hen the World Series begins here on Tuesday night, baseball will be witness to the most dramatic, and perhaps most significant, contrast in playing styles since the National League champions of the 1920s were forced to cope with Babe Ruth and the home runs of the New York Yankees.
What the Milwaukee Brewers, an excellent team built along entirely traditional lines, will see when they get beneath the giant arch here is a sprint-relay St. Louis Cardinals team that symbolizes a baseball revolution as surely as Ruth's Yankees were the embodiment of the lively ball era.
In fact, just a fortnight hence, many casual fans of the game may suddenly be starkly aware of a trend that those inside the game have been watching with fascination and suspicion for much of the last decade: baseball is becoming two sports -- one in cozy grass parks and another in spacious turf pinball arcades.
Teams built for one surface -- especially the denizens of the slow-paced grass world -- often find themselves disoriented, dazzled and demoralized when exposed to the other form of their game.
Never before in any World Series has a true turf terror, like these Cardinals who stole 200 bases while chopping and chipping hits to all fields, played an old-fashioned grass behemoth such as the Brewers, with their 216 homers and their five consecutive hitters with an average of 109 RBI per man.
Actually, a grass team has met a turf team only four times in the Series, in 1971, '72, '75 and '76; on the last three occasions, the turf team was the Cincinnati Reds -- a club built around such great players as Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Pete Rose, whose excellence had nothing to do with the fields on which they played.
To sense the radical nature of the difference in approach of the Brewers and Cardinals in this evenly matched Series, only one bare fact need be mentioned. The Brewers are first in baseball with 216 home runs while the Cardinals are last with 67 -- a power gap of 149 homers. Nothing even remotely approaching this has ever happened.
In the history of the Series since '03, there have only been three differentials of more than 100 homers -- the Tigers (185) and the Cardinals (73) in '68, the Yankees (174) and the Cubs (65) in '38, and, most applicable, the legendary Yankees of '27 (158) and the Pirates (54).
Those '27 Yankees, 'tis said, set up a four-game sweep by astounding the Pirates with one batting practice display. Yet even the '27 Yankees didn't more than triple their foes' home run total, as the Brewers have.
When the Cardinals' Bob Forsch (15-9) faces the Brewers' Mike Caldwell (17-13) here at 8:30 (EDT), many will focus on other interesting contrasts and comparisons between these teams. And there are many.
* Milwaukee is the town made famous by beer, while the Cardinals are owned by beer baron August A. Busch. The Brewers have a vast beer stein on their center field wall into which mascot Bernie Brewer slides after home runs; the Cardinals' park is decked with signs and slogans hawking the owner's product, right down to a familiar beer company jingle frequently played on the house organ to inspire the home team.
Within minutes of the Cardinals' sweep of Atlanta, it was inevitable that this be known as The Suds Series. Or the Beer Brawl.
* Both Milwaukee and St. Louis are middle-American cities, proud of maintaining traditional national values, and, perhaps defiantly proud of not following the fads of either coast. As Brewers' Cecil Cooper said today, "I think it's great that we get some new blood in the World Series. Every year, it seems like it's the Dodgers and Yankees ('77-78-81). This will give people a chance to see some new faces."
* Both teams, the wisecrack goes, were built by Cardinal General Manager Whitey Herzog. Obviously, Herzog has completely transformed St. Louis, applying all the same ideas that brought him three division titles with the Kansas City Royals. The other edge of the knife is that one of Herzog's many trades was a colossal bonanza for the Brewers; Harry Dalton, Milwaukee mastermind, relieved Herzog of '81 MVP Rollie Fingers, potential '82 Cy Young winner Pete Vuckovich and all-star catcher Ted Simmons (97 RBI) in exchange for Lary Sorensen, Dave LaPoint, Sixto Lezcano and Dave Green. How appropriate that Milwaukee's Dalton Gang -- a band that consciously goes out of its way to look hairy, dirty, roguish and intimidating -- should have been sparked to greatness by a virtual robbery.
Be all this as it may, the 1982 World Series will probably be best remembered as the first of what may become many vital showdowns between teams so tailored to their parks, and so antithetical to each other, that the home field advantage suddenly reaches the disproportionate importance usually associated with pro basketball.
The Brewers, fresh from winning the first pennant in their franchise's history, are a club built along the classic lines of the '50s Yankees and Dodgers. Harvey's Wallbangers have five players with more than 95 RBI while the Cardinals have only one. Milwaukee has competent, if unspectacular, starting pitching as Don Sutton and Vuckovich will follow Caldwell. The Brewers infield is wonderfully adept.
On the down side, Milwaukee's defensive range in the outfield was average before Gorman Thomas (questionable starter) hurt his right knee and Ben Oglivie (probable) bruised his ribs last weekend. Now, that range could be even worse. The Cardinals are just the sort of line-drive, gap-hitting team that could expose the Brewers' limits and their injuries, especially here.
Also, Simmons' arm behind the plate has its ups and down. Down time against the Cardinals, who have seven double-figure bases stealers, led by Lonnie (Reckless) Smith (68 steals), could be disastrous.
If the Baltimore Orioles could steal three bases and work two hit-and-runs in one game last Saturday against Milwaukee, only pleas for mercy may stop the St. Louis base path onslaught.
On the St. Louis side, the Cardinals have fair-to-midling starting pitching, a great bullpen with Bruce Sutter and Doug Bair, a slightly above-average offense (fifth in the NL in runs) and a defense with surrealistic range in the outfield and at shortstop where the Wizard of Oz, Ozzie Smith, might become a national cult figure. Also, Herzog might manage Harvey Kuenn into a pretzel.
The Cardinals will follow Forsch with John Stuper (9-7) and Joaquin Andujar (15-10). If these hardly seem like the fellows necessary to incarcerate the True Blue Brew Crew, whose 891 runs this season were 206 more than St. Louis scored, then one pertinent statistic should be cited. Forsch, Stuper and Andujar allowed only 35 homers in 607 innings. Like the whole St. Louis staff, which only allowed 94 homers, they specialize in low fast balls which are not unhittable but which are often unhomerable.
St. Louis has only three blue-chip offensive players -- Lonnie Smith (.307, 120 runs), Keith Hernandez (.299, 94 RBI) and George Hendrick (.282, 104 RBI) -- to the Brewers' six. Even if Rollie Fingers remains a mystery man, it seems unlikely that the Brewers staff will give the Cardinals more than a handful of stolen runs. In other words, no easy victories. And the Brewers always waiting in the wings for a big inning. That's losts of pressure.
In the final analysis, this World Series cannot be analyzed. These teams have never played each other; in fact, its probable that in history no two excellent teams which are so opposite have ever met for such high stakes. Or, at least not since the '20s.
The Cardinals could run the tired Brewers to dust, rob them of extra base hits with their outfield speed and neutralize their power with smart pitching and a big park.
Or, the Cardinals might not average more than three runs a game under Series tension and the Brewers, who have four pretty fair slashing "turf" style hitters batting in a row -- No. 9 Jim Gantner, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount and Cooper -- might have a surprisingly easy time.
The best that can be hoped is a fortnight of parrying between these utterly different approaches to the same game. No two teams ever seemed like better foils to bring out the best, and expose the worst, in each other.