The reporter asked if Don Sutton, after all these years, had any vivid memories of a particularly wearisome stop in the baseball bushes. He certainly did.
"Helped build the park there, in fact," Sutton said. "I put in the outfield fence. They even let me build the pitcher's mound. Naturally, it was illegal. I built it too high."
This was before Sutton tried -- and failed -- to win the World Series for the Milwaukee Brewers tonight, in Game 6 here against the Cardinals. His pace was as finely balanced with a lineup of newsmen, fast one-liners, nibbling at the emotional corners, as he'd wanted it to be facing a Cardinal team uncommonly successful against him.
Given his history of performing so well in important games, would Sutton rather have anyone but himself pitching tonight? To similar questions, most athletes puff out their chest and huff: "I'm the one I'd want for all the marbles."
Sutton said: "Actually, I'd rather have a 29-year-old Sandy Koufax or a 26-year-old Tom Seaver out there." Seeing as how that was impossible, he guessed a 37-year-old Sutton would do.
"Wish I could locate the 'out man' in that (Cardinal) lineup," he said, referring to his 7-14 lifetime record in St. Louis. "You usually can. But Whitey (Herzog) always neglects to write his name in."
Sutton was shelled for seven runs, including two homers, before leaving in the fifth inning, just as the game was delayed by rain.
"I threw two good ones, one ugly one, two bloopers and one down the middle," he said. "They took a page out of our (long ball) book. I didn't do my job consistently enough. I felt sharp throughout the game. For me, its not a matter of a few inches short on a fast ball. I just couldn't put the ball in the right spots, and you can't get away with that against a good hitting club."
Having joined the team in late August as so obvious a high-priced mercenary, what General Manager Harry Dalton called "seizing the moment," did Sutton feel any early discomfort in the Brewer clubhouse?
"Well," he said, "there was a firecracker under my chair five minutes after I arrived. And my cap was lubricated when I went on the field. So I guess I fit in right away."
Milwaukee winning tonight would have enabled Sutton to achieve all the pre-pro goals he'd set for himself:
"To be a starting pitcher; to be an all-star; to start a World Series game; to win a World Series game; to be on a team that won the World Series."
Brewers lefty Bob McClure on what the return of Rollie Fingers would mean to himself and right-handed short-reliever Peter Ladd: "When that happens, neither one of us is needed."
With Fingers absent through Game 5, the Brewers bullpen allowed only four hits and one earned run in 6 2/3 innings. The more renowned, Sutter-studded Cardinals pen gave up 11 runs and 19 hits in 13 1/3 innings.
Cardinal Manager Herzog said he told Joaquin Andujar before Game 3 that a shutout would be worth a new Cadillac. After 6 1/3 innings of scoreless pitching, Andujar was carried off the field with a leg injury caused by a one-hop grounder hit by Ted Simmons.
"He came to me later," Herzog said, "and thought he still ought to have the Cadillac. I said: 'Go see (Bruce) Sutter (who surrendered a two-run homer to Cecil Cooper).' That wasn't any shutout."
That blow by Simmons, which traveled perhaps 50 feet before it hit Andujar and another 60 at a right angle, might turn out to be the pivotal one of the Series.
With a 5-0 lead in the seventh, Herzog probably brought Sutter in too quickly. With Sutter pitching to 10 men the night before, Herzog refused to use him the next afternoon during that six-run Brewers rally in the seventh. If Simmons' shot had been inches another direction, Andujar likely would have finished Friday, and the worst thing for Herzog would be being out a car.
Herzog grew up a Yankee fan in Cardinals and St. Louis Browns country, New Athens, Ill., a town of about 1,900 about 35 miles from here. Once he got Joe DiMaggio's autograph, then lost it during the bus ride back home and cried most of the night. Next time he went out of his way to get it, Herzog didn't lose his hero's gift.
Ironically, the Yankees signed Herzog to his first pro contract, and said he'd replace DiMaggio as their center fielder. Somehow, the scout failed to mention another prospect, from another small town, the Yanks had recently signed: Mickey Mantle.
Another reason even devoted Cardinals fans have problems rooting against Milwaukee Manager Harvey Kuenn:
"He was getting ready (for Game 3 Friday morning) and I could tell he was in a hurry," said his wife, Audrey. "Suddenly, a little old man comes in here (the bar the Kuenns own and live behind) and says: 'I lost my leg. I really can't get around very good on my artificial leg and can't find anybody to help.'
"I told the man that Harvey was in a hurry, but that I would talk with him. I went back and told Harvey the story." Kuenn talked to the man for 20 minutes. "He even went into the closet and got his other (artificial) leg out," Audrey added. "He told him where he got his leg and how to get a better fit. The guy was in seventh heaven."
Dalton on Robin Yount: "He reminds me of Brooks Robinson. So level-headed; a pro player in the highlight series of his career. Brooks would get his hits, drive in his 100 runs, play wonderful defense and then always play well in the big games."
Former shortstop Kuenn on Yount: "If anybody can get better, he will."
Cardinals catcher Darrell Porter, who played with the Brewers when Yount broke into the majors, at 18: "I've never seen him ruffled. That's one of the most important ingredients in a player, because you see how many times you fail in this stupid game."
If the Brewers win the Series, doing it here would be a blessing to Milwaukee policemen. The town went daffy enough celebrating Sunday's success in Game 5. One harried cop called it "an accident looking for a place to happen."