The Kansas City Royals joined the St. Louis Cardinals in helping produce an all-Missouri World Series Wednesday night. The Toronto Blue Jays contributed to this Show Me State Showdown by showing nothing over the final three games of the American League's championship series.
The Royals, playoff underdogs and trailing in games, 3-1, won all three, rebounding as they had against the Angels, who had held a 7 1/2-game lead over Kansas City on July 24.
A crowd of 32,084, chilled by a first-pitch temperature of 45 degrees and numbed by a four-run Kansas City sixth inning, saw the Royals win the decisive seventh game, 6-2.
The second pennant in Kansas City history came in the wake of the club's sixth division title.
George Brett, selected as the playoff MVP on the basis of his .348 average, two doubles, three home runs, five RBIs and seven walks, dodged sprays of the ritualistic champagne in the Royals' clubhouse and called the 1985 pennant more satisfying than 1980's.
"There's no way a team should be able to come back from 3-1," he said, "but we never died.
"The last two weeks of the season were filled with must games, and we won every one we had to.
"I'm hopeful we don't get ourselves in a 3-1 situation again against the Cardinals. Am I excited? It's a dream come true. I mean, all the media talked about this year was a Freeway Series or a Subway Series.
"No one gave an I-70 Series much chance, but I've wanted to make the drive for a long time."
The Freeway Series of another kind opens in Kansas City Saturday.
Now, hockey returns to the Toronto spotlight.
The Blue Jays' bid to host the Series opener died on the basepaths.
After being second in the league in batting and fourth in runs, Toronto stranded 25 runners in losing the last three games, including eight Wednesday night--seven in the first five innings.
The Blue Jay offense could be called Canada dry as it scored just eight runs in the last 40 innings.
Said right fielder Jesse Barfield: "We didn't choke, that's for sure. They beat us. We didn't roll over. They came up with clutch hits. They pitched us tough the last few days. You have to say they're the better team. They won it. I don't want to hear that we lost it."
The Blue Jays definitely weren't hearing it from Kansas City Manager Dick Howser.
"This wasn't pressure or inexperience getting to Toronto," he said. "Our pitching is just that good.
"I mean, people like to say that we don't have enough hitting, that the manager doesn't win in the playoffs and that we don't have a No. 4 hitter when Hal McRae is hurt, but even when we're down to our eighth and ninth pitchers, there can be no questioning the quality.
"We're not a dominating type team, but we've consistently won the big games and the big series this year because of our pitching."
Howser, however, was nursing concern about his No. 1 pitcher.
Bret Saberhagen, who started Game 7, came out after three innings with a bruise at the base of his right thumb.
He suffered the injury attempting to bare-hand a Willie Upshaw grounder in the first, when a two-out walk, the Upshaw single and a hit batter enabled the Blue Jays to load the bases for George Bell, who flied out.
The Blue Jays wasted an Ernie Whitt single in the second and a Rance Mulliniks double in the third, after which the 21-year-old Saberhagen selected discretion over valor.
"Yes," Howser said, "I'm concerned. We'll have it X-rayed today. We didn't think it was that severe, but it later started throbbing."
Saberhagen, tentatively scheduled to start Game 2 of the World Series Sunday, said he shared the concern.
"It's one thing to contribute in the regular season and another in the postseason," he said. "I want to be in position to make a contribution, but I am a little concerned about it."
Saberhagen had his hand wrapped around a champagne bottle, but he said, "What happened tonight was a personal disappointment, a letdown.
"George (Brett) said to me, 'don't come out, stay in, bear the pain,' but it was too big a game. I had no life on my fastball. I was having trouble with my grip. I didn't want to let the team down. I told Dick to give the ball to someone better. I might have stayed in if the bullpen was down, but we had plenty of guys to do the job."
Howser selected left-hander Charlie Leibrandt, who started Games 1 and 4, losing the latter despite eight shutout innings. Leibrandt yielded a fifth-inning run on a Damaso Garcia single and an Upshaw double, then held the Blue Jays hitless until Barfield and Tony Fernandez singled consecutively with one out in the ninth.
At this point, the game was being interrupted frequently by zealots running across the field, many carrying Canadian flags, and Leibrandt ("I was surprised at how little class they showed after being so well-behaved early in the series," he said) lost his rhythm.
Dan Quisenberry came in to get the final two outs, bringing the Royals streaming out of the dugout for a high-five melee in the area of first base.
Not often does a team hitting .225 in the playoffs do the celebrating, but this was a team that also overcame a regular-season average of .252. Only the Angels, of the league's 14 teams, had a lower average.
The Royals got eight hits Wednesday night, beating Toronto ace Dave Stieb, who was making his third start of the series and second on three days rest.
"We were confident coming in," second baseman Frank White said. "We felt Stieb would be tired, that his control might not be as good as normal. He was better than we thought, but he still didn't have his good fastball."
The damage was done by catcher Jim Sundberg, who was 2 for 20 when it started, and right fielder Pat Sheridan, who was 1 for 16.
Sheridan bunted safely with one out in the second, advanced on a ground-out and scored on Sundberg's bloop single to right.
Sheridan, who hit a disappointing .228 with three home runs during the regular season, then hit his second homer of the playoffs in the fourth.
The Royals still led by only 2-1 in the sixth when Toronto Manager Bobby Cox showed extraordinary patience with Stieb, who walked Brett on four pitches, hit Hal McRae on a 1-and-2 pitch and ultimately walked Steve Balboni to load the bases.
Sundberg, who would emerge with six RBIs on four hits, then hit a drive up into a 13-m.p.h. wind blowing to right.
Barfield went back, put his shoulder to the fence and watched it bounce off the top and away from him for a game-busting triple. Stieb finally was replaced by Jim Acker, who yielded an RBI single to White, completing Kansas City's scoring.
White reflected later on both the comeback from a two-game deficit and the comeback against the Angels, and said: "A miracle a minute."
Said McRae, "We seem to specialize in do-or-die situations."
It was particularly sweet for Howser, who was 0-11 as a playoff manager after Game 2 and now has a three-game winning streak.
"I've said all along that I don't have to take a backseat to any manager, that I don't have to defend my record," he said. "We've been first or second every year. We've been in the hunt every year. No one can ask for more."
It wasn't a total loss for the Blue Jays. They made a profit on the champagne with which the Royals celebrated. It was the same champagne the Blue Jays had taken to Kansas City, the same champagne they carried home unopened.