ultimate center stage of your profession," Thomas said. "We're going to the Grand Ol' Opry of baseball."
Part of the Series will be on St. Louis' artificial turf and the Brewers played only a few carpet games this season.
"I will play on spikes. Pins and needles. Cowstuff. We're going. Twenty minutes I was low-keyed, relaxed. But now it's setting in . . . We may not have played Wallbanger ball, but we played good enough to win."
For Manager Harvey Kuenn, the Brewers hit most of their major league-leading 214 home runs this season. Thomas had 39.
On the day the Brewers earned the right to play on cowstuff, they didn't do it with Wallbanging.
They did it with a jam shot, a ball hit off the handle of the bat so weakly it causes bench jockeys to ask, "Oooh, did it hurt, Alice?"
No hairy hero with a 400-foot home run.
No Wallbanger. Call it a Brewblooper.
The hero was a balding catcher-turned-outfielder who asked last winter to be traded. The hero was Charlie Moore, a .254 hitter with six home runs. The hero's 100-foot blooper with one out in the seventh inning began a two-run rally that gave the Brewers the 4-3 lead they held forever.
The hero hit a ball so weakly a Little Leaguer could have caught it. But fate directed it to earth six inches from the falling reach of the nearest Angel. From little acorns, for want of a nail -- who knows what leads to grand conclusions? From Charlie Moore's silly little bloop grew a rally that four hitters later put a Milwaukee team in the World Series for the first time in 24 years.
"A jam shot," Moore said. "It couldn't have missed my fingers two inches. I hit it as hard as you could hit a ball hitting it on that part of that bat -- and it never even made it to the dirt."
The bloop rose maybe 20 feet in the air, floating 40 feet past the pitcher, falling to earth on the infield grass. It clearly was a difficult play for either second baseman Bobby Grich or first baseman Rod Carew.
"I didn't react immediately," Grich said, "because on a jam shot you can't tell at first how hard it's hit. I thought I'd get to it, but I couldn't tell. Finally I made a desperate lunge. It was right on the tip of my glove."
The first base umpire called Moore out. But home plate umpire Don Denkinger overruled him. Television replays showed Grich caught the ball on a short hop.
"This is my 11th year in the big leagues and that's probably the first time that's ever happened to me, a ball falling in front of me like that. You know what? As soon as I came up with it, I remembered the Billy Martin pop up."
In the 1952 World Series, second baseman Martin made a running, desperate catch of a Jackie Robinson infield fly that, carried by the wind, nearly eluded confused Yankee infielders. It was the seventh inning of the sixth game. The Yankees won that day and the next.
In center field today, the Angels' Fred Lynn worried when he saw Moore's jam shot fall. "That kind of freak thing can get a team moving," he said later.
"Oh, man," said Angels Manager Gene Mauch. "I've seen balls fall like that hundreds of times. But I've never seen it lead to runs of that magnitude."
Carew might have caught the ball, he said, except that circumstances intervened. Late in the game, he moved nearer first base to limit extra-base hits.
"If I had been playing my normal position, I might have had a better shot at it," he said. "The wind had something to do with it, too. It held the ball back. Instead of carrying farther, it fell quicker."
How fate works: Moore decided against a trade this spring when the Brewers said he could compete for an outfield job. So in the seventh inning of the biggest game of his career, a six-homer man banjoes a bloop off his knuckles. Because it's late in the game, because there's a nice breeze, because the Brewers then get two legitimate hits under pressure--because of all this, fate brings Gorman Thomas to a champagne bottle in the locker room.
What did Thomas do when he was replaced in the eighth inning? The Brewers, knowing Thomas couldn't run, sent in a kid, Marshall Edwards, to play centerfield.
"I came in here," Thomas said, meaning the clubhouse, "and paced from Attitude to Exit." Those are signs over clubhouse doors. "I couldn't watch it on television."
And what now? "We're making a flight tomorrow," Gorman Thomas said. Earlier, in the California clubhouse, someone asked Reggie Jackson the same question.
"I've never been one for watching the World Series," said Jackson, who has played in five of the last nine Series. "It's a great time to go horseback riding and ride around town because nobody's around."