MINNEAPOLIS — Somewhere, Jack Morris was grinning. Somewhere, Doyle Alexender popped a beer and nodded sympathetically. Somewhere, Mike Henneman, Frank Tanana, Willie Hernandez — all the Tigers, probably — gave a sigh and a look that could be summed up with four words:
“Have fun, St. Louis.”
Have fun. Your turn. What took place in the fourth inning of Saturday night’s deafening World Series opener may have been historic, a surprise, a bomb, but it was a painfully familiar explosion to Detroiters. Seven runs? Did the Twins really score seven runs in one inning?
“Wait, don’t tell us,” Detroit fans interrupted. “Gary Gaetti was involved. And that Dan Gladden guy. And the bottom of the lineup — the catcher with the .191 batting average? What’s his name? Laudner? He had a hit,
right? Are we right?”
Right. Right. Right again.
The magic rolls on. Twins win Game 1, 10-1. Win? Is that the word? Bombard? Shred? “Outhit us, outpitched us,” the Cardinals’ Vince Coleman would say. And this morning, his teammates are surely asking each other how it happened so fast.
If they’ve regained their hearing, that is. We’ve heard this before, too Call this: “How To Seize An Opportunity” by the Minnesota Twins. After all, St. Louis pitcher Joe Magrane, a rookie, had held the Twins hitless through the first three innings of this game. The 55,171 inside the thunderous Metrodome were reduced to cheering for walks. Which they gladly did. Let’s face it. They’ll cheer the bullpen pitches here if they have to.
But then came the fourth. This was beautiful. Gaetti — the man who homered twice in Game 1 of the Tigers series — opened with a single. Don Baylor, the seemingly ageless designated hitter, followed with a single. Tom Brunansky, he of the “Bruno” nickname and the face that suits it, cracked a single of his own. And — bam! The bases were loaded.
Now this, as Tiger pitchers will tell you, is not the kind of situation you look forward to in Minnesota. The crowd at this point was, how shall we put it? UNBELIEVABLY LOUD! Yes. That’s it. And there was still no one out. And Kent Hrbek was up. Hrbek hit more home runs than any Twin this year. Ooh. You don’t want that. Not a grand slam. No. Uh-uh. And Magrane (who later admitted wearing earplugs) did not surrender one.
He did, however, surrender a two-run single. And the throw to catch Brunansky at third actually hit him in the back, and bounced away, and Hrbek sped into second base.
So now it’s 2-1, Twins, nobody out — some people might still think this a close game — but if the Cardinals were smart, they would have called a taxi. Immediately. Instead they let Magrane pitch to Steve Lombardozzi, the No. 8 hitter. And Magrane walked him. And then Magrane walked off. Music please:
“Happ-py traaails, to you . . . until we meet again. . . . Happ-py traaaails to you. . . . “
We are not making this up. That is what they play here when opposing pitchers leave the game. And the fans at this point? Well. What can we say? They were UNBELIEVABLY LOUD!
And they weren’t done yet. Sorry, old fella — slam! Now came the fun part. Now came relief pitcher Bob Forsch, 37, the oldest man on the St. Louis team. And up came Tim Laudner, that catcher with the .191 batting average. And he hit a single and knocked in a run. Ooh. you don’t want to do that. You don’t want to give up a hit to the No. 9 hitter with the bases loaded. Uh-uh. The only thing worse than that is giving up a grand slam.
Which is what Forsch did next.
Yes. A 1-2 pitch to Gladden — whom teammates describe as “goofy,”
“crazy,” ‘a prankster.” St. Louis has other words for him. Gladden put that pitch into the left field seats. And good night. This game was history. The Star Wars music blasted over the speakers. The crowd wet its collective pants. Grand Slam? Oh, my. Debris rained down on the outfield. The “Homer Hankies” were going mad. At one point, all three St. Louis outfielders, Coleman, Jose Oquendo and Willie McGee, were standing with their hands on their hips, looking up at these crazy, shaking, deliriously happy fans, and wondering what was in the beer here.
“They’ve been that way all year,” said a delighted Kirby Puckett afterward. Metrodome Magic. It is illogical. It is overpowering. If it was bottled, every team in baseball would buy it. Ask the Tigers about it someday. They’ll give you a long explanation.
But wait. There’s plenty of time for that. This was only Game 1. Tonight of course, is Game 2. In the same place. At the same time. With the same teams. And the same fans. How will they behave? Oh, let’s take a wild guess:
Have fun, St. Louis.