When Bruce Sutter, having slipped the Cardinals' clubhouse celebration for a few minutes to be with his wife, walked through a side door into Manager Whitey Herzog's office, his eyes did some trophy hopping. They skipped past the one proclaiming Herzog New Athens (Ill.) man of the year, past the one acknowledging third low gross in the Mike Schmidt golf tournament to that glittering grail off by itself atop a corner soda cooler.

"So that's what a World Series trophy looks like," he said, awestruck for a moment, the enormousness of what he had helped accomplish just beginning to take shape. Then he rejoined the others, in various stages of lunacy nearby, in the most pre-planned chaos in Series history.

These Cardinals weren't blatantly cocky about beating the Brewers in the seventh game here Wednesday, but they did prepare positively and thoroughly for the moment they would be champions. Lonnie Smith spent a few pregame hours redesigning a pair of red long johns into the Macho Man costume he was sporting; Butch Yatkeman, the retiring equipment man, made a move every team that ever wins anything important ought to imitate.

When the seventh inning ended, when he was as certain as Herzog and almost everyone else that Sutter would retire the final six Brewers, Yatkeman hurried to the clubhuse and covered each locker with long, sturdy strips of plastic. Happy players might later ruin their dignity; they would not ruin their clothes with champagne spray.

Or worse.

"Last time I won this (in '74 with the Oakland A's)," said Gene Tenace, "somebody stole everything: uniform, gloves, shoes. Everything."

As he had been on the field throughout the season, Tenace was on the periphery of the Series silliness. Players all about him squirted and doused each other; Tenace stayed dry and mostly alone. Until glassy-eyed reserve catcher Glenn Brummer came by.

"How many is this?" said young Brummer, meaning Series championships.

"Four," said veteran Tenace. Quietly. Proudly.

Brummer shook his head, then tore off for a champagne shootout with quick-draw Dave LaPoint.

"First time," Tenace said, "I was like them, too."

First time at 66 feels the same as first time at 22.

"Everybody dreams," said Hub Kittle, the only pitching coach with a fan club. "I lost my dream (of pitching in the majors), but all of a sudden, mysteriously, it's here."

Through the arms of others. Kittle has pitched professionally in six decades, although never in the majors. As the Cardinals' pitching coach, he has watched and helped such as John Stuper and Joaquin Andujar blossom into Series stars.

"No one in the room feels like me," he said, and he threw his arms in the air and bellowed: "Ha! Ha! Ha!"

Dreams always start on obscure playgrounds; often they come true in odd ways.

Keith Hernandez and his older brother Gary would play ball by the hour as youngsters in Pacifica, Calif., not far from San Francisco. Sometimes, they would use tennis balls when their baseballs got lost or too raggedy, table-tennis balls inside when the weather turned nasty.

"Our father helped build the local field," said Gary, also a first baseman, also a Cardinal until the AA level. "He was a fireman, and on his days off he'd work with us, or on the field."

Also in the neighborhood was a left-handed pitcher named Bob McClure. He and Keith Hernandez were teammates much of their early baseball lives, surely sharing some dreams, never imagining that in a pivotal sixth inning far in the future, with the World Series on the line, they would battle each other. Splendidly.

McClure had been excellent twice in relief, and was the tiniest fraction off as his Pacifica pal worked the count to 3-1. Then Hernandez lined a single to right-center and drove in the two runs that allowed the Cardinals to gain a 3-3 tie. George Hendrick followed with the winning RBI.

"Played against him when I was a junior in high school," Hernandez said, "in what was called the Tournament of Champions. Went two for three, a bleeder and a line drive. Amazing how I can remember such a thing."

Ozzie Smith remembered to hug the even smaller Yatkeman, to remind him the team had come through on the retirement gift it had promised. These are champions you'd like to get to know better, and very well may. Herzog insists they will be very good for quite a while; Sutter trusts Herzog, saying: "He put this team together and then had guts enough to come down and manage it."

Part of the Cardinal appeal was standing arm in arm in the middle of the clubhouse: LaPoint and a young street wizard everybody calls Andre. On command, Andre can mimic every Cardinal batting stance, complete with exact facial and body mannerisms.

"There are eight to 12 of 'em," LaPoint said, "and they sneak into the park. Even the cops can't figure how. They've been here for every World Series game, and I know they can't spend $18 a ticket. We give 'em bats, balls, gloves" -- he pointed to a bulging box atop Jeff Lahti's locker. "They guard our cars for us."

Few emotions were being guarded.

Octogenarian Gussie Busch said he felt "21;" Stuper said he felt "numb;" Herzog said he felt as calm and assured as he looked, because "this is something I kinda expected;" Darrell Porter, the Series' most valuable player, felt "comfortable and relaxed."

Sutter, beer in hand, was leaning back in a chair when a policeman intruded on his hazy vision.

"I get a ticket?" the man who rushes to put out baseball fires asked.

"No," the policeman said, embarrassed. "I'd like an autograph."

Done.

A short time later, a network television functionary walked up to Sutter and asked if he would appear on a morning talk show.

"Not gonna be up in the morning," Sutter replied.