Their killer instincts motivated the Kansas City Royals tonight and led them over a hurdle they had faced many times this season.
"They kept pushing our backs to the wall time and again," pitcher Dan Quisenberry shouted amid the champagne and frenzy of the clubhouse after the 11-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. "But you know what? We found out that wall has rubber padding, and we just bounced right off."
"I had a strong gut feeling we would win the whole thing in Game 1," said center fielder Willie Wilson, who finally has forgotten the 1980 World Series against Philadelphia in which he hit .154 and struck out a Series record 12 times.
"It took me two years to get over 1980, and 1980 was on my mind when we started this Series," he said. "But when I got my first hit, I forgot all about it."
Now it has been learned that veteran Hal McRae, the Royals' unofficial captain, privately predicted that the Royals would win the Series even after losing Game 1.
"I never said it for print, but I've never felt so confident of anything in my life," he said. "We could see they didn't have any pop and our pitchers could jam them."
The World Series ring will feel particularly good to Dick Howser, who had managed nine straight postseason losses even before losing the first two games of the AL playoffs to the Toronto Blue Jays.
"I said all my life that I would do it Dick Howser's way," he said. "Not the owner's way, or the parking lot attendant's, not my mother-in-law's way. The day I make a move in a game just because people are telling me I should will be the day I doubt myself.
"We just never stopped believing in ourselves . . . Character is a word that I would apply to each and every member of our team. But Dick Howser can't take credit for that. Their parents had a lot to do with that, and I mean it."
Second baseman Frank White said the feeling on the bench when the Royals went ahead by 5-0 was: "Let's get more."
"It wasn't in the bag at five," he said. "They hadn't hit in the Series, but you knew they could. At eight runs, we felt pretty good. We knew if (Bret) Saberhagen ran out of gas, there were seven other guys to take his place."
As the final out was recorded, fans ran past police onto the field to gather dirt from the base paths or run on the artificial turf. At area taverns, patrons hopped on tables and chairs, then shook beer cans and sprayed each other. Others drank champagne.
Fans poured into the streets, car horns blared and fireworks boomed throughout Kansas City. "Everyone predicted St. Louis in four, and look, it's Game 7, and it's 11-0," said Mark Murphy, 23, of Kansas City. "It's over. Turn out the lights."
The mood was different in St. Louis, where the streets were empty and only a few fans remained in front of large-screen TVs in bars.
"We had it, but they stole it from us Saturday night," Keith Kohler, 23, said of the Royals' ninth-inning 2-1 victory in Game 6. "We feel we were robbed by the American League umpires. It should have been ours."