What happened to Jack Morris tonight, he deserved.
The Detroit Tigers pitcher truly merited his courageous 3-2 victory in this World Series opener because of his 103 victories the last six years. This night of heart and heroism matched the man.
What happened to Kurt Bevacqua of the San Diego Padres this evening, he didn't deserve. Never in this world.
When you battle for 18 years in 13 cities as a journeyman pro, then get one big chance in the World Series, you shouldn't turn from hero to goat in one split second with a moment's misstep.
Somewhere in Detroit, a statue is probably being erected for Morris. Somewhere in San Diego, a scaffold may be in the works for Bevacqua. With a seat beside it for his third base coach, Ozzie Virgil.
The Tigers won in thunderous Jack Murphy Stadium because big tough Morris ignored a two-run double in the first inning by Terry Kennedy and battled his way to a complete-game comeback victory.
The Bengals won their fourth consecutive postseason game this fall because Larry Herndon knocked a two-run game-winning homer over the right field wall in the sixth inning after a two-out double by Lance Parrish.
That opposite-field blow -- only the eighth homer of the year by Herndon -- made a loser of lefty Mark Thurmond, who labored through 117 pitches in just five ugly innings.
That fast ball to Herndon was his 112th pitch and it bore the marks of all the jams he'd been through from the moment this game began with Lou Whitaker doubling off the center field wall and riding home on Alan Trammell's single.
"One hitter too late," muttered Padres Manager Dick Williams. "That was Thurmond's last batter."
Detroiters, who haven't had a world champion since 1968, will talk about Morris surviving eight Padres hits and 11 base runners. They will talk about how he struck out Bobby Brown, Carmelo Martinez and Garry Templeton in a row after giving up back-to-back singles to open the sixth. They'll talk about how he fanned nine and, in Williams words, "was overpowering from the sixth inning on."
Morris was grittiest, and luckiest, when he needed to be. With two on and none out in the third, for instance, he got Steve Garvey to ground into a double play on a hit and run.
"I'd be a liar if I didn't admit I was nervous out there," said Morris who, since 1979, has won more games than any pitcher in baseball except Steve Carlton. "The crowd was a factor early and late. They did everything they could to upset us. For me, it got so loud it was almost like silence. You couldn't hear a thing."
The Midwest may talk about how Morris' arm and Herndon's bat took a lot of pressure off a tight Tigers team that squandered numerous chances. San Diego, however, will talk of other things.
They'll talk about poor Bevacqua's base-running disaster in the seventh. The little-known pinch hitter, used as the designated hitter, doubled into the right field corner to start the inning, but was thrown out stretching for a triple. The top of the Padres order was due up and a tying run seemed almost inevitable.
"Never make the first out at third base or home. We know that. But we did it," said a tight-lipped Williams, citing perhaps the oldest and most fundamental baseball rule of running.
"He (Bevacqua) is the one who has to decide . . . He was out by a good margin. Unfortunate for us. Very fortunate for them," said Williams. "He did lose a step rounding second. He makes it if he doesn't stumble . . . Was he injured? No. Maybe just his pride . . . I haven't talked to Ozzie or Bevacqua yet."
Bevacqua's feet took him where Virgil's mind should have known he had no business. After all, Bevacqua only has one triple in this decade; and that was four seasons ago. But Virgil was waving madly and Bevacqua played the good servant.
The truth probably started to dawn on the old veteran, who has a wide reputation as one of the game's nice guys, a couple of strides past second base when his legs looked like they were trying to disassemble. Race horses have been shot for less.
Kirk Gibson and Lou Whitaker combined for a pair of pretty good relay throws, though the final peg to third was high and wide. "I could tell from the crowd noise that he was going to third," said Whitaker. "I thank the fans for helping."
"If it weren't for baseball, I'd be back in Florida picking oranges," Bevacqua said on Monday, adding, "This game has tried to get rid of me a bunch of times."
"I just stumbled, it's just as simple as that," said Bevacqua. "If I didn't stumble, I make it easy. Why did I stumble, I just don't know. As I was running from first to second, I picked up Ozzie Virgil and he gave me the go-ahead. I looked toward right field when I got to second and Gibson hadn't even gotten to the ball yet. Don't blame Ozzie . . . he made a good call. It was just one of those things."
Bevacqua laying in the dust at third may be the one moment from this game that will be remembered longest, but the Padres will lose sleep over several others.
For most of this 3 hour 18 minute marathon, the mood here was almost identical to the last three playoff games in which the Cubs seemed to wait for the Padres to beat them. The Tigers continued the trend.
Twice Tiger runners were picked off by Thurmond. Barbaro Garbey in the first, Herndon in the third and Whitaker in the fourth had Thurmond in two-on, two-out jams where one key base hit might well have sent him to the showers.
But each time the left-hander, who teases and nibbles and would probably go to a full count on a statue, got an overanxious Tiger to snap at his pitch.
Finally, with two out in the fifth and nobody on, Williams thought he was home free. Just one more out and the gutty Thurmond would be in line for a victory and the Padres could turn to the deepest bullpen in baseball.
Then Parrish bounced a double just over third base. The count on Herndon drifted to 3-1. Surely, after all his escapes, Thurmond wouldn't give Herndon anything good to hit on a cripple pitch with first base open.
But he did.
"He gave in on 3-1," growled Williams, "got the fast ball up."
Herndon sent it over the old 16-foot high wall in the right field corner (well beyond the new shorter bleacher fence) and fair by a dozen yards.
Out of this whole tangled night, the at-bat that Williams might have wanted back most came in the sixth. Nettles and Kennedy had singled back to back, just as Garvey and Nettles had singled before Kennedy's double in the first inning. This time, a sacrifice was in order.
However, Bobby Brown, playing because Kevin McReynolds has a broken wrist, couldn't get the ball down. When he fanned, Morris finally seemed to find himself.
Tiger Manager Sparky Anderson was on the top step of the dugout. "I move pretty quick and I was ready (to wave to the bullpen)," said Anderson. However, you can't relieve your ace pitcher after a strikeout.
So Morris faced Martinez. And mowed him down. Then Templeton. And turned him inside out with a wicked slider.
"One more hit," said Anderson, "and he'd have been gone and we would have lost."
The San Diego Padres had the Detroit Tigers where they wanted them this beautiful evening. Those signs that said "Put the Tigers in the San Diego Zoo" might have started to come true.
Instead, the Tigers escaped.
They may not be so easy to cage again.