In Hollywood westerns, when the good burghers of a town need help with some troublesome hombres, they often hire a gunslinger to solve the problem while they look the other way.
Like as not, the hired gun puts up at the local boarding house and eats his meals in plain sight as townsfolk whisper to each other, "There he is."
So, meet Don Sutton, the arm for hire who, for the last seven weeks, has been living on the 20th floor of the Marc Plaza Hotel just off Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee.
In his blue jeans and cowboy boots, Sutton rides the elevators, eats in the coffee shop and answers a million questions from gawkers who want to know how he's going to gun down the latest bad guys in town, be they the Orioles, Angels, or, now, Cardinals.
On Tuesday night (8:20, WRC-TV-4) here in Busch Stadium, Sutton -- the Milwaukee Brewers' late-season insurance policy -- will have a glorious opportunity that never crossed his path in 15 seasons as a Los Angeles Dodger.
Milwaukee's $1 million Aug. 30 gamble can win the clinching game of a World Series when the Brewers face the St. Louis Cardinals in the sixth game of the 79th classic.
Because Sutton has been so well-known for so long -- pitching 226 innings for a World Series-bound club way back in 1966 at the age of 21 -- it's easy to assume that such things must be old hat to him.
"Have I done that before?" responded Sutton, incredulously, when asked if he'd ever pitched a Series clincher. "My friend, I've never played on a team that won three games in a World Series, let alone four.
"I'm 0-1-2-2," said Sutton, referring to the number of games won by Dodger teams that lost the Series in 1966, '74, '77 and '78. "The Dodgers won the year before I came (in '65) and the year after I left ('81).
"And Bill Russell (of the Dodgers) won't let me forget it. When he sees me, he says, 'All we had to do was get rid of you and we won.' "
Obviously, this man is a nervous wreck. Didn't he let his team down by squandering leads of 3-0 and 4-2 in Game 2 here? Isn't it true that the city of St. Louis has a hex on him -- he hasn't won a game here in more than six years? If Sutton doesn't win, won't the Brewers then be slight underdogs in a seventh game when the Cardinals send sharp Joaquin Andujar against slumping Pete Vuckovich?
To all this, Sutton responds with true gunfighter cool.
"The only time I'm nervous is during the games I watch. Pitching doesn't make me fidgety . . . I've lost 193 games. I stopped reflecting on the ones I lost a long time ago . . . This is no time to start looking for mental Band-Aids.
"I've seen guys who couldn't pitch until they threw up. Terry Forster sat in a rocking chair. I just try to relax and be natural. Actually, a couple of times I've forgotten to go warm up.
"Couple years ago, we had a 7:35 game in L.A. which means at 7:10 I'd walk out to the bullpen to warm up. At 7:05, I wasn't even dressed. Just talking to a friend, I'd forgotten the game. Somebody had to say, 'Hey, dummy, you're on the line. Get ready.' "
The fellow who will face Sutton, just as in Game 2, will be rookie John Stuper, a 25-year-old whose first childhood memory of the World Series was "watching (Sandy) Koufax and (Don) Drysdale back in '66." Stuper said it as if that was the early Middle Ages. Don Sutton won a dozen games for the Dodgers that year.
Stuper's wit has been one of the Series' refreshing marks, although the righty's quick fifth-inning trip to the shower Wednesday hardly seemed like comic relief to him.
Even after that exit with a 9.00 ERA, Stuper was quickly back to his mock clubhouse interviews in the persona of "John Cosell."
The much-reported repartee after that Cardinal victory went thus:
Stuper to utility infielder Mike Ramsey: "Mike, one of the most surprising aspects of tonight's game was that Whitey (Herzog) actually gave you some playing time out there. As a player without any real talent, and one of the weakest mustaches in the league, how do you account for that?"
Ramsey to Stuper: "John, I admire myself. To play in this league with no talent is a tribute to me."
Fellow rookie starter Dave LaPoint to Stuper: "John, you threw a fast ball to fast-ball hitting Ted Simmons. That wasn't too bright."
Stuper to LaPoint: "Well, that's absolutely right, Dave. I tried challenging that hitter and he almost killed a fan out in the right field bleachers. So I thought that was enough challenging for one night."
For the most part, these two teams have settled into a mutual admiration society mood.
"They've got a bunch of gamers. We both do," says the Cardinals' Keith Hernandez. "We'll see how we rebound. We'll be back in our big ballpark, but they've got their ace going."
Only one dissenting word has been heard -- from that professional grump Vuckovich, bless his heart, who is sticking the needle in Andujar for his roll-all-over-the-mound-in-agony performance Friday night. On Sunday morning, Andujar's shin was not visibly swollen and looked normal, without even a noticeable discoloration.
"If there was nothing seriously broken, why couldn't he have gotten up, picked up the ball and thrown the guy out at first?" snorted Vuckovich. "Some guys have a lower threshold of pain than others."
Unless gunslinger Sutton, no fixed address, does his work well, Andujar and Vuckovich may yet have their day.