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Cardinals Take the Yellow Brick Road to L.A. : Oz's Dramatic Home Run in 9th Tops Dodgers, 3-2

October 15, 1985|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS — Ozzie Smith, the only man alive with a $2 million glove, turned his bat to gold with one swing Monday afternoon. He also turned the Dodgers gray with a ninth-inning home run off reliever Tom Niedenfuer, the first the switch-hitter ever has hit from the left side, that gave the Cardinals a 3-2 win over Los Angeles before a disbelieving crowd of 53,708 in Busch Stadium.

The Wizard of Oz, as he is known for his handsprings and sleight-of-hand, added body slams to his repertoire Monday, even though at 5-9 and 155 pounds, he figured to be no match for the 6-5, 225-pound Niedenfuer.

"He's the type of hitter that Buff (Niedenfuer) usually knocks the bat out of his hands," Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser said.

This time, Smith did the knocking, driving an inside fastball off the concrete facing above the right-field fence just inside the foul pole.

"I thought it was a home run all the way," said Dodger right fielder Mike Marshall, who still instinctively picked up the ball when it bounced back onto the field and threw it into the infield. "I heard it more than I saw it.

"You can hear the difference between concrete (above the fence) and rubber."

While Smith danced and the crowd screamed, St. Louis rookie Vince Coleman threw away his crutches so he could be part of the welcoming committee of Cardinals that met Smith at the plate. Coleman walking again was no miracle--one an inning was enough.

The Dodgers, who lost all three games they played here and now trail the National League playoffs, 3 games to 2, left the field. It remains to be seen what they have left when the best-of-seven series resumes Wednesday in Los Angeles, where they won the first two games.

"These are the ones that break another team's back," Cardinal first baseman Jack Clark said. "They crush you much more than getting blown out of the stadium.

"These last three games, you can see the whole Cardinal season. It's all there for us."

There will be no there there for the Dodgers if they lose on Wednesday.

"We have nothing to lose now," Hershiser said. "If we win on Wednesday, everybody will be saying it's back in our favor.

"It's like a tennis match. We've held service, they've held service, we've got two serves left and they've got a shot at break point."

The last time someone hit a home run in the fifth game of a playoff that involved the Dodgers, it won a pennant--in 1981, when Rick Monday connected off Montreal.

"I don't know who the hell came up with that seven-game format, though," said a deadpan Cardinal manager, Whitey Herzog. "I think it ought to be five."

Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully said he was reminded of another memorable home run hit by a little man.

"The first thought I had was Joe Morgan hitting the one off Terry Forster," said Scully, referring to the home run that cost the Dodgers a division title on the last day of the 1982 season.

But Morgan, a big little man, hit 268 home runs in his career. Smith, with the build of a gymnast instead of a weight lifter, started the day with 13 in eight seasons.

"Little guys? How can you talk about Joe Morgan and a guy who never hit one left-handed in his life?" Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said. "Little guy? Mel Ott was a little guy and he hit 511 home runs."

Niedenfuer, a big guy who could have stooped to boorish behavior but didn't, patiently took on all comers after the game.

"Anytime you get beat by a home run you can rant and rave, but you can't change what happened," Niedenfuer said. "Besides, you might break something, and you don't want to do that."

Fernando Valenzuela, who pitched the first eight innings, shutting out the Cardinals for seven of them after allowing two first-inning runs, tired after throwing 132 pitches. Niedenfuer pitched the ninth and threw eight, which was enough for the Cardinals.

"I threw him three fastballs away, then I tried to come in on him," Niedenfuer said. "You really don't think Ozzie's going to hurt you."

Smith has broken hearts before, but never by calling long distance.

"That's not my thing," Smith said. "I've worked hard pumping weights during the off-season. I have to continue to work hard, but I don't have the physical power to be a home-run hitter."

The Dodgers flexed a little muscle themselves, Bill Madlock hitting his second home run in two games with Ken Landreaux aboard to tie the score, 2-2, in the fourth off Bob Forsch.

But in the seventh, when the Dodgers needed as much brain as brawn, they drew a blank.

Mike Scioscia walked and Enos Cabell singled to left, his first hit in 11 playoff at-bats, to open the inning against Cardinal reliever Ken Dayley. That's when Herzog turned to the Bible-packing member of his Bullpen By Committee, Todd Worrell.

Worrell, the only alumnus of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles to be drafted into the major leagues, strayed far from the straight and narrow on his first three pitches to Steve Sax, who came into the game with a .462 average and six hits, more than any other Dodger.

Sax, originally instructed to bunt, received a new set of instructions after the first two balls: He was told to take, which is just what he did when Worrell threw two over the middle for strikes.

But with a full count, Sax--who earlier had been splashed by a fan sitting behind the Dodger dugout--threw water on the rally by swinging at a pitch that Lasorda estimated was at least a half a foot off the plate.

"If he doesn't swing at a bad pitch," Lasorda said, "we have the bases loaded and nobody out."

Valenzuela then bounced weakly to the mound and Mariano Duncan fouled out to catcher Darrell Porter, ending the inning.

"I knew we were in trouble in the seventh because they can score a run quicker than we can," Cabell said.

But no one expected the Cardinals to score that way.

"We can't be emotional about this," Sax said. "We have to be logical."

In the land of Oz, however, logic doesn't play.

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