When San Francisco's Joe Morgan hit a three-run, line-shot homer in the seventh inning at Candlestick Park on Sunday afternoon, Los Angeles Pitcher Terry Forster tossed his glove high in the air and the crowd of 47,457 cheered riotously as Morgan jubilantly rounded the bases. "I knew I was going to get a hit," the 39-year-old second baseman said afterward. "Nothing out there is new to me anymore." Forster worked the count to one-two and then threw what he would later describe as "the biggest mistake of my career"—a hanging slider. Morgan got all of it, and the Dodgers were finished for 1982.
Shortly after L.A.'s 5-3 loss, Forster sat slumped on a stool outside his clubhouse cubicle. "There was no excuse for it," he said. "That's the worst exhibition I've ever put on in a key game. One pitch! One pitch can win or lose a pennant."
First Baseman Steve Garvey of the dethroned World Champions stayed in full uniform long after the game was over. "I'm stalling in taking this thing off," he said, contemplating a future in some other uniform. "You don't spend 12 years of your life—12 years of exhilaration and low points, 12 important years—and not become reflective."
It was appropriate that a Giant should decide the division title because at the start of the chaotic final week of the regular season, the advantage among the three contenders appeared to be entirely with San Francisco. The Giants had just finished sweeping three games at Dodger Stadium and were the hottest team in the majors. As last week began they had won five in a row, 10 of 12 and 18 of 22. On Sept. 4 they had been nine games out of first. Now they were only one behind the Dodgers and Braves, and San Francisco's final seven games would be at home.
With only 10 games remaining in the season, the Dodgers had been three games ahead in first place. Now they were one-up and fading. Los Angeles had drawn more fans this year—3,608,881—than any team in baseball history, but the rooters had lately become hooters. "Maybe I should hang a funeral wreath here," a Dodger Stadium elevator operator had said before last Thursday's game with Atlanta, when the L.A. slide was standing at eight.
But there's no figuring baseball. Los Angeles broke its streak with a vengeance that night, demolishing the Braves 10-3. "A team can go into a slump," said Manager Tom Lasorda. "It's improper to call it a choke." When the laughter was over, many of the fans called loudly for Garvey, who had gone 3 for 3. Garvey's contract will expire at the end of the year, and the feeling is that the Dodgers won't make a sincere enough effort to re-sign him. The Thursday game could well have been his last at home, so the fans rose spontaneously to wish him a presumptive adieu. Tears formed in the eyes of this man of steel—and, some say, ice—and he impulsively tossed his cap into the stands.
Now it was on to San Francisco. The Giants had lost two games badly, 7-0 and 8-3, to the Braves, missing a golden chance to move into first. But then they had beaten Houston 6-1 and 7-6. So on Friday a season-high 53,281 showed up for the showdown with L.A. Both teams were now one behind the Braves with three to play.
During San Francisco's long surge, Manager Frank Robinson had seemed virtually infallible. Until Friday night. For seven innings, the Dodgers' Jerry Reuss and the Giants' Fred Breining had pitched scoreless baseball. But in the eighth, Breining loaded the bases by allowing a single and two walks to bring Robinson out to the mound. Ace lefthander Al Holland was warming up in the bullpen, and the next scheduled Dodger batter was the lefthand-hitting Rick Monday. The choice seemed very obvious.
But no. After a brief admonition to Breining—"You got yourself into this jam, now get yourself out of it"—Robinson was on his way back to the dugout. Breining worked Monday to a one-one count and then threw him his specialty, the forkball. Monday hit it into the football bleachers in right center. The grand slam was all Reuss needed in the 4-0 win. Breining's pitch seemed to take something out of the Giants because the Dodgers finished them for good, 15-2, on Saturday.
Robinson was disappointed but far from discouraged. "It has been a good year," he said. "When you go to the next to last game still in the running, you've got to be pleased. We learned a lot, grew a lot." Enough it seemed to win the division, even if it was for another team.
Garvey waved a weepy goodby in L.A.