The television networks will disagree, but the longer the World Series rolled on, a matter that quickly came to depend on the Kansas City Royals, the more properly situated it seemed. Leaving the midst of a summer's trouble for a middle-of-the-country October, baseball settled down last week in Missouri, making whistle-stop connections with the past on a slow-moving train from Kansas City to St. Louis and back again.
Just the sound of St. Louis connotes better times, when the Cardinals were shared property of the Western states. And this autumn's monopoly especially brought back 1944, when the fall classic kept entirely to Sportsman's Park. Though the Cardinals won and the Browns lost as both were forever expected to do, the sweetest memory in St. Louis is of a series without boos.
This one came close to that. "I'm a Hermann German," proclaimed a large button pinned to a medium-size woman waving from a small platform as the World Series Special pulled into Hermann, Mo. She was the only absolute partisan spotted in a week. Across the state, everyone decked out in red or blue appeared to have either a touch or at least a tolerance of the other color. More than gracious, St. Louis was as fretful as Kansas City for the well-being of Third Baseman George Brett when, near the finish of the fifth game, he went sliding after a foul ball, skidded into his dugout and onto the spacious cushion of Coach Lee May. With a whistle, Royals Manager Dick Howser declared later, "May's catch was the play of the night." Spared a concussion, though not a finger in the eye, Brett had to sit out a bleary half-inning. But first he got another hit.
The "other third baseman," the Cardinals' Terry Pendleton, did the most to brighten the opening two games in Kansas City, both in the field and at bat. Though outpitched twice, St. Louis won 3-1 and 4-2. In the second game, poor Charlie Leibrandt would have thrown a three-hitter to level the Series for the Royals if only Catcher Jim Sundberg or First Baseman Steve Balboni had overtaken a foul pop-up just beside the dugout. The spitting image of Archie Bunker's meathead son-in-law, Balboni wears a particular expression of impending disaster.
After Leibrandt was bled to death with two out in the ninth, some were saying Howser froze at the controls, though more likely he was silently adjusting to a declining confidence in Reliever Dan Quisenberry. Despite 37 saves this year, Quiz no longer seems made for such moments, and afterward he did not claim the last out as his rightful province. "The higher we think of ourselves," said Quisenberry quietly, "the more chances we have of being disappointed in ourselves." Kansas City could have taken this for an epitaph, but as Toronto learned in the American League play-offs, which the Blue Jays led 3 to 1, the Royals are not fatalists.