The play was as simple to execute as, well, as grabbing the can of beer Dave LaPoint now held in the Cardinals' clubhouse.

In one instant, he was a World Series hero, nursing a four-run lead with one out in the seventh inning today; in the next, having failed to catch a ball nearly anyone who watched could have, LaPoint was on his way to becoming LaDunce.

"Your basic brick," he said. "That's how it landed, here." With the beer can, he pointed to the root of the index finger on his left hand. That's where a belt-high scoop throw by first baseman Keith Hernandez clunked off his glove. The ball bounced to the ground; LaPoint bounced to a spot in Series infamy.

Embarrassed, LaPoint had smiled ever so slightly at the time. Hernandez, who had fielded the 0-2 bad-hop grounder by Ben Oglivie, offered advice and comfort. "Don't worry about it," he said. "Get the next one."

That's what bothered LaPoint more than anything. The boot may be one of those passed from generation to baseball generation, depending on whether the Brewers use it as a springboard only for today's 7-5 victory or for the entire Series championship.

LaPoint will be haunted more, he said, by a pitch later to Jim Gantner.

Let's reset the scene with LaPoint.

"I'd been doing pretty much what I'd wanted," he said, recalling that only three of the five previous Brewers hits had left the infield. "I was getting ahead early, then using off-speed pitches for the outs."

Ironically, LaPoint had gotten the ultimate hero, Gorman Thomas, on a pop foul to catcher Darrell Porter to start the inning. Came a tight inside pitch to Oglivie; came the start of a six-run landslide.

First baseman to pitcher covering. It's a play practiced hundreds, maybe thousands of times. Routine. And LaPoint arrived in plenty of time to make the catch and tag the bag, although he might have taken his eye off the ball momentarily. "A play I should have had, but no reason to be rattled," he said to reporters crowded 15 deep as he sat facing his locker, probably in a tone he'd used to scold himself on the way back to the mound. "One out, man on first, four-run lead. No sense worrying.

"I knew if I made my pitches I'd get out of it."

He thought the goof on Oglivie had passed by the second pitch to Don Money.

"Yes," LaPoint admitted, "that still bothered me on the first pitch to the next guy. But I walked off the mound, then threw good pitches."

The second pitch to Money evened the count; the next one broke Money's bat, and eventually helped break LaPoint and the Cardinals by landing in right field. Still, he recovered and got Charlie Moore on a pop to short. Two down, men on first and second; he'd gotten Gantner the time before to end his other serious jam.

That was a double play grounder Ozzie Smith had grabbed and touched second almost in the same motion, then thrown to first. The left-handed Gantner hit a one-hopper to third on his first at-bat.

"I'd been pitching him away all day," LaPoint said. "I decided to come in on him. That's what I'd done to Oglivie (producing what should have been a harmless grounder). He hit a pitch I didn't think he'd be looking for."

Hit a gapper to right-center. Still a three-run lead, however, with two on and two out. But no place for LaPoint.

"Momentum was shifting," he admitted. "Time to get somebody else in."

Time for additional evidence to suggest someone had determined victory wouldn't be either in the Cards, or the cards, this day. Doug Bair walked Paul Molitor to load the bases, then wild-high Bair's fourth pitch to Robin Yount was ball three. High and impossibly tight.

Yount checked his swing, made contact anyway and drove in two more runs with a blooper to right.

"Nothing you can do about it," said Bair, showing more emotion than LaPoint. "The man I had to get out I didn't. Simple. No excuses. My job all year; I didn't do it today."

And with Bruce Sutter tuckered from having to face 10 Brewers in relief Friday night, neither did two other relievers. Six runs scored between the second Brewer out and the third.

Had Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog considered using Sutter to get that precious out?

"No. Here's the guys who've done it for us all year, and now you tell me to use Sutter for one out. Well, hindsight's always nice. It sure didn't help to have LaPoint drop the ball. I don't know how he dropped it; it turned out to be a nightmare."

Until that sad seventh, LaPoint was pitching a dream game against the team that sent him to the Cardinals in that heralded, massive swap two years ago. In his first full season this year, LaPoint was 9-3; the Cardinals were 16-5 in games he started.

"Milwaukee gave me the break," he said.

The noise from the exceptionally boisterous fans here was never a factor, he insisted.

"Got in my bubble (of concentration) right away," he said. "Sometimes you'll hear the crowd, or pick out somebody in the stands. All I saw today was Darrell Porter's finger and Darrell Porter's glove. You have to be like that, or you won't be around very long."

LaPoint admits being a mediocre fielder.

"That ball Yount hit back at me (an inning earlier)," he said, "I didn't know I had in my glove."

He paused, possibly soaking in the bitter irony a bit longer. A ball he never saw magically landed in his glove; a ball he'd almost have to work not to catch 9,999 times out of 10,000 wouldn't stay put.

"Just blew it," he said.