MINNEAPOLIS, OCT. 25 -- Their heritage is Washington and the pathetic Senators, their godfather one of baseball's original curmudgeons, Calvin Griffith. For most of the last 62 years, the franchise has been the butt of jokes, hoots and giggles.

Today, the Minnesota Twins can giggle about something else: They're the world champions.

The Twins finished an improbable and historic season tonight by getting a six-hitter from Frank Viola and Jeff Reardon to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-2, in Game 7 of the 1987 World Series.

Appropriately, they did it in the Metrodome in front of 55,376 fans, most of whom spent the evening screaming, dancing and waving handkerchiefs. Then in a memorable scene of emotion and love, more than half those fans stayed almost an hour as players, wives and club officials danced and hugged in the middle of the infield.

"I'm very proud of my players," Twins Manager Tom Kelly said. "I'm very proud of the Minnesota organization. The boys on the field did their jobs very well."

An infield single by shortstop Greg Gagne scored right fielder Tom Brunansky in the sixth inning and put the American League pennant winners ahead to stay. They also got RBI hits from second baseman Steve Lombardozzi, left fielder Dan Gladden and center fielder Kirby Puckett, but, after scoring 29 runs in the first three Series games here, the Twins won mostly with pitching this night.

Viola more than made up for a poor performance in Game 4 by holding the Cardinals to six hits in eight innings, walking none and striking out seven.

He allowed four of those hits in the second inning when the Cardinals took a 2-0 lead, then permitted only two more base runners the rest of the night. Reardon pitched the ninth.

Viola, the game's most winning left-hander the last four seasons, was given the Series most valuable player award for winning Games 1 and 7, going 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA in all.

"I was happy to have another chance," Viola said. "I ended the season on a much better note than if I had ended it on Game 4. I would have had a bitter taste in my mouth for a long time.

"I felt great tonight. I had a real good fastball and a good change-up. I could have pitched on two days' rest. I have all winter to rest."

From the start, the Cardinals knew they'd need a miracle to win without first baseman Jack Clark and third baseman Terry Pendleton, who accounted for 202 RBI and half their 94 homers. Injuries to Clark and Pendleton especially left the National League champions weak against left-handed pitching, and Viola proved that tonight.

Then, an injury to left-hander Greg Mathews left Herzog short of pitchers, and he had even considered using Danny Cox on two days' rest tonight.

Instead, he decided on rookie left-hander Joe Magrane, and the strategy almost worked.

Magrane allowed two earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. Then Cox faced five Twins without getting any of them out. Todd Worrell, usually Herzog's stopper, pitched the final three innings.

"Viola pitched a strong game," Herzog said. "We've been vulnerable against left-handed pitching and have been all year. This is a very good team in this ballpark. They have great fans and great enthusiasm. I'm impressed with their club. They deserve to be champs."

The Twins didn't win the classic way and that's perfect for a team that won only 85 games in the regular season, the fewest ever for a World Series champion. They also got here with a 4.63 ERA, highest ever for a team in postseason play.

They are the first team to win a World Series without winning at least one road game, having gone 4-0 here and 0-3 in St. Louis. That was their pattern. They finished the year 62-25 at the Metrodome, 31-56 away from it. A year ago, they lost 91 games, and until winning this year, hadn't had a winning record this decade.

They looked the part tonight, getting thrown out three times on the bases. But they survived despite some mistakes that weren't their own. Umpires tonight appeared to blow three calls, and two of them hurt the Twins.

The championship is the first for the Twins since moving to the Twin Cities from Washington in 1961, and the first for the franchise since 1924.

Viola finished strongly, but almost didn't finish the second inning when the Cardinals scored twice, and Kelly had Bert Blyleven warming up in the bullpen. RBI hits by Tony Pena and Steve Lake produced the runs.

"He was still feeling himself out early," Kelly said. "Three of their singles were on balls that were up. Lake hit a low change-up, a good pitch. When Frankie came off the mound, Dick Such {pitching coach} told him he'd better get his pitches down, that he had to get a better angle. He made the adjustment."

The Twins closed it to 2-1 in the bottom of the second on singles by Brunansky, Tim Laudner and Lombardozzi. They appeared to have another, but home plate umpire Dave Phillips called Don Baylor out on a play at the plate.

As Magrane continued to struggle, Viola settled down, retiring 11 in a row after Lake's single.

Magrane was gone in the fifth on a play that wasn't even his fault. He got Gladden on a grounder to short for the first out, but then Gagne was credited with a single on a slow chopper to the right of second.

Lindeman cut in front of Herr to field the ball instead of staying at first. Magrane didn't have time to get to the bag and took the throw from Lindeman too late. Or so umpire Lee Weyer ruled, although replays indicated otherwise.

Nonetheless, Herzog went right to Cox, and Puckett hit his first pitch into right-center for an RBI double and a 2-2 tie. Cox walked Gaetti, then when a pitch got away from Lake, Puckett tried to take third and was thrown out.

Viola's streak ended with Herr's one-out single in the sixth, but another umpire missed another call to get the Twins out of the inning. With Lindeman batting, Viola picked Herr off first.

First baseman Kent Hrbek threw to Lombardozzi, who forced Herr back to the bag. As he was going back, he ran into Hrbek, which appeared to be clear interference. Lombardozzi's throw went to Viola covering first, and television replays showed Viola didn't come close to making a tag on Herr.

However, Lee Weyer didn't call the interference, then did call Herr out.

In their sixth, the Twins got the lead for the first and last time, scoring twice when Cardinal pitchers walked the bases loaded and allowed Gagne a two-out RBI infield single.

Cox began by walking Brunansky and Hrbek and was taken out. As he was removed from the game, he had enough words for Phillips that Phillips threw him out of the game.

"I thought he missed a couple of pitches, but I don't know," Herzog said. "Danny was awfully wild tonight. It's tough to get close calls when you're wild."

With the game possibly on the line, Herzog went right to his bullpen ace Worrell, who got Laudner on an infield pop for the second out then walked pinch hitter Roy Smalley to load the bases.

He struck out Gladden and went to 3-2 on Gagne, who sent a hard grounder down the third base line. Tom Lawless made a nice stop, but his throw to Lindeman was late and Brunansky scored.

"It wasn't the classic way to get a championship hit," Gagne said. "I guess it'll do."

The Twins got an insurance run off Worrell in the eighth.

In the other clubhouse, they accepted their second Game 7 loss in three seasons with class.

"I'm disappointed," Herr said. "We had the lead the past two nights and couldn't make it stand up. Excuses are for losers."