Through the seventh inning tonight, most baseball eyes and minds left Mike Caldwell ever so briefly and focused on right fielder Charlie Moore. Could he or couldn't he see on that liner to right by Darrell Porter in the second? Was only a strand of lights keeping the ornery fellow on and off the mound from a no-hitter?
"Lost it a bit at first," Moore admitted, "and I slowed up. Thought I could have gotten it 'til then. Thought I had a good real good break on it. And when it came out of the lights I was too close, 'cause of the turf, and it just nicked my glove (and went past him enough for Porter to make second).
"No question; it would have been awfully disappointing for that to be the only hit."
No question when the 10-0 Brewer bombing stopped; no disappointments. Caldwell could get back to being clubhouse clown once again after pitching like Emmett Kelly lately. Porter and Ken Oberkfell even saved Moore with solid hits in the eighth. And the Brewers had some Card tricks up their sleeves.
"All that talk about turf and none of us being able to hit the long ball here might have gotten to a lot of teams," Moore said. "What we did was say to ourselves: 'Toronto. Opening game.' And dad gum if it didn't come out like that. This surely is the most runs we've scored in a long time."
And surely this was some of the most effective pitching in a long time, too.
"Caldwell warmed up on the corners," said pitching coach Cal McLish. "And he warmed up low. All his pitches were working. And when the first pitch was a ground ball (Robin Yount throwing out Tom Herr), I knew he'd be all right."
With their bats and disposition, the Cardinals were meek. They had 11 ground outs the first seven innings, and never complained once that Caldwell was thowing that euphemism for a spitter, the Staten Island sinker.
"He don't doctor it," McLish insisted. "Just has a good sinker."
And an attitude that dips and rises more than most.
With an abundance of hair and a pot-belly profile, Caldwell helps set the Brewers' team tone: tender and terrifying. Yount, Paul Molitor and some others seem like misplaced innocents among a gang of beer-inhaling refugees from a renegade bowling league.
"Yeah," McLish admitted. "Caldwell's kinda strange at times. His fun is a bit different from most people."
Those with squeamish stomachs might want to skip to the next paragraph. One of Caldwell's special ways of entertaining his mates is to send some spit soaring toward the ceiling, and then catch it in his mouth. He also is said to enjoy plucking the wings off bats.
Might he knock the lights out in the clubhouse after an especially galling defeat? McLish was asked.
"Yes," said the coach. He smiled and volunteered in that syrupy Oklahoma drawl: "He also might knock out the lights after he wins."
However he chooses to celebrate tonight will be fine with Milwaukee. Games against the Cardinals mostly are seven-inning affairs, won or lost before Bruce Sutter comes in from the bullpen. In retrospect, tonight's was a two-inning game.
"If you get the lead like we did," said Yount, "it also changes their game in another way: they can't run."
He seemed embarrassed.
"Some lucky hits out there (three of Molitor's record-setting five never left the infield)," he said. "Sure went where they weren't. But when you combine that with some solid shots the score'll pile right up."
Yount had four hits, yet still was not totally positive.
"Still not comfortable," he said of some problems that developed against the Angels. "Not seeing it much better. Didn't hit it that solid today. But it's getting closer."
The Brewers continued to win grandly under adverse conditions. Gorman Thomas (knee) and Ben Oglivie (ribs) are suffering from what football people call "nicks," and Rollie Fingers stayed idle in the bullpen. But the Brewers still kept Sutter's fingers off baseballs.
Caldwell was going so well that a few perfectionists groaned when he walked Herr with two out in the sixth. The bum. All he'd done before that was retire 12 in a row. So he struck out Lonnie Smith to end the inning.
For the Cardinals, Ozzie Smith was symbolic of their frustration. Three times he had a chance to show his special shortstop magic; three times he got to balls but had no play.
"Nice way to get started," Yount admitted.