Every pitcher who has ever been named to start the opener in his first World Series has, no doubt, daydreamed about pitching the best game of his life on the night that millions, not thousands, are watching him.
Tonight, Mike Caldwell of the Milwaukee Brewers did it against the St. Louis Cardinals, and did it easily, 10-0, as his teammates got 17 hits, including a record five by third baseman Paul Molitor. The hard-bitten, gruff, always combative Caldwell gave up only three hits before a red-clad crowd of 53,723 that may have set a Series record for silence.
While the crusty Caldwell, known facetiously as Mr. Warmth, brought glory to himself in front of millions of viewers, the rest of the Brewers administered what St. Louis Manager Whitey Herzog called "an old-fashioned . . . kicking."
St. Louis was supposed to be the team of turf speedsters, the Brewers more like Clydesdales. But it was the men in Milwaukee blue who hit balls through holes, into gaps and, in general, out-cardinaled the Cardinals with 13 singles. Meanwhile, the Cardinals chopped 14 meek ground outs and looked helpless against Caldwell.
"We're lucky this only counts one game," said Herzog, whose team had not been beaten by 10 runs all season. "I'm glad we didn't have to play a doubleheader."
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night (WRC-TV-4 at 8:20). The scheduled pitchers are Don Sutton for Milwaukee against rookie John Stuper.
Molitor and Robin Yount, the Brewers' classy leadoff and No. 2 hitters, were their symbols tonight. They finished with nine hits, almost all of them the sort of exasperating bleeders, bloops and seeing-eye grounders that are St. Louis' trademark.
Molitor became the first man in 79 World Series, back to 1903, to get five hits in a game; all were singles. Three of Molitor's hits were grounders on which Ozzie Smith made spectacular backhand plays in the shortstop hole, but couldn't throw out Milwaukee's fastest runner. The final hit, in a four-run ninth, was bang-bang at first for the record.
"There's a great misunderstanding that we're a one-dimensional club," said Molitor. "We can adjust to any surface."
Yount also had a chance for a fifth hit in the ninth after three singles and a double. However, he struck out, leaving him tied with 40 others (not including Molitor). The last to get four hits in one game was Willie Stargell of Pittsburgh in 1979.
Also delighted was ex-Cardinal Ted Simmons, who returned to the town where he made his fame, and hit a fifth-inning homer. He also wanted to praise the Brewers' chop-and-chip attack.
"We have four people in a row who can create havoc on any surface by hitting balls in the gaps and the holes--Charlie Moore, Jim Gantner, Molitor and Yount. And they can all run."
This evening, those four had 13 hits.
The Cardinals had neither skill nor luck on their side tonight, and it was evident as early as the first inning, when the Brewers scored two runs and left the bases loaded against starter Bob Forsch.
Even though Forsch started falling behind hitters, he almost escaped the inning with no runs being scored.
He struck out Simmons with a slider for a called third strike. Then Ben Oglivie drove a one-hopper directly at Gold Glove first baseman Keith Hernandez.
The ball hit an imperfection in the threadbare carpet here and took as bad a flat nonhop as any rock on a grass field ever provided. The quick Hernandez never got his glove within a foot of the ball, although it did hit his foot before scooting to right field. Hernandez was given an error.
Yount scored and Cooper took third. Gorman Thomas stepped up in a excruciating one-for-30 slump that extended into the regular season. This time, the limping center fielder (twisted right knee) just hit a routine ground ball that found the shortstop hole for an RBI infield hit, instead of the double-play grounder that it just as easily could have been.
With runs in the fourth and fifth and two runs in the sixth, the Brewers had a 6-0 lead, with all the runs off Forsch, before the Cardinals had their second base runner.
The four-run ninth was just the Brewers' way of trying to get Molitor and Yount a chance for that record fifth hit. With two out and one on, Don Money and Moore singled, and with two outs and two strikes, Gantner hit an skimming grounder through second that turned into a two-run triple. That gave Molitor his chance. And Molitor gave Yount his.
Despite the offensive showing in this second most lopsided opener in Series history (the White Sox beat the Dodgers, 11-0, in '59), Caldwell was the true focus this night.
Caldwell, who has had a checkered 11-season career, had pitched only one game in which he had allowed fewer hits----a two-hitter several seasons back. Even in that game, he was not so totally free of trouble. He said that, under the circumstances, tonight's game was the best he ever pitched.
The numbers don't lie. Caldwell retired 17 of the first 18 Cardinals he saw and allowed only one hit (a double by Darrell Porter) and two base runners in the first seven innings. Until Porter and Ken Oberkfell grounded singles through the middle in the eighth, Caldwell didn't have a hint of a jam. Of his 101 pitches, 67 were strikes. At one point, Caldwell was so unimpressed by St. Louis bats that he started 10 consecutive hitters with a strike.
Before this game, Caldwell was asked what getting the nod in a Series opener would mean to him. "Exposure," he said.
Many fear the spotlight. Not Caldwell. He's waited long enough for it. Long ago, he was a young phenom so coveted that, in 1973, he was traded for Willie McCovey; the Giants were the ones who had to sweeten the deal with an extra player to get Caldwell. Then came elbow surgery (bone spurs) and a drifting, almost-lost span of three seasons. Before age 30, Caldwell looked washed up.
Then, in '78, former manager George Bamberger made him a prize reclamation project, emphasizing confidence, control and the Staten Island Sinker. Since then, Caldwell has flirted with semistardom, winning 22 in '78, while frequently relapsing into arm-trouble miseries.
The last month has been typical. After he won eight straight, his arm seemed dead, as he was routed in his last four starts. Manager Harvey Kuenn ordered a week's rest. The results showed this night.
Finally, at 33, Caldwell, from Tarboro, N.C., got the exposure he's wanted.
"That's one of the best games of my whole career," Caldwell said. "When they hit three grounders in the first, that gave me a lot of personal confidence . . . I talked to Simmons and (ex-Astro) Sutton before the game about how to pitch these guys. I used a few things they said . . . I was sharp warming up and I just wanted to keep it going."
Caldwell never suspected that, in his seven NL seasons, he hadn't won a game in St. Louis. "Glad I didn't know that," he said.
Simmons was the first to know what the Cardinals had on their hands. "His slider was right on the black, low and away, every time," said the catcher. "I said, 'This could be nice for a while.' "
It was nice for nine innings. By the time St. Louis tried hitting to the opposite field, all the Cardinals got were weak flies, except for one long drive by Dave Green caught by Moore before he smashed face-first into the right field fence.
Herzog was doubly despondent over watching Caldwell's performance because he knows his club has been weak against left-handers all year. Now, Caldwell could start three times in this series.
Herzog talked about Caldwell's "sinkers, sliders, scroogies and spitters" before the game, but said afterward he thought Caldwell had left his wet one on the sideline. "I don't think he had to use it, the way we were swinging," said Herzog.
As for his own starter, the quickly forgotten Forsch, Herzog volunteered, "I don't know if it was World Series jitters or not." Sure looked like it, though. Just days ago, it was Forsch who was pitching a Caldwell-like three-hit shutout to open the playoffs against Atlanta.
All in all, this was the worst possible beginning for the Cardinals. Milwaukee's excellent infield looked acrobatic and enthusiastic running down grounders and the Brewers outfield's lack of range was not exposed. Nobody even got a chance to test Simmons' arm. St. Louis hitters could hardly have looked more overanxious.
Now it is the Cardinals who must worry about a sudden misfortune in this Series, since they are sending rookie pitcher Stuper up against 258-game winner Sutton. Although 9-7 this season, Stuper was 6-14 in the minors the year before.
The Brewers only got one piece of bad news all night. Before the game, Marie Selig, 78, the mother of owner Bud Selig fell here in Busch Stadium and, it was reported later, suffered a broken hip.
And as though St. Louis hadn't suffered enough, Molitor gave the Cardinals something to sleep on. "We really didn't swing the bats very well tonight," he said. "Not the way we're capable."