MINNEAPOLIS — What the St. Louis Cardinals set out to do here Sunday night was not to silence the voluble Metrodome crowd, an acoustic impossibility, but to make sure the Minnesota Twins did not answer the decibel. They wanted the fans sobbing into those ubiquitous Homer Hankies, not waving them in raucous celebration.
Instead, the Cardinals once more were enveloped by the sights, sounds and bats of a team and a ballpark that make nearly an unbeatable combination.
St. Louis was beaten by the Twins, 4-2, in Game 7 of the World Series, by far the Cardinals' best showing of the four in a quirky domed stadium with track lighting, a non-stick Teflon roof and a large slab of vinyl in right field for no apparent reason.
Until the end, the Cardinals devotely felt they could win here. But in the stony silence of the Cardinal clubhouse, a stark contrast to the squalor on the field, they finally admitted that the Twins and the Metrodome simply were too much to bear.
St. Louis won all three games at Busch Stadium, where the sky is black, where the fans red-clad and red-faced instead of white-towel wavers and where they feel even the artificial turf is somehow more natural.
But at the Metrodome they were outscored, 29-10. The only close game was Sunday's, when the Twins overcame a 2-0 deficit to pull out a 4-2 win.
"We did beat them three times (in St. Louis), but the Twins are a very good team and deserved this," Cardinal second baseman Tommy Herr said. "They were just too tough at home. We couldn't even win one of four here."
The Cardinals, participants in three World Series in the '80s but winners only once, did not begrudge the Twins the championship. But they stopped short of calling the Twins a great team. At least, a great team outside the Metrodome.
"Oh yeah, they sure proved they can win here--all season, they did," Cardinal third baseman Terry Pendleton said. "They are the best home team in baseball. I can't speak for anyone else, but, for me, I find it real tough to play here. If we played here the whole year, we might get used to it."
If nothing else, this Cardinal team is adaptable.
They overcame a disabling injury to slugger Jack Clark with a month left in the regular season, but they still held off the New York Mets and Montreal Expos to win the National League East and then beat the San Francisco Giants for the pennant. Then, they extended the Twins to seven games without Clark and Pendleton, who combined for 202 RBIs this season.
The Cardinals, clearly, had the resolve but not the roster.
Perhaps the most important game of the Series was a simulated one the Cardinals staged their first night in town 10 days ago.
The participants included Clark, who has torn tissue in his right ankle, and Pendleton, who suffered a pulled rib cage muscle in Game 7 of the playoffs. The objective was to see if the two injured players could effectively play in the Series.
Clark had six at-bats, went hitless and could barely run to first base. He was left off the playoff roster, but Pendleton was included because he could hit without pain from the left side.
Manager Whitey Herzog also fractured his English that night, when he said: "I ain't got an idea why we're here."
The Cardinals then proceeded to show why they advanced this far. Ingenuity may be their best trait. Such little-known contributors such as Jose Oquendo, Tom Lawless, Curt Ford and Jim Lindeman helped the Cardinals win three straight over the Twins in St. Louis.
They needed to win only one of two games at the Metrodome to clinch their first championship since 1982, but the Twins and that blasted thing proved to be insurmountable obstacles.
As if the loss of Clark, the limited availability of Pendleton, the pesky Twins and the unrelenting stadium weren't enough to do in the Cardinals, they were confronted with two questionable calls by the first-base umpire that evoked images of their last World Series loss to Kansas City in 1985.
With one out in the fifth inning and the Cardinals clinging to a 2-1 lead, Greg Gagne hit a chopper to Lindeman at first base. He flipped the ball to pitcher Joe Magrane, covering the base. Magrane said he ran his left foot over the bag before Gagne touched the base, but first-base umpire Lee Weyer, from the National League, called Gagne safe. Kirby Puckett followed with a double to the right-center alley off Danny Cox that scored Gagne with the tying run.
An inning later, Herr was picked off first base and involved in a rundown before seemingly returning the first base safely. But Weyer called Herr out, and a potential Cardinal rally was squelched.
Herzog, who has guided the Cardinals to three National League pennants in the last six years and was denied a pennant in 1981 because of the split season, said his team did its best, under the circumstances.