Darrell Evans was blinking back tears, most of them caused by champagne, but his voice quavered a little bit as he stood in the middle of the joyous Detroit locker room tonight soaking in The Moment, one he had waited to feel for 17 years.
He had praised everyone on the Tigers, everyone in the city of Detroit, almost everyone in the state of Michigan. Finally, someone asked him if it felt like he had thought it would.
"You can't just instantanously and spontaneously be happy, be overjoyed," he said. "It doesn't hit you all at once. The first thing you want to do is thank people. Then, you remember some of the little disappointments. Suddenly, they don't seem quite so important.
"For the fans, it's different. They can just celebrate and party. I love it, the whole thing."
The fans certainly did celebrate. They began in the seventh inning after Lance Parrish's home run off San Diego ace Goose Gossage gave the Tigers a 5-3 lead. They sang and stomped and hugged and screamed and turned Tiger Stadium into a rollicking madhouse even before the Tigers' 8-4 victory had made them world champions.
When it was over, they stormed the field, tore up the sacred turf and then headed for the streets to run amok.
Ninety minutes after the game was over, Tigers owner Tom Monaghan's Domino's Pizza helicopter landed to deliver pizza. Most players were still in the clubhouse, not even attempting to leave the ballpark.
"You think you have a great team, you believe you have a great team, but until you win the World Series, you haven't proved a thing to the rest of the world," said Jack Morris, who pitched complete-game victories in the first and fourth games. "I think we all just want to savor this for a while."
Several hundred feet away, in the Padres' tiny locker room, there were no cigars, no champagne and no tears. Gossage, today's goat because of gopher balls to Parrish and Kirk Gibson, looked up at onrushing reporters and snarled, "Well, what the hell do you want? You just gonna stand there and look at me, or what?"
Suddenly, his face softened. He put down his beer, folded his arms and answered every question, repeating some answers several times. "Gibson's was my fault because I talked (Manager) Dick (Williams) out of walking him. I thought I popped a fast ball but he popped it harder. I thought I could get him out." Gossage stopped and chuckled softly. "Guess I was wrong."
Some of the Padres circled the room shaking hands. Steve Garvey, patient as ever, stood at his locker talking about the great future he believes his team has. Alan Wiggins and Tony Gwynn sat side by side discussing the fifth inning pop-up that Gwynn lost and Wiggins caught running away from the plate, allowing Gibson to score the run that put the Tigers ahead for good.
"We had a great season," Graig Nettles said. "Let's just go home."
"I feel for our starting pitchers," Garvey was saying. "I guess they'll probably bear the brunt of the blame most of the winter."
Winners don't have to worry about blame. In the din of the Tigers' clubhouse, all the anguish that had come before, the "little disappointments," as Evans put it, were forgotten.
Morris, who fought with his teammates during the summer, talked about the lessons he had learned. Gibson, whose teammates call him "Ornery Kirk," just soaked in the glory. Parrish, so exhausted that a full hour after the game he still had his shin guards on -- "I'm too tired to take them off" -- poured champagne down Alan Trammell's shirt. Anderson sat in his office, holding court one last time, and talked about how much it meant to him to be the first man to manage World Series champions in both leagues.
In one corner of the room, Carl Yastrzemski, one year out of baseball and now a part-time TV man for a Boston station, encountered Ruppert Jones, the journeyman outfielder who joined the Tigers from the minor leagues in June. Yastrzemski offered congratulations. "This is the greatest feeling I've ever had," Jones said. "You know how it feels, Carl."
Yastrzemski shook his head. "No I don't, Rupe," he said. "I only finished second." He smiled at that. "Soak in every minute," he said to Jones.
All the Tigers seemed intent on doing that, especially since they couldn't safely leave anyway. Marty Castillo poured champagne on anything that moved and Milt Wilcox, the pitcher the Tigers were ready to discard a year ago, stood with his son and interviewed a TV man. Willie Hernandez turned down a request to go to the interview room. "I'm too drunk to go," he said, laughing as he threw down what was left of his champagne.
Evans just kept hugging people. He is 37, a man who played good baseball with bad teams all his career until the Tigers signed him as a free agent this year to provide a final piece in their puzzle after they had won 92 games last year.
"When Kirk hit the home run, we all knew it was over," he said. "That swing will be a freeze frame in my mind the rest of my life. We all felt like we'd all hit it together. It gave us a chance to savor it all in the ninth inning because we had the cushion. If I had never won, well, who knows what I would have thought? Now, I can enjoy this all winter, all year, forever.
"And I know, no matter what else happens in my life I can look at the ring and know I was part of something special. That will give me joy, great joy."
His eyes glistened a little. Outside, the police sirens screamed. Another baseball season was over.