Before he's done, Jack Clark will tell the story of the home run that won the pennant at least a thousand times. Someday, he'll probably be sick of it. But not today.

First, he tells you how it felt when he struck out in the seventh inning with the tie-breaking run on third.

"It's kind of a slap in the face when they walk somebody to get to you," said the fellow with 87 RBI this regular season despite several weeks on the disabled list with an injured rib cage. "I was really upset with myself."

So, with the St. Louis Cardinals down to their final out of the sixth game of the National League Championship Series, Clark watched the Los Angeles Dodgers huddle at the mound, trying to decide what to do with him. Los Angeles ahead, 5-4. Cardinals on second and third.

"They went back and forth, trying to make up their minds and it looked like they couldn't," Clark said. "I could see the situation developing. I was probably going to get to hit.

"Then I thought, 'What are they going to do? Unintentionally give me an intentional walk?' You know, pitch around me, try to make me chase something bad and get myself out.

"I've looked for a fast ball every pitch of my life. I didn't want to get too deep in the count.

"That's when the Dodger pitchers have you where they want you."

If Clark was delighted that the Dodgers decided to let Tom Niedenfuer pitch to him, then his heart jumped when he saw a first-pitch fast ball strike.

"I didn't want to miss it. I figured I wouldn't get another one. I just wanted to hit it hard and put it in play -- a single to tie the score," said Clark. "I wasn't trying for a homer."

Certainly not a homer in the 450- to 500-foot range.

"With this injury, it's been a long time since I had a home run, a long time since I had an extra-base hit. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get one again," said Clark, who finished the playoffs eight for 21, but had only one RBI before his final swing. "I really hadn't hurt them the whole series."

Luckily for Clark, the Dodgers' thinking dovetailed with his own. "We'd used up our visit (to the mound) that inning," said Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda. "I would have liked to have had a visit."

Perhaps then he could have reminded Niedenfuer that, when he fanned Clark in the seventh, he started him with three sliders, then got him to chase a bad fast ball. "I wanted to get ahead of him with my best pitch," said the 230-pound Niedenfuer, "then maybe nibble."

Niedenfuer and catcher Mike Scioscia even stalled at the mound, waiting for the shadows to cut farther across in front of the plate. "So that's what they were doing," said Clark. "Good strategy."

During the pause, the Cardinals said they had premonitions. "Clark was cool as he can be," said Terry Pendleton. "When he feels good, he gets a little of that shoulder rolling action going. We say he's 'Homing in.' "

As soon as ball left the bat, Clark "knew it was gone, oh, sure." So he turned and mugged to his teammates in delight. "Rambo did it," said Tito Landrum. "Did you see him style around the bases."

Vince Coleman, the sore-kneed rookie who almost certainly will be available for the first game of the all-Missouri World Series in Kansas City on Saturday, walked past Clark's locker and put his hand over his head.

The two closed their grips in a slow high-five. "Jack Clark," said Coleman admiringly, savoring the words, saying nothing else.

In the Dodgers clubhouse, defeat was handled as Lasorda had ordered his team to handle it. "Win with pride. Lose with dignity," he told them.

Niedenfuer surely did. "I wish I could have done better. I didn't . . . Just because I didn't do my job doesn't mean I should keep you guys from doing yours," he said to hordes of reporters.

Of Lasorda's decision to have him face Clark, Niedenfuer said, "If we walk him, you never know what happens. I could walk a guy to tie the game."

The man who suffered most -- more than anyone should for a game -- was Lasorda. Red eyes tight closed, head in hands, he leaned on his office desk, running the gnarled fingers through his thinning hair.

The phone rang. "Thanks, Chief," murmured Lasorda. "It's sad, real sad."

One of Lasorda's four brothers put his hand around the fat little manager's neck, kissed him on the face. "Come on, Tommy," he said.

"This is the worst ever," said Lasorda, trying not to cry.

In both clubhouses, only one man took the time to give a really cogent argument for why Lasorda might have been thinking clearly to pitch to Clark.

That was Clark.

"I've been pretty much an easy out for (Niedenfuer) his whole (five-season) career," said Clark. "I was surprised to read once that he listed me as one of his five toughest men to face in the clutch.

"They walked a guy to pitch to me in the seventh. That time, I didn't even have to get a hit. All I had to do was hit the ball (anywhere) to score a run. And I didn't. Didn't even have a good swing.

"If they used that strategy once and it worked, why wouldn't they use it again?"

There's an expression here in Southern California to cover bad times: That's how it goes. First your money. Then your clothes.

Tommy Lasorda might feel naked at times this winter. It was nice of Jack Clark to leave him a fig leaf.