Thanks, we needed that.

After drug trials, a stupid strike following on the tedium of 1984, baseball was ready for the Kansas City Royals.

We needed the most preposterous postseason in history to end in the crowning of the wonderful, ridiculous, marvelous, awful, spunky, lucky Royals as winners of the I-70 World Series.

Are they the worst team ever to win the World Series? Well, let's hope so. These guys deserve to be remembered. If they aren't the worst, let's say they were, anyway.

This is a club that merits more than, "Well, sure, they were pretty mediocre, but somebody sometime probably had even less talent and more luck." No, no, no. That won't do.

Was this the greatest never-say-die comeback performance in the history of baseball? Well, by all means, let's pretend it was. It's a fact that no Series winner ever before survived six sudden-death, win-or-go-home games.

Stop that whispering out there, you spoiled sports. We're trying to forget the '81 Dodgers. They survived five must-win games before the Series ever began, then lost the first two to New York.

Let's not let the facts get in the way of a fairy tale ending. Just for today, let's ignore about 10 teams that accomplished comebacks so outlandish that it's almost impossible to compare degrees of difficulty. (In recent times, give me the '78 Yankees any day.)

Let's make sure we give K.C. its due. No baseball team ever did more with less, or had to dig out of deeper holes to accomplish it, than these Royals.

Let's hear it for a loaf of Brett, a slice of Biancalana and a pound of Balboni. Darryl Motley and Dane Iorg, we don't even know you, but when it comes to heroes, you're our kind of guys.

Whoever thought that the nation's sixth-graders would be able to pass a spelling bee on Saberhagen, Gubicza, Quisenberry, Leibrandt and Concepcion?

Let's be honest. Can we talk here?

Could the Royals have won the World Series if The Tarp That Ate St. Louis hadn't broken an itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny bone on Vince Coleman's knee?

Of course not. Don't be silly. Tito Landrum (.360) produced only three runs in the whole Series. Coleman can create that many in one havoc-riddled game.

Could the Royals have won without the fine work of Joaquin Andujar? No way. K.C. should vote the Cardinals' astronaut a full share.

Could the Royals have won without Don Denkinger? Maybe so. But maybe not, too. The Cardinals looked like they never recovered from the American League ump's bad call in Game 6 which let the leadoff Royal reach base in the ninth inning of a 1-0 game.

Given a break, K.C. hardly kicked down the door. Let the record show that while the Royals took a title on Sunday, the Cardinals gave it away Saturday.

Kansas City started the last inning of Game 6 with a grounder to first, a popup near the dugout and a terrible sacrifice bunt back to the mound. Before the Royals could figure out what happened, they had the bases loaded with one out.

Kansas City won 91 games and had to squeeze blood from stones to do that. They had the sixth-best record in baseball and that's about right.

The reason we like the Royals, the reason their triumph will warm baseball fans so much more through the winter than a Cardinal victory is the nature of the people who won. Who really cares about talent? Who cares that the Blue Jays, Cardinals, Yankees, Mets and maybe even the Dodgers could beat the Royals over a long fair season.

Sometimes it's better when the best team doesn't win.

The Royals' owner does not have himself drawn around his ballpark on a chariot of beer kegs, nor does he have an odious commercial jingle blaring over the PA system between pitches. Royals Stadium is not a tacky testimonial to the glories of peddling beer. It's a beautiful park full of water fountains.

The Royals' manager does not denigrate teams before he plays them, then deny his cheap-shot quotes until they're played back to him on a tape recorder. He does not abuse Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists for asking a polite professional question. He does not push blame toward his players and away from himself. After he wins the pennant, he doesn't use four-letter words to rub his foes' noses in their loss.

The K.C. manager does not accuse umpires of deliberate prejudice when there is no evidence of it. He does not throw tantrums on the field when he loses. He doesn't lay on the charm for the national TV cameras, then bad-mouth the team that just beat him once he gets back to his office.

When Dick Howser of the Royals makes a hard decision and gets second-guessed nationwide, he stands like a little soldier in one spot for an hour and, politely, humorously, tells anyone who asks just why he did what he did and why he'd do it again.

The Royals are easy to like. Make that easy to love. George Brett, Frank White and Hal McRae -- the soul of the team since 1973 -- are hard-nosed, honest and smart. They play hurt. And they've swallowed postseason losses in '76, '77, '78, '80, '81 and '84 without losing their confidence, drive or leadership.

Dan Quisenberry not only is the best relief pitcher of his time, but a gentleman who minimizes his importance, mourns whenever he lets down his mates (whom he considers "real" players) and is a very funny fellow.

Some Royals have won tougher contests than a baseball game. Willie Wilson went to jail behind a drug rap and came back a stronger man. Lonnie Smith has beaten a bad cocaine habit.

You'd need a miner's helmet to find Royals General Manager John Schuerholz, he's so busy hiding from the credit for the team he's built. Nonetheless, he knows why his club is so special.

When the Royals trailed early in this Series, Schuerholz said, "I think the interaction of your players among themselves is more important now than it ever was. You can't say what makes good chemistry within a group of people. But you better pay attention to getting it, and then to keeping it."

For at least the last 10 years, the Royals have concentrated as much on building a team with character as they have on amassing talent or signing free agents. Many times, like the '77-to-'83 Baltimore Orioles whom they resemble, they have narrowly failed and been told they would never be world champions until they had more swagger, more muscle and less good humor.

Too soon the Royals will have to begin replacing some of the 35-and-over crowd that has given this club its tone: John Wathan, Greg Pryor, White, Iorg, McRae, Jorge Orta. Then, like the now inert Orioles, they may find how mysteriously difficult it is to build a team that is significantly better than any objective analysis would indicate.

Whether the Kansas City Royals are the "best" team in baseball at the moment is a question of definition.

That they represent what is best in baseball is beyond doubt.

And that's more important.