The Midwest's baseball beer bash ended tonight just as every crimson-to-the-bone, stomp-your-feet-in-the-Mississippi-mud St. Louis Cardinals fan hoped and knew that it would.
All the right Redbirds did all the proper things at exactly the most opportune times in the seventh game of the World Series to bring the Cardinals a 6-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers and present this traditional, baseball-loving town with its first world championship in 15 years.
Stan Musial and Dizzy Dean, Pepper Martin and Orlando Cepeda, Leo Durocher and Ducky Medwick, Bob Gibson and Marty Marion will have to make room now for this night's additions to the St. Louis pantheon of stars.
Swing wide the doors of the game's lore for Joaquin Andujar, who won this game, and for Bruce Sutter, who saved it.
Spread a place at the banquet for Keith Hernandez, whose base hit on his birthday tied this battle, and for George Hendrick, whose hit moments later won it.
Sing the praises of the Smiths, Lonnie and Ozzie, related only in their brazen skills.
And don't forget catcher Darrell Porter, who, in the biggest election upset in these parts since Truman beat Dewey, somehow got picked as Series most valuable player, an honor that, while not undeserved, was even more perplexing than his selection as playoff MVP.
Perhaps above all, clear a seat at the main dais, right next to Branch Rickey, for Whitey Herzog, the manager, general manager and all-purpose guru who, in just two years, created the first genuine team for artificial surface that won a world title.
The Cardinals, a losing club in disarray just two seasons ago, laid a vintage licking on the Brewers this chilly evening, coming from behind with dash and cocky elan.
This high-spirited Suds Series between two brewery burgs had its final crisis and its last turning point in the sixth inning as the two men at the heart of the Cardinals' order -- Hernandez and Hendrick -- got back-to-back clutch singles to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead. The victim of those hits was relief loser Bob McClure, a gentleman whose presence Manager Harvey Kuenn desired but Milwaukee fans may spend the winter debating.
After that turnabout, it was a little bit of Andujar, a lot of Sutter and, finally, plenty of fireworks over Busch Stadium as the Cardinals completed an unlikely comeback from a three-games-to-two deficit just two days ago.
At every juncture, the perfect Cardinal was demonstrating his exact role in the Herzog scheme of things.
The Redbirds' flashy ace of staff, Andujar -- the man who was carried off the field in Milwaukee just five days ago after a line drive hit his shin -- returned this night to win his second game of the Series.
Andujar set an early-inning tone of defiance and confidence, managed to last through seven innings of seven-hit pitching, then orchestrated a pyrotechnic exit as he screamed curses at the Brewers' Jim Gantner as he left the field after the seventh inning. Herzog, worried that Andujar "might lose control" because he's "a little high-strung," called for Sutter to start the eight; the dropballer got all six Brewers he faced, finishing the Series with two saves, a victory and a dramatic final-pitch strikeout of home run champion Gorman Thomas.
In the night's most amusing aside, the still-excited Andujar gave a mass press conference a word-for-word account of his nationally televized blue exchange with Gantner.
According to Andujar, Gantner called him a "hotdog featherduster." To which Andujar replied, "Well, frog you, featherduster. Come on, I'll kick your grass."
"That's me," summarized Andujar, who, in the AA minor leagues, was ejected from three games in which he was working on no-hitters. "I don't take nothin' off anybody."
Said Brewers pitcher Don Sutton, "He rose to the occasion. Here in St. Louis, he was led to understand that they believed in him. Someone touched his happy button."
Of Herzog, Andujar said, "I've been playing a total of 13 years, seven of them in the majors, and this is the first time a manager has given me the ball and let me pitch.
"When I was at Houston I was back and forth between starting and the bullpen."
Andujar was acquired from Houston on June 6, 1981, in exchange for outfielder Tony Scott.
Andujar said his injured right knee started bothering him at the beginning of the seventh inning, but "I made up my mind nothing was going to stop me or beat me tonight. I told my teammates that tonight nothing was going to beat me."
If this game, and this Series, had one most important swing, it was probably Hernandez's, which sent a line drive hit to right with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth.
To that point, the Brewers had built a 3-1 lead on the strength of Ben Oglivie's home run in the fifth and a quick, two-run strike in the sixth. In the space of six Andujar pitches to open that sixth, Gantner doubled, Paul Molitor beat out a bunt, Andujar threw the ball into right field for an error, Robin Yount beat out a chop as Andujar forgot to cover first and Cecil Cooper hit a sacrifice fly.
However, the speedy, space-age Cardinals, whose 67 home runs this year were last in the majors, retaliated instantly, loading the bases in the sixth. Ozzie Smith's single and Lonnie Smith's double finished Brewers starter Pete Vuckovich after 10 hits and brought on McClure, the left-hander who already had saved two games and lost one.
Hernandez, 29 today, entered the game with a .208 Series batting average and two errors. The four-time Gold Glove and one-time batting champion was getting the razz from teammates asking him, "Did that gold (glove) turn to steel" and, "Did that silver (bat) turn to Swiss cheese."
That silver bat helped turn this town into an all-night party, beer with a champagne chaser. No sooner had Hernandez tied this game with his liner to center than Hendrick, he of the 104 RBI this season, drilled a hit-'em-where-they-ain't single to right off McClure for a 4-3 lead.
McClure and Hernandez grew up, in McClure's words, "a couple of blocks from each other" in Pacifica, Calif., near San Francisco.
If there was one slightly hidden Cardinal who proved to be the ignition key this evening, it was leadoff man Lonnie (Wreckless) Smith, the epitome of the gambling, sometimes goofy, but always exciting player that Herzog loves to set free on the ersatz grass.
Smith's infield hit scored the Cardinals' first run, in the fourth. Cut the deck, so to speak. His double over the bag at third in the sixth set up the Cardinals' game-turning, three-run inning and sent Vuckovich, who had bravely worked out of three jams, to the showers. Smith's comic but excellent, turn-the-wrong-way, run-face-first-into-the-wall catch of a liner to left in the seventh robbed Roy Howell of a double.
And, finally, his double to start the eighth was the catalyst in the clinching rally as Hernandez was walked intentionally, Porter singled in one run and Steve Braun drove home another with the Cardinals' 13th single in a 15-hit chop-and-peck attack.
Smith, who played for 1980 world champion Phillies, said, "I hope the champagne keeps flowing my way."
Typically, among all their hits, the Cardinals did not have one that traveled 275 feet in the air. But for the Series, they had more extra-base hits than the Brewers, 23 to 19, and outslugged their opponents, .412 to .399.
For the Cardinals, who've won nine of the 13 Series in which they've played--including seven of eight that had seventh games, this victory was the culmination of a season in which they always were respected but, perhaps, never quite feared or held in awe as potential champions usually are.
Now, that problem is solved. Stan the Man, Dizzy and Paul, all you Gashouse Gangers and Hall of Famers, make room. The White Rat and his Merry Mice have arrived.