The seventh game of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians was stupendous. Indeed, the whole series was great. Too bad someone had to lose But this is not the first time there was great drama with the championship riding on the lone.
Let me tell you about one of the weirdest of all time. In 1985 the St. Louis Cardinals played the Kansas City Royals in the I-70 series. It was a titanic struggle with both teams well matched and the Royals seemingly on a mission—just like the Cubs—winning games five and six to set up a dramatic seventh World Series game. This time, however, it was not a heart-throbbing cliffhanger like in 2016. In fact, it was an embarrassment as the Royals shut out the Cards 11-0.
Ace Cardinals pitcher John Tudor started the big game, and the Cards had no better person to go with. He had already won two games in this Series, and it conjured up images of Bob Gibson winning three games in both the 1964 and 1967 Series. But Tudor fell behind early as Bret Saberhagen sailed through the first few innings. The Cards did not even hit it out of the infield. When Tudor gave up five runs, Herzog pulled him and although generally a genial person he was angry, mostly with himself, and proceeded to injure his hand by bashing a locker after leaving the game.
After going through two other pitchers, neither of whom could stop the Royals, and trailing 9-0 in the fifth Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog inserted into the game his other pitching ace, Joaquin Andujar. The Royals then continued their tear, and Andujar responded by putting on one of the most ugly displays ever witnessed in baseball. After home plate umpire Don Denkinger called an obvious ball on Jim Sundberg, Andujar flipped out. He stomped around the mound in what could only be called a temper tantrum and then charged toward Denkinger at the plate. Herzog rushed out to restrain Andujar and ended up arguing with Denkinger. In the end the umpire ejected Herzog from the game.
This made Herzog the first manager, since bad boy Billy Martin managing the Yankees in 1976, to get himself tossed out of a World Series game. Afterward, Herzog philosophized about this turn of events. “I’d seen enough,” he said. “That wasn’t a ball game. Like Casey says, ‘Ain’t no sense livin’ in misery’.” He took the ejection as a reprieve from torture.
After Herzog left the field, Andujar returned to the mound and on the very next pitch, called a ball by Denkinger, he flipped out again. He screamed and jumped up and down on the mound before running in to take a swing at Denkinger. By the time order had been restored, Andujar was also tossed out of the game. It was all over; the Royals added a couple of additional runs but whatever hope the Cardinals might have had for the seventh game, they were destroyed in the fifth inning after Andujar’s antics. One wit dubbed the Cardinals the “Nuthouse Gang” because of their coming apart in game seven. Sports Illustrated writer Ron Fimrite concluded, “The Cardinals were truly a sorry sight this night. Only a few days earlier they had seemed certain Series champions. Now they were exiting as buffoons.”
In contrast, that first World Series victory by the Royals proved exceedingly sweet after so many years of near misses. George Brett, who had led the Royals attack with a .370 series average—just three percentage points ahead of teammate Willie Wilson—summed up everything about the victory with an insightful comment. As the bubbly flowed in the victory party following game seven Brett came aside to describe what it meant to him to win this World Series. He shouted above the celebratory clamor taking place behind him, “I know, I know, people were saying, ‘God, we’ve got this damn all-Missouri World Series. Who cares?’ Well, do you think I wanted to be drafted by Kansas City, this little town in Missouri? I’m from L.A. and I wanted to play for the Dodgers. But I’ll tell you something: I’m proud, very proud, to be a Kansas City Royal.” Brett then laughed a big belly laugh and added, “And you know what it is we did, don’t you? We showed’em.”
Never had Missouri enjoyed such fun! Never had its two greatest cities been so proud. Win or lose, both St. Louis and Kansas City had a wonderful time. And George Brett had been right after an ugly game seven, Missouri “showed’em.”