Nearly everyone in County Stadium was standing, except for the loony hanging by his knees over the right-field fence, his back against the wall. Behind the Brewer dugout before the top of the ninth, a woman carried a twig with a plastic cardinal tied to a tiny branch and a sign that read: "Dead Birds."
Not quite. The Brewers had concocted a wonderfully potent knockout drink with unfamiliar ingredients today in Game 5 of the World Series. What was missing was the usual chaser of drama.
"Our daily stress test," owner Bud Selig calls it.
Coming right up.
"You go out there, see a four-run lead on the scoreboard and hope you don't need that many," catcher Ted Simmons said later. "Then all of a sudden you see the tying run at the plate."
Having survived that scare, St. Louis and the frightful flock of fans who seemed to have popped up from under the infield as the final out settled in Ben Oglivie's glove, having won the game that history shows usually determines the Series winner, Simmons was exhausted and exasperated.
"The guys over there want it as badly as we do," he said, slowly, emphasizing each word. "That's why the games are the way they are. There is no advantage nowhere. It's two teams trying to beat each other's brains out. What you get you earn."
The Brewers earned a 3-2 split in the Series the old fashioned baseball way, with their gloves. Very few wallbangers; only one wallover. Lots of face-in-the-the-turf gritty defense. Starting with Simmons in the first and running through Paul Molitor in the fourth, Charlie Moore in the fifth and Cecil Cooper in the seventh, the Brewers caught almost everything and everybody that moved.
It's about time the baseball nation has caught that act, they claim.
"Everybody figured before the Series we were just a bunch of lumberjacks cutting down big trees," said Simmons. "But after five games they've seen more than that. Nice. Really nice. Like (Jim) Gantner moving a guy up a base (with a right-side grounder); like all that great D."
Starting with his own perfect peg to third in the first, when the luckless Lonnie Smith tried to steal third after he'd swiped second easily. Simmons made them pay for that greed.
Brewers' defense was so good that a couple of Molitor plays and one by shortstop Robin Yount that ordinarily would rate raves scarcely get mentioned. Cooper's dive into the hole and throw, while yet off his feet, to Mike Caldwell and Moore's diving catch of Lonnie's liner were that sensational.
"Actually," said Molitor, "we've been showing what kind of team we are the last several weeks: double plays, throws to the plate, coming from behind with two outs. We actually haven't relied on the long ball all that much of late."
The mix that has the Cardinals dizzy at the moment also includes Caldwell, who has mustered two of the three Brewers victories.
In baseball shorthand, Simmons explained Caldwell's success: "Sinker; slider; down; ahead; made 'em hit; lotta ground balls. For seven innings today, he was identical to Game 1 (when Caldwell pitched a three-hit shutout). But you can't go for 16 innings in a row and not expect a great team like the Cardinals to get on him."
As you can see by now, Simmons doesn't want to rattle the Cardinals to their senses with anything inflammatory. Neither does Caldwell want to tempt the baseball gods. Which is why he chooses to wear such a tattered cap and risk frostbite by rejecting the usual long-sleeved undershirt that autumn weather demands.
"Got the hat the second half of the season," he explained, "and pitched good. You don't win games with a new hat on. Put it right back where it belongs." That meant atop his locker, between a 10-gallon hat and one for golf.
"Not wearing a shirt has nothing to do with macho. It's another superstition. Once a World Series starts you don't feel the cold (on the mound) anyway. I went outside today and it was a little warmer (low 50s for the first late-afternoon pitch) than I thought it'd be.
"And that makes the arm a little more crooked. Helps the sinker."
Helps to have a Yount on your team. And shouldn't we be calling him Mount Yount? He does tower over everyone in baseball just now.
"Most shortstops would take half his season stats and consider it a super year," said his backup, Rob Picciolo. "I'm certainly one of them."
Would Yount still be considered quite good if he only brought his glove to the park each day?
"Now he would," Picciolo said. "I don't know about earlier in his career. Now he comes in on ground balls as well as anyone I've ever seen."
As usual lately, Yount has made a special collective effort even dicier. This was the third straight important Sunday the Brewers have won grandly. They beat the Orioles to win the American League East; they beat the Angels to win the American League pennant; they beat the Cards today. Of the previous 30 best-of-seven World Series tied at two, the winner of Game 5 eventually won the championship 23 times.
"I don't like to think of us winning so often under such immense pressure an edge," Simmons said. "What's nice is to have been in those kind of games. I don't know if it's an advantage, but it does have a settling effect. We say: 'Hey, we can win this game.' And even if we don't, we've had bigger problems."
"First time we haven't had our backs to the wall," Moore added.