ST. LOUIS — For Bret Saberhagen, baby can wait.
For the Kansas City Royals, however, Saberhagen had to deliver Tuesday night, and he did.
Saberhagen, a mere man-child himself at 21, pitched the Royals back into the World Series with a 6-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 before 53,634 fans in Busch Stadium.
Then he went into Manager Dick Howser's office to call his pregnant wife, Janeane, who watched one blessed event on TV in Kansas City while waiting for another to happen at any moment.
"He went out there with a lot of pressure on him," said Kansas City third baseman George Brett. "Not only were we down two games, but his wife was back home having a baby.
For the record
Los Angeles Times Thursday October 24, 1985 Home Edition Sports Part 3 Page 9 Column 3 Sports Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
It was reported in Wednesday's editions that Joaquin Andujar of the Cardinals had named Lonnie Smith of the Royals as a cocaine user during the Pittsburgh drug trial. Actually, Smith had named Andujar as a user.
"If my wife was having a baby. . . . "
Brett started over.
"I'm not married," he said, "but if my wife was having a baby, I'd find it awfully tough to concentrate."
While Saberhagen did his part for the family men, bachelor Brett struck a blow for the singles set, reaching base five consecutive times (two singles and three walks) to tie a World Series record last accomplished by Reggie Jackson in 1981.
Frank White, meanwhile, a singles hitter by trade who has been forced by circumstance to become a cleanup hitter, flexed the first muscle seen in this Series. White, batting in the No. 4 spot because the Series rules took the bat out of the hands of designated hitter Hal McRae, crushed a 430-foot homer with a man on base off Joaquin Andujar, the no-longer-dominant Dominican, that gave the Royals a 4-0 lead in the fifth.
White also doubled home a run in the seventh for the Royals, who, along with receiving eight walks, riddled Cardinal pitching for 11 hits. Two of the hits were two singles by Danny Biancalana, making the shortstop bigger than Larry (Bud) Melman with David Letterman.
"I'm not trying to be the star of the Series," said Biancalana, who hit .188 during the regular season and who has been a butt of jokes on Letterman's TV show. "I look at this as a chance to make up for the season I had."
The Cardinals, who had won six straight games in the postseason--including four in a row during the National League playoffs against the Dodgers--had just six hits against Saberhagen, the youngest pitcher to start a Series game since a 20-year-old Fernando Valenzuela beat the Yankees in 1981.
The common wisdom then was that Valenzuela was old beyond his years. They're saying the same thing about Saberhagen.
"He's just a kid," Royal catcher Jim Sundberg said. "Yet out on that mound he's grown up and mature. The book lists him in his 20s, but he pitches in his 30s."
Saberhagen is just three years removed from pitching a no-hitter in Dodger Stadium for Cleveland High School of Reseda in the L.A. City championship game. Imagine that.
"How can anyone imagine that?" Saberhagen said.
The Cardinals looked at Saberhagen's Cy Young-like credentials this season--a 20-6 record, 158 strikeouts, a 2.87 earned run average--and dismissed the notion that youth might not be served in the pressure of a World Series premiere.
"Do you think if Dwight Gooden were here, it would affect him any?" asked Cardinal third baseman Terry Pendleton, who managed one infield hit in four at-bats against Saberhagen.
"Seriously, if he can pitch, he can pitch," Pendleton added. "It's as simple as that."
Saberhagen, who struck out eight, made it seem especially simple against Cardinal slugger Jack Clark, who went down on strikes three times against the right-hander, the first two times on a called third strike. He also retired the last 11 St. Louis batters, striking out two in the ninth.
"You never know how a young player is going to react to a pressure situation," said Cardinal second baseman Tommy Herr, who had one of three straight singles in the sixth, when St. Louis scored its only run.
"Obviously, he rose to the occasion, and pitched the way he did all year."
Clark said that Saberhagen reminded him of a young Don Sutton, who at the moment is 265 wins ahead of the Royal prodigy.
"He made some great pitches," said Clark, who singled in the Cardinals' only run. "The first time, he struck me out on a 3-and-2 curveball on the inside part of the plate, the second time with a 2-and-2 fastball that was low and away, and I didn't see his changeup until my last time up.
"You have to give him credit. He did exactly what they needed."
Andujar, meanwhile, just managed to get by, stranding five Kansas City base-runners in the first three innings, including a strikeout of Pat Sheridan with the bases loaded in the third.
But in the fourth, ex-Cardinal Lonnie Smith--named by Andujar as a cocaine user during the Pittsburgh drug trial--delivered a two-out double to drive home the first two Royal runs. An inning later, Brett lined a single to right and White launched his home run that caused left fielder Tito Landrum to take one step, then stop.
This game was the first step for the Royals, trying to become the first team in history to lose the first two games of a Series at home and come back to win.
"I was real nervous in the first inning," Saberhagen said, "especially after (Willie) McGee got to first base (on a single). My knees were knocking together. To get a double play then really helped."
While he was on the mound, Saberhagen said, he didn't think about his wife. That wasn't as easy to do, however, between innings.
"I'm nervous about my wife right now," Saberhagen said, one reason the Royal clubhouse was filled with grown men engaged in baby talk.
It'll be Drew if it's a boy, Brittany if it's a girl. As far as he could tell, Saberhagen said, the baby was not yet on the way.
"It's not something you can tell until you go into labor," Saberhagen said. "I've never had a baby, but that's what they tell me."
The Cardinals can tell you this: That Bret, baby, can really pitch.