Don't be fooled by the National League's starting lineup in tonight's All-Star Game.
Tony Gwynn, Tommy Herr and Steve Garvey might be the first three batters when the national anthem is played, but don't bet it'll stay that way long.
Manager Dick Williams will be sorely tempted to yank two of his Padres -- Gwynn and Garvey -- and replace them with a couple of Cardinals -- Willie McGee and Jack Clark.
After all, why shouldn't the American League get a taste -- a sort of three-quarters dose -- of what has been driving NL teams nuts all season?
Every team talks about the mystery of batting order chemistry, but nobody really knows what makes a certain sequence of hitters add up to far more as a group than anyone would have suspected looking at them before they got together.
So far this season, the first four hitters in the St. Louis lineup have a chemistry that's close to alchemy.
When the Cardinals went to St. Petersburg for spring training, they were expected to be a second-division team after losing superstar free agent reliever Bruce Sutter. Then, the names Vince Coleman, McGee, Herr and Clark didn't mean anything special.
Now, they strike terror.
Back in March, Coleman was just a speedball rookie who might not even hit .200. McGee had a .290 career average and stole some bases, but he was no star. Herr had had one .323 season, but .275 with few homers was more his speed and injuries were his real specialty.
As for Clark, he was one of those guys with lots of talent, lots of lip and a long yellow-sheet of clubhouse misdemeanors that had made him an unpopular star in San Francisco.
Now, all that has changed. Coleman's hitting .274 and stealing bases like nobody in NL history. He's got 63 already, and the league's having a nervous breakdown all around him. "He's havoc," says Gwynn.
Recently, Coleman led off a game with a first-pitch single against Dave Palmer of Montreal and drew 13 pickoff throws before another pitch was thrown. That's called ruining concentration.
With Coleman forcing fast balls and running constantly, McGee has become a much better hitter. Holes are open, infielders are covering bases and running in the wrong direction, and, all in all, McGee's on holiday.
His .340 average leads the league and, thanks to Coleman sprinting on the front end of double steals, McGee has 36 thefts. "Lots of guys will steal second," says Gwynn, "but Coleman and McGee . . . man, they just don't care. They steal second and third. You can't ever take your mind off them."
"Yeah, everybody talks about the Cards' speed," says Chicago Cubs Manager Jim Frey, aware of St. Louis' 172 stolen bases in 85 games, "but I talk about their hitting. Sure, Coleman starts it, but the next three guys -- the ones here (at the All-Star Game) -- kill you."
The big surprise is Herr. He's a stocky plugger, a learner and battler. "I've gotten stronger and smarter and more confident each year," he says. "I've always had to be the kind of player who improves because I never had the most talent."
For years, one team coveted him and tried each winter to get him -- the Baltimore Orioles. Last fall, Herr, who was coming back from three operations in two years, demanded to be traded. "The Orioles were my No. 1 choice," he says.
But the Cardinals got serious with their contract offers and Herr returned.
"I'm in a dream situation," Herr says. "Speed in front of me and power behind me. I look forward to this role for years to come."
Herr is hitting .334, second in the league, and, amazingly, is only one RBI behind Dale Murphy for the major league lead with 68 (a 125-RBI pace). How can a man with just three home runs have so many RBI? It helps that he's leading the league in hits (106) and doubles (23). But it might help even more that Coleman and McGee have stolen their way into scoring position with fewer than two outs so many times.
"I consider myself a student of the game," says Herr, who unlike many No. 3 hitters is perfectly glad to take pitches so the Cardinals' whippets can grab an extra theft.
Perhaps the happiest Cardinal, however, is Clark, whose enormous gifts were being wasted in Candlestick Park. His 595 career RBI in just 3,731 at bats with an awful team in a hideous park was a harbinger of what he might do in a winning situation.
"It was time to move on," says the 29-year-old Clark. "The Cardinals made me feel important right from the start."
What the Cardinals learned was that Clark was a smart, winning player, not just a raw ripper. "With our speed on the bases, I look for the fast ball in a certain zone and if I don't get it, I just lay off the pitch and let 'em go (steal). If I get what I'm looking for, I swing, no matter who's stealing.
"There are so many ways to win in this game. What's so good here is that the Cardinals have a number of people who are more like artists of the game. They know how to take advantage of percentage situations."
Herr, who has 17 steals in 19 attempts despite lacking real speed, is one. Shortstop Ozzie Smith, a natural student of detail, is another. Playing to win rather than to build stats, Clark has -- of course, isn't it always this way -- built great numbers. Besides 63 RBI, 17 homers and a .536 slugging percentage (each third-best in the league), he's first in the NL in walks.
A year ago, the Cardinals were offensive patsies and a nowhere team. Now, they lead the league in runs despite the fact that, after their top four hitters, they have a weak sister lineup.
"You're looking at four guys who blend together perfectly and all four of them are having career years," Garvey says.
Injuries and slumps are the enemies of chemistry. With three months left in the season, the Cardinals' Front Four is far from a certainty to bring St. Louis another World Series team.
Right now, however, they are a perfectly mixed formula. It only would be fitting if the American League gets a chance to see the sort of spontaneous internal combustion from the top of the All-Star order that has left so many Cardinals opponents looking for an antidote.