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Bruce Sutter nails down a championship

Bruce Sutter nails down a championship

From the Rick Hummel's 10 most memorable St. Louis Cardinals games series
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Editor's note: With the baseball season on hold, Hall of Famer Rick Hummel is presenting STLtoday.com subscribers with a look back at 10 of the most memorable games he's covered.

Today he recalls the World Series clincher against the Brewers. This is his original article, filed on Oct. 20, 1982.

The last time the Cardinals won the world championship of baseball, Lyndon B. Johnson was president, the split-fingered fastball hadn't been invented and most baseball teams still played on God's green earth instead of that artificial stuff. The year was 1967, and some of the heroes were Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tim McCarver, Orlando Cepeda and Mike Shannon.

At 10:17 p.m. Wednesday, Joaquin Andujar, Bruce Sutter, Keith Hernandez, Darrell Porter, Tom Herr, a couple of guys named Smith and a varied cast of achievers, overachievers and good company men assumed their own spots in Cardinals World Series lore. It was then that Sutter, the art's leading practitioner of split-fingered pitching, blew a non-split-fingered fastball past the swing of a startled Gorman Thomas and the Cardinals closed out a 6-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in the seventh game of the 1982 World Series.

The Cardinals had trailed the Brewers, three games to two, when they returned to Busch Stadium after having lost two of three games in Wisconsin last weekend. But the Redbirds pounded out 27 hits here the last two nights, including 15 Wednesday night when they overcame a 3-1 Milwaukee lead with a three-run rally in the sixth inning.

Only three of their number -- Gene Tenace, George Hendrick and Lonnie Smith -- ever had experienced the euphoria of the moment. As champagne was sprayed and the sponsor's product was consumed in large quantities, most of the Cardinals said they wouldn't really know the true essence until several days later, but they knew the feeling was a powerful one.

"The only thing that would compare to it," said Herr, "was being in the delivery room the day that our son, Aaron, was born. That was an awesome feeling."

Catcher Darrell Porter, named the series' Most Valuable Player, said the thrill of this victory ranked somewhere behind sobriety, God, his marriage and the birth of his daughter, but "it was flat-out fun."

1982 World Series

Bruce Sutter celebrates the final out. Karen Elshout/Post-Dispatch

The city was plunged into a nightlong celebration that was to continue today with a downtown parade. The Cardinals have won nine world championships, but 15 years had been a long time to wait.

For Gussie Busch, the Cardinals owner, it indeed was the 'one more championship for the great fans of St. Louis 'that he had hoped for. "I've never been happier in my whole life," said Busch in a madhouse locker room. "I was sure this team could win it, and it didn't let me down."

It was the first world championship for his manager, Whitey Herzog, who had three division winners as manager of the Kansas City Royals. "I feel about as good as you can feel," said Herzog. "I'm happy for Mr. Busch, the greatest man in the world."

It didn't come easily.

Former Cardinal Pete Vuckovich, having stranded nine runners through the first five innings, nursed a 3-1 Milwaukee lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. With one out, Ozzie Smith stroked a single to left and Lonnie Smith doubled down the third-base line, past a diving Paul Molitor.

Milwaukee Manager Harvey Kuenn, slow to pull his pitchers earlier in the Series, yanked Vuckovich at that point for lefthander Bob McClure, who had earned saves in Game Four and Game Five. For the fourth time in the Series, Herzog pulled lefthanded-hitting Ken Oberkfell for righthanded-hitting Gene Tenace, who had gone nothing for three against McClure and had been three for 48 since late August.

But this time, Tenace, who has drawn more than 100 walks in a season several times in his career, drew another one, loading the bases. Keith Hernandez, a former grade-school teammate of McClure in the San Francisco area, then drilled a two-run single to right center on a 3-1 pitch, tying the core.

"I was trying to protect the plate," said Hernandez. "I was vulnerable inside. I was looking fastball and I thought he might make a fat one. But he made a nasty pitch on the inside corner. I don't know how I hit it, but I did."

The next hitter, Hendrick, hit a slow chopper toward third and third baseman Molitor threw home ahead of the nose-first dive of pinch-runner Mike Ramsey, but home-plate umpire Lee Weyer ruled that the ball was foul. Hendrick then singled to right field for the go-ahead run.

Milwaukee had a righthander, Moose Haas, available to pitch to Hendrick, but Kuenn said: "They had two lefthanded hitters coming up behind George. I thought Bobby could get him out."

The Cardinals added two insurance runs in the eighth, again keyed by a Lonnie Smith double. With Haas pitching, Hernandez was walked intentionally with one out, and Hendrick flied to center. But Porter, whose last two weeks of play erased the last two years of frustration in fans' minds, singled off lefthander Mike Caldwell, scoring Smith. Then Steve Braun, the Cardinals' third designated hitter of the game, drove in the sixth run with a single.

Braun, who rarely has batted against lefthanders in his specialist's role this season, said, "I haven't seen a lefthander since Huggins-Stengel Field at 10 o'clock in the morning." Huggins- Stengel Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., is where the Cardinals and New York Mets play 'B 'games in spring training.

Sutter, who had 36 saves and nine victories during the regular season and two victories and two saves in postseason play, dispatched the last six Milwaukee batters.

"Now I can say I'm just like Tug McGraw and Rollie Fingers," he said.

The reference was to two other relief aces -- McGraw, here on a television assignment, was sitting to his left. Both McGraw and Fingers had been on World Series winners previously, although Fingers' inability to pitch in this Series for the Brewers gave the Cardinals a huge bullpen advantage.

Andujar, pitching on a sore leg after being hit by a line drive last week, pitched four scoreless innings before Ben Oglivie ripped a first-pitch, 400-foot homer in leading off the fifth inning, tying the score at 1-1. Lonnie Smith's infield single had driven in Willie McGee with the Cardinals' first run the inning before.

In the sixth, Andujar's own fielding misadventures helped the Brewers gain a 3-1 lead. Jim Gantner got his third hit in four appearances against Andujar, a double to right, and then Molitor bunted down the third-base line. Third baseman Oberkfell moved toward the ball and so did Andujar, who caught the ball near the foul line and fired toward first.

But Herr, covering the bag, couldn't get the ball because Molitor obscured his vision and hindered his reach. The throw sailed wide for an error, and Gantner scored.

Robin Yount, the next hitter, bounced a high hopper toward Herr at second. With first baseman Hernandez having moved toward the ball, too, Herr looked toward Andujar to cover first, but Andujar had turned spectator and didn't cover. Yount was safe, and then Cecil Cooper's sacrifice fly scored Molitor.

Andujar pitched a scoreless seventh inning before Herzog removed him in favor of Sutter. One reason was that Herzog felt Andujar might be out of control after a shouting match with Gantner after Gantner had grounded to the mound for the last out of the inning. Hulking umpire Lee Weyer held Andujar back as he tried to charge Gantner.

"Joaquin sometimes gets a little high-strung in those spots," said Herzog. "But I had told Hub (pitching coach Hub Kittle) that after the inning I was going to use Sutter, anyway.

"Once he (Andujar) got us to the seventh inning, we've got the best relief pitcher in baseball. We pay him an awful big amount of money. I figured we'd better use him."

Sutter does not like being called the million-dollar reliever, but he performed that way Wednesday night, as he had most of the season. "To be very honest," said Herzog, "Bruce Sutter is the guy who turned this thing around."

The Cardinals are not really champions of the world, because a large part of the world doesn't play baseball. But they are champions of the world of baseball. Nineteen eighty-two was a very good year.

Bob Forsch plunks Gary Carter in the rear, then throws a no-hitter
A rookie's all-nighter puts the Cardinals on the brink of a title
The day Ozzie pulled off a 3,000-1 shot
The Cardinals ride Jack Clark's rocket to the World Series
The day McGwire and Sosa dueled at Wrigley.
The night it rained seat cushions at Busch Stadium
Looking back at 'Vuke's' Opening Day magic: They don't give quotes like this anymore.

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