MINNEAPOLIS — There are 8 million stories in the naked clubhouse, but not all concerning the St. Louis Cardinals have to do with the exploits of flaky left-handed pitchers Joe Magrane and Greg Mathews.
As the World Series between the Cardinals and the Minnesota Twins returns to the Metrodome today for Game 6, the most effective pitcher has been Cardinal left-handed reliever Ken Dayley, who has been nearly unhittable in three appearances.
Dayley has worked 4 scoreless innings against the Twins in the Series, earning the save Wednesday night in Game 4. Thursday, in Game 5, he retired Kent Hrbek, the only batter he faced, with one out and two runners on base in the eighth inning.
Counting the 1985 playoffs and World Series, Dayley has pitched 16 straight postseason scoreless innings. In perhaps his most noteworthy achievement, though, Dayley has been the only Cardinal pitcher to tame the Twins at the Metrodome, retiring all four batters he faced in Game 1.
By any standard, his has been an outstanding run of pitching. But the story behind Dayley's success to this point makes it even more remarkable.
Dayley, the Cardinals' top left-handed reliever in '85, was bothered by elbow soreness most of last season and underwent career-threatening surgery last October to repair a severely frayed ligament on the inside of his left elbow.
Dr. Frank Jobe, the Dodgers' physician, grafted tissue from Dayley's right wrist into his torn elbow ligament, a procedure similar to Tommy John's publicized surgery in the 1970s.
Several pitchers have recovered from the operation and resumed their careers, but Dayley may have set records for speedy recovery, his own and the speed on his fastball.
"I wasn't throwing that hard earlier in the season," Dayley said. "That's when I learned to pitch spots better. Now that the arm feels fine, I have better location than before."
At the time of the surgery, Jobe had said that Dayley most likely would need the entire season to fully rehabilitate his elbow. But Dayley was throwing in spring training and was activated from the disabled list May 20. He had a 9-5 record with 4 saves in 61 innings during the regular season, augmenting right-handed ace reliever Todd Worrell in the bullpen.
It has been in postseason play, however, that Dayley has not only returned to full form but exceeded the expectations of many.
"It's a miracle I'm here," he told reporters. "Thinking back, I thought I'd be carrying a lunch pail. Things are a lot better than I expected. Here I am, in the World Series. It's a miracle."
About the only person not surprised is Dayley's manager, Whitey Herzog.
"All the (initial) indications said he wouldn't pitch," Herzog said. "Then, they said late June before he starts throwing. But the first time I saw him in spring training, I knew he'd be back soon. He's a hard worker, but anytime you come back from surgery, it's amazing."
Even though Worrell has earned saves in two of the Cardinals' three wins, he has not been nearly as impressive as Dayley.
"He's a guy who rarely makes mistakes," Herzog said of Dayley.
Shortly after the Cardinals acquired Dayley from the Atlanta Braves late in the 1984 season, Herzog knew it was a mistake to have him continue as a starter.
"His first start for us, I think he faced 32 hitters and gave up 22 hits before I got him out of there," said Herzog, with typical exaggeration. "I sent him back to the minors, and we forget about him. He was a . . . pitcher.
"But before spring training, we were thinking about relief pitchers, and we tried him. It wasn't a brilliant decision."
It wasn't a bad one, either.
Dayley had a 2.76 earned-run average and 11 saves in 1985. He also pitched five scoreless innings against the Dodgers in the National League playoffs and six scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.
St. Louis third baseman Terry Pendleton, who cannot play regularly during the Series because of a pulled muscle in his left rib cage, will be the Cardinals' designated hitter today in Game 6 against Twin right-hander Les Straker.
Pendleton says his side is feeling better and that he may be able to play third base and hit from the right side if Game 7 is necessary. "I don't anticipate him being able to play," trainer Gene Gieselman said. "But he's made so much improvement through the Series. I don't want to put any chances on it, but, medically, if he can tolerate it, I think Dr. (Stan) London and I would probably send him out there."
If the Twins lose either today or Sunday, it will be a continuation of years of close-calls but no championships for Minnesota sports teams. The Vikings made it to four Super Bowls, and lost all four, and the Minnesota North Stars advanced to the Stanley Cup finals once, only to lose.
Kent Hrbek, the Twin first baseman and a native Minnesotan, is aware of what a struggle it has been.