ST. LOUIS — No one really knows what it means but its variations have been part of baseball's jargon for decades. At any rate, the San Francisco Giants have responded to Manager Roger Craig's silly catch-phrase that seems part philosophy, part salutation and, somehow, a vital part of their success this season.
Everyone in California must have a mantra, and the Giants' is this: Humm baby .
The St. Louis Cardinals, who will play the Giants tonight in Game 1 of the National League championship series, also have been repeating two words in recent weeks. This phrase, however, is far more understandable and directly related to the Cardinals' success: Jack Clark.
Clark, the Cardinals' first baseman who has accounted for 35 home runs and 106 runs batted in, has been out of the lineup since Sept. 9 with a badly sprained right ankle. He is not expected to play either tonight or Wednesday night and perhaps not until a possible Game 6 next week, which no doubt has the Giants chanting humm baby in delight.
"I hope Jack's ankle is fine and he's ready to play--after the playoffs," said Craig, who first applied his catch phrase for inspiration in 1986, when he took the job with the Giants. "I think he's one of the most dangerous players in baseball. He can break up a game in a minute."
Clark's loss is the main reason people are giving the Giants a good chance of knocking off the Cardinals and advancing to the World Series, even though the Cardinals have playoff and World Series experience from just two years ago and the Giants haven't made a postseason appearance since 1971.
San Francisco's Rick Reuschel (13-9) opposes St. Louis' Danny Cox (11-9) tonight at 5:30 (PDT) in the opener of a playoff series featuring teams with vastly different styles but comparable talent.
The availability of Clark, who has made only three uneventful pinch-hitting appearances in the last month, could be the difference. The most commonly used analogy is that, without Clark, St. Louis is a sleek sports car with great wheels but no engine.
The Cardinals undoubtedly have the swiftest team in the National League, led by Vince Coleman and Ozzie Smith. But without Clark, their power source, they are a far less intimidating team. St. Louis was 76-50 and had a 9 1/2-game lead in the East with Clark. Without him, they were 19-16 and had to fight off the New York Mets and Montreal Expos.
"Hopefully, I'll have a chance to get in there and do something and not hurt myself," said Clark, who figures only to be used as a pinch-hitter in certain situations tonight and Wednesday.
Even though the alternative to playing a gimpy Clark tonight against the right-handed Reuschel is Dan Driessen, Manager Whitey Herzog said he has resisted the temptation to rush Clark back.
"I'd really rather not use him," Herzog said. "They still say he's a week away. The sixth game is about 10 days away."
It may be only slightly presumptuous to start thinking of the possibility of a six- or seven-game series. But these teams, despite varying greatly in style and personnel, are fairly even in talent.
The Cardinals are a running team. Coleman, who stole 109 bases and was the cause of 20% of the balks called in the National League this season, is an ideal leadoff hitter. His running mate is Smith, who hit .303 with 75 RBIs and 43 stolen bases.
But Coleman and Smith often would be stranded if Clark, Terry Pendleton, who drove in 96 runs, and Willie McGee, who had 105 RBIs, were not hitting behind them. Driessen, Clark's replacement against right-handers, has hit .233 with 11 RBIs in 24 games. Jim Lindeman, who most likely will replace Clark against left-handed pitchers, hit .203 with 28 RBIs.
The Cardinals' speed also translates into a strong defense, which has been the salvation of their shaky pitching staff. That staff produced three 11-game winners, 33 saves from Todd Worrell and little else.
Cox had an 11-9 record and a 3.88 earned-run average despite missing a month of the season with a broken wrist. John Tudor, the Cardinals' starter for Wednesday's Game 2, missed 3 1/2 months after breaking his leg in a freak dugout accident, then finished 10-2 with a 3.84 ERA. Rookie Joe Magrane (9-7) and Greg Mathews (11-11) figure to be the Cardinals' other two starters. Bob Forsch (11-7) is not in the rotation for the playoffs.
The Giants, conversely, have strong starting pitching and specialize in the long ball. But Reuschel and Dave Dravecky, the expected starter for Game 2, have each been ineffective in recent outings, and the Giants' power may be neutralized by cavernous Busch Stadium.
The Giants' power-hitting first baseman, Will Clark, said he doesn't think Busch Stadium will affect the long-ball hitters. "It'll just be like Candlestick," said Clark, who had 35 home runs and 91 RBIs.