ST. LOUIS — We know the Tigers. We know the Sox, both Red and White. We know the Yankees, the Orioles and the Angels. We know those teams are not as good as the Milwaukee Brewers, American League Champions for 1982.
But what about the St. Louis Cardinals? What do we know about the Crew’s newest enemies and champions of the National League?
We know they went 92-70 to win the NL East and swept the Braves in the NLCS. (Seriously, how cool would it have been to kick the snot out of the Braves, the team that broke Milwaukee’s heart after the 1965 season?)
The Cards won’t bludgeon you to death as they were last in the NL in home runs (67). But they were second in batting average (.264) and first in on base percentage (.334). They have excellent team speed (200 stolen bases led the league by 35), excellent defense and above average pitching.
Thanks to the powerful KMOX, upon which Jack Buck’s voice rolls like thunder across the plains, the Cards have fans across the deep South and as far west as Colorado. The 50,000-watt mega-station has fascinated generations of Cards fans. While the Cardinals faithful have been rewarded with eight World Series titles, they’ve been waiting longer than Brewers fans as the Cards haven’t won a championship since 1967. Not as bad as the Cubs (1908) or those cheaters on the South Side (1917), but long enough.
So, the scene is set. Game 1 is tonight in the Gateway City at the cookie-cutter craphole with plastic grass known as Busch Stadium.
Lineups will be forthcoming, but let’s look at the potential positional matchups for the series.
Cecil Cooper vs. Keith Hernandez
Hernandez is one of the finer first basemen in either league. He hit .299, walked 100 times and drove in 94 runs. He’s won four straight Gold Gloves. He’ll probably win a fifth this season. Crew fans know Coop, a hero for driving in the two runs to win Game 5 of the ALCS. Cooper is more of a run producer than Hernandez, driving in more than 100 (121) for the third time in four seasons and has won two consecutive Silver Slugger awards. His .313 average and 32 dingers aren’t half bad either. He’s not the defensive wizard Hernandez is, however.
Jim Gantner vs. Tommy Herr
Herr, the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter, hit .266 and struck out (56) almost as often as he walked (57). He isn’t much of a table setter, but Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog has stuck with him at the top of the order most of the season. Gantner is all guts and guile. It is interesting, though, Gantner, who bats ninth in the Brewers’ order, hit .295 and had one more hits (132) than Herr this season. Gumby doesn’t walk much, but then again, what Brewer does? Both can hold their own on defense.
Robin Yount vs. Ozzie Smith
Smith is the best defensive shortstop of his generation and gathers Gold Gloves like he does routine grounders. In his first season as a Card, he vacuumed the Busch Stadium carpet like a Hoover, committing only 13 errors. Yet, he can’t hit a lick (.248) and has power to no fields. And then there’s Yount. He isn’t the fielder Smith is, but then Smith couldn’t lift Robin’s bat. We’re talking about the American League MVP here, people. His season was historic. The Kid is The Man.
Paul Molitor vs Ken Oberkfell
Oberkfell hit .289 from the eighth spot in the lineup. He doesn’t walk much, he doesn’t steal much, he doesn’t hit for power. Molly is “The Ignitor,” led the American League with 136 runs and is one of the best base runners in all of baseball. Oberkfell made only 11 errors at the hot corner, while Molly made 29, but his bat more than makes up for his deficiency in the field.
Ben Oglivie vs Lonnie Smith
Smith led the National League in runs, stole 68 bases and hit .307. He is the engine for St. Louis’ small ball attack. Former Brewers and now Mets manager George Bamberger (Bambi!) has this to say about Smith: “You must keep him off base. A walk, a single or an error is as good as a double for him, because he is a prime base-stealer.” Duly noted. Oglivie can mash (34 homers in ’82) and drive ’em home (102), but doesn’t hit for average (.244), didn’t hit well against the Angels and has bruised ribs.
Gorman Thomas vs. Willie McGee
This position (and left field as well) show the yin and the yang of this World Series matchup: Harvey’s Wallbangers vs. Whitey’s Speed Demons. We all love Stormin’ Gorman, his disheveled look and his complete lack of regard for his body, which he throws around the outfield with abandon. Which is why he’s hobbled by a bum knee heading into the series. He hits homers (his 39 tied for the AL lead this season), he drives in runs (112) and strikes out a lot (143). McGee, a switch-hitting rookie, walks faster than Thomas runs and when McGee runs, watch out. He’s lightning on the paths and stole 24 bases in 36 attempts. What’s scary is he’s still learning the game.
Charlie Moore vs. George Hendrick
Both men have powerful arms. You can ask Reggie Jackson’s about Moore’s. Hendrick can hit. Moore barely can.
Ted Simmons vs. Darrell Porter
Simmons broke in with the Cards, who traded him — along with Pete Vuckovich and Rollie Fingers — to the Brewers before the ’81 season. You can imagine how much he wants to win this series. He can hit with power from either side of the plate, but may be the slowest human being ever. Porter is a former Brewer who handles pitchers well and can get hot, but normally he won’t set the World (Series) on fire.
Neither team has a dominant strikeout artist like a Nolan Ryan or a mesmerizer such as Steve Carlton, but they both have adequate rotations. Joaquin Andujar and Bob Forsch each won 15, the most on the Cards. Andujar was the better of the two with a 2.47 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. Vuckovich led the Crew with 18 wins and Caldwell won 17. Caldwell was a horse with 12 complete games. Don Sutton was a great late addition to the rotation and should help the Crew. The bullpens are adequate, but the Cards have the advantage with Bruce Sutter over Pete Ladd, despite Ladd’s ALCS heroics. There are rumors that Rollie Fingers may — may — be available for the World Series.
Advantage: If Fingers can pitch, Crew; if not, push
Speed vs. power. Running from station to station or jogging around the bases after a three-run homer. These are as different as two offenses get. The Cards hit 67 home runs all season. Robin Yount and Cecil Cooper combined to hit 61. The thing about the Crew is they have power (216 homers) and speed at the top of the lineup (Molly had 41 steals). They can pretty much beat you every which way.
The Brewers aren’t exactly ham-handed in the field, but they’re not the Cardinals. Few teams are. Granted, it’s easier to pick clean a grounder off of turf, but then again, balls get through more quickly on the plastic grass. The Cardinals’ range is far better than the Brewers. Ozzie Smith and Keith Hernandez anchor a stellar defensive infield and the outfielders have great speed.
Harvey Kuenn vs. Whitey Herzog
Again, depends on which style you prefer. Herzog pushes buttons. Kuenn let’s ’em play. As much as I like, nay, love Harvey, in the World Series, you probably need someone who can make a shrewd move or 10.
Miller and Pabst vs. Budweiser
Like we’d pick anything else. Plus, Miller Lite commercials are the best.
We’re Brewers fans, of course, and we want the Crew to capture its first series win. But will they? We say yes. With comparable pitching and a quick-to-score, and downright frightening offense, Harvey’s Wallbangers will bring Milwaukee its first world championship since 1957 in six games.