This was John Tudor's moment. After a dream season, he had pitched a dream game in the fourth game of the World Series tonight, shutting out the Kansas City Royals, 3-0.
He had given the St. Louis Cardinals a 3-1 lead, putting them within one game of the World Series championship. He had allowed only five hits, had struck out George Brett twice, making him look bad the second time on a wicked curve ball.
Not once did Tudor crack a smile. Not on the field as his teammates gathered to congratulate him. Not for television, not in the mass interview room, not standing in front of his locker.
"We haven't done anything until we've won four games," he said. "I can't think about what I've accomplished this season until it's over. I may still have to pitch again."
If he does not pitch again -- and he won't unless the Royals can force a seventh game -- Tudor will finish the season with an overall record of 24-9, including a playoff victory and two World Series victories. He was 1-7 in May. Since then, he has won 23 of 25 decisions with an ERA of 1.50.
But tonight, there was no joy in Tudor. After the mass interview, he walked back to his locker, took off his uniform top and walked off to the training room, which is off-limits to the media. Twenty minutes later, he returned.
"I was in there deciding whether I should come out and talk," he said. "I finally decided to because I guess you guys have a job to do, too."
On the subject of his pitching, he was brief, but not unpleasant. On the key batter of the game, Hal McRae, who he induced to ground out with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, Tudor said: "I've had a lot of trouble with Hal in the past. I didn't think about coming out (Whitey Herzog had right-hander Todd Worrell ready in the bullpen) because that's not my job. Until Whitey came out and put his arm up for a change, I was thinking about McRae.
"I'm just lucky he swung at a bad pitch. I threw a low fast ball and he swung at it."
Tudor's story is an irresistible one. He began this season, at age 31, as a journeyman. He had a record of 51-43 and had bounced in three seasons from Boston to Pittsburgh to St. Louis. But after his horrid start, he got a phone call from his high school catcher, Dave Betancourt.
Watching on television, Betancourt had noticed that Tudor had abandoned a tiny stop at the top of his pitching motion. Tudor calls it a "gather."
"If I don't have it, I get way ahead of myself with my motion," he said. "It holds my whole motion together."
That phone call and a vastly improved change-up turned Tudor into a world beater for the rest of the season.
It also made Tudor into a celebrity, the idea of which he dislikes intensely. As he walked to his locker, Tudor looked around at the media horde and snapped, "What do you have to do to get a media pass, have a driver's license?"
A few moments later, someone asked Tudor if he disliked this attention as much as he appeared to. "Yeah, I do dislike it," he said. "I don't understand why I have to do all this. Why do they let so many people in here? I don't understand it."
At that point Tudor was asked if he cared about his public image. "No, it doesn't matter to me at all," he said. "I don't care what people write about me. You guys write whatever you want to write, anyway."
Tudor tended to be less tense when the subject was pitching. There still was no smile but some of the snap went out of his voice. On his strikeout of Brett, which Brett called "embarrassing," Tudor said:
"I don't see why George should be embarrassed. I'm not embarrassed when he hits a home run off me. Why should he be embarrassed? I threw a curve ball on the outside that might have been called strike three if he hadn't swung."
Tudor is articulate and his light blue eyes flash when he talks about pitching. Peter Gammons of the Boston Globe, who covered him for five years in Boston, says Tudor is more shy than combative. "He'd just rather not deal with the attention," Gammons said.
But now Tudor is a star. So, he is getting the attention. Tonight, on a night when he should have been reveling in his pitching, he looked anything but happy. Someone asked if away from all the attention he would relax a little tonight and enjoy what he had accomplished.
"Maybe," he said, "After we've won four games. Then I can celebrate."