In a showdown of two master showmen, Dizzy Dean upstaged Babe Ruth.

babe_dizzyEighty years ago, Ruth, 40, entered his final big-league season with the 1935 Braves. The fading home run king had gone to the National League after 21 years (1914-34) in the American League with the Red Sox and Yankees.

Dean, 25, was the colorful Cardinals ace and reigning NL strikeout king who had earned 30 wins the year before and pitched St. Louis to the 1934 World Series championship.

They faced one another for the first time in a regular-season game on May 5, 1935, at Boston.

Seeking a strikeout

In the book “Diz,” Dean biographer Robert Gregory wrote, “He had been looking forward to his first league showdown with Babe Ruth and telling everybody he’d have no choice in the matter. He would have to strike him out.”

Ruth and Dean greeted each other cordially before the game and took part in a newspaper-sponsored promotion with local youth players.

Then, it was show time.

“Babe was watching me pretty closely while I was warming up before the game,” Dean said in the book “Ol’ Diz” by Vince Staten. “He had that old eagle eye of his on every move I made.”

In his first at-bat, Ruth walked.

When Ruth came to the plate for the second time, Dean upped the ante. “I figured that if I didn’t steal the show he would,” Dean said.

Play deep

As Ruth took his practice cuts, Dean smiled at him and turned toward his outfielders.

“He motioned them to play farther back,” wrote Gregory. “They retreated a few steps, but Diz shook his head, no, no, that’s not deep enough, and kept waving his glove until they were almost at the walls.”

Then, Dean went to work on Ruth. He got the count to 1-and-2. On his fourth delivery, Dean unleashed his best fastball. Ruth took a mighty swing and missed. Dean had his strikeout of the Bambino.

“Babe almost broke his back going for that steaming third fastball,” according to the Associated Press.

In his third at-bat, Ruth grounded out.

Basking on the stage set for him, Dean slugged a home run that sailed over Ruth’s head before clearing the left-field wall. He earned the shutout in a 7-0 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Encore performance

Two weeks later, on May 19 at St. Louis, Ruth and Dean had a rematch. Again, Dean prevailed. Ruth was 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Dean pitched another complete game and drove in two runs, leading St. Louis to a 7-3 victory. Boxscore

In five games against the Cardinals in 1935, Ruth batted .071 (1-for-14) with a single, three walks and five strikeouts. With his overall average at .181 in 28 games that season, Ruth retired at the end of May.

In his prime, Ruth faced the Cardinals in two World Series. He hit .300 (6-for-20) with 4 home runs and 11 walks in the seven-game 1926 World Series. In the 1928 World Series, Ruth hit .625 (10-for-16) with 3 home runs and 3 doubles in four games.

Previously: Stan Musial: ‘Babe Ruth was the greatest who ever played’

Previously: Pennant clincher: How Dizzy Dean got 2 shutouts in 3 days

Ken Boyer is the only Cardinal to twice hit for the cycle. Each time, he enhanced the feat by raising the degree of difficulty.

ken_boyer10Boyer first achieved the cycle on Sept. 14, 1961, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cubs at St. Louis. Boyer led off the 11th with a home run, giving the Cardinals a 6-5 victory and becoming the first big-league player to complete the cycle with a walkoff homer.

Three years later, on June 16, 1964, against the Colt .45s at Houston, Boyer achieved another rarity, completing a natural cycle by getting a single, double, triple and home run in that exact order in his first four at-bats.

Cubs tormenter

In the 1961 doubleheader, Boyer had a spectacular night, going 7-for-11 with 5 RBI against the Cubs.

Boyer was 2-for-5 in the opener. He hit a two-run triple in the fifth off starter Don Cardwell. The Cardinals won, 8-7. With the score 7-7 and the bases loaded in the ninth, Cubs reliever Barney Schultz delivered a pitch the Chicago Tribune described as a “puzzling knuckler” that “slithered away” from catcher Sammy Taylor as a passed ball, enabling Bob Lillis to scamper home from third with the winning run. Boxscore

“The Cubs claimed Taylor’s recovery throw nailed Lillis at the plate, but they weren’t winning arguments _ or anything else _ on this night,” the Tribune reported.

That ending was a fitting prelude to Game 2.

Boyer was 5-for-6 and delivered dramatic extra-base hits in the ninth and the 11th.

In the first inning, Boyer hit an RBI-single off starter Jack Curtis. He singled again off Curtis in the third.

After grounding out in the fifth, Boyer tripled off Curtis in the seventh.

Facing Bob Anderson in the ninth, Boyer produced an RBI-double with one out, tying the score at 5-5.

In the 11th, Boyer led off the bottom half of the inning with his game-winning home run off Don Elston. The victory gave the 1961 Cardinals an 11-0 home record against the Cubs. Boxscore

Since Boyer, four others have completed a cycle with a walkoff home run: Cesar Tovar of the 1972 Twins, George Brett of the 1979 Royals, Dwight Evans of the 1984 Red Sox and Carlos Gonzalez of the 2010 Rockies, according to Wikipedia.

Hot in Houston

Boyer’s second cycle overshadowed the first Cardinals start of Lou Brock, who was acquired by St. Louis the day before in a trade with the Cubs.

Boyer that night became the 19th big-leaguer to hit for the cycle twice and the seventh to hit for the natural cycle, according to Wikipedia.

In the second, Boyer beat out an infield single off starter Bob Bruce. He had an RBI-double against Bruce in the third and an RBI-triple off him in the fifth.

Boyer completed the natural cycle with a home run off Don Larsen leading off the seventh.

After flying out against Larry Yellen in the eighth, Boyer finished 4-for-5 with 3 RBI in a 7-1 victory that snapped a five-game Cardinals losing streak. Boxscore

Boyer was the first National League player to hit for the cycle in 1964.

Previously: Lou Brock hit the ground running in first start with Cardinals

Previously: Unstoppable: How Cardinals scored in each inning vs. Cubs

mark_grudzielanek2Batting leadoff for one of the few times in his Cardinals career, Mark Grudzielanek hit for the cycle. Ten years later, he remains the last Cardinal to achieve the feat.

On April 27, 2005, Grudzielanek, a second baseman in his lone season with St. Louis, became the 15th Cardinal to hit for the cycle, collecting a home run, triple, double and single against the Brewers at Busch Stadium II.

Grudzielanek is one of three Cardinals to hit for the cycle at Busch Stadium II, the team’s home from 1966-2005. The other two to do so _ Lou Brock in 1975 against the Padres and Ray Lankford in 1991 versus the Mets _ also batted leadoff in those games.

A right-handed batter, Grudzielanek was the first Cardinal to hit for the cycle since John Mabry did it against the Rockies at Denver in 1996.

Mabry, a reserve with the 2005 Cardinals, witnessed Grudzielanek’s performance. “I was hoping for him to get it,” Mabry told MLB.com. “They say it’s more rare than a no-hitter. It’s special.”

The cycle by Grudzielanek was the 16th in Cardinals history. Ken Boyer is the only Cardinal to achieve the feat twice (in 1961 and 1964). Joining Boyer, Brock, Lankford, Mabry and Grudzielanek as Cardinals who hit for the cycle: Cliff Heathcote (1918), Jim Bottomley (1927), Chick Hafey (1930), Pepper Martin (1933), Joe Medwick (1935), Johnny Mize (1940), Stan Musial (1949), Bill White (1960), Joe Torre (1973) and Willie McGee (1984).

Top of the order

Shortstop David Eckstein normally batted leadoff and Grudzielanek sixth for the 2005 Cardinals. When manager Tony La Russa rested Eckstein against the Brewers on April 27, he put Grudzielanek in the leadoff spot against right-hander Victor Santos. Grudzielanek entered the game 7-for-16 (all singles) in his career versus Santos.

In the bottom of the first, Grudzielanek led off with a home run. He singled in the second.

With Santos still pitching, Grudzielanek hit a RBI-double in the fourth.

“It seemed like everything I threw to him he was right on it,” Santos said to the Associated Press. “As soon as I made a mistake, boom, he was right on it.”

Tough task

To complete the cycle, Grudzielanek needed a triple, or “the baseball equivalent of making an inside straight,” wrote Matthew Leach of MLB.com.

In his previous three seasons with the Dodgers (2002) and Cubs (2003-04), Grudzielanek had produced a total of two triples.

Facing left-hander Jorge De La Rosa in the sixth with one out and the bases empty, Grudzielanek said, “I was just trying to come up there and have the same approach that I did the previous at-bats and try to hit the ball hard.”

De La Rosa got two strikes on the batter. Then, Grudzielanek sliced a shot down the right-field line. The ball eluded right fielder Geoff Jenkins and rattled into the corner. Grudzielanek steamed into third with the coveted triple.

In the eighth, Grudzielanek grounded out against left-hander Tommy Phelps. He finished 4-for-5 with 3 runs and 2 RBI in a 6-3 Cardinals victory. The win boosted the Cardinals’ record to 14-5, their best start since the 1968 team had the same mark. Boxscore

Grudzielanek batted leadoff just six times in 2005, hitting .381 (8-for-21). Overall, he hit .294 for the 2005 Cardinals with 155 hits in 137 games.

Previously: Mark Grudzielanek fit a need for 2005 Cardinals

Previously: George Hendrick influenced hitting style of John Mabry

In the last classic pitchers duel at Busch Stadium II, Mark Mulder gave the best performance of his Cardinals career, tossing 10 shutout innings and beating Roger Clemens and the Astros.

mark_mulder2Ten years ago, on April 23, 2005, in the Cardinals’ final season at the ballpark that had been their home since 1966, Mulder pitched a masterpiece in a 1-0 St. Louis victory.

Mulder, a left-hander, threw an efficient 101 pitches and faced 33 batters, three more than the minimum for 10 innings. He induced 17 ground outs. Each of the Astros’ five hits was a single.

Clemens, 42, winner of seven Cy Young awards, was as good as expected, holding the Cardinals scoreless on four hits in seven innings before being relieved by Chad Qualls.

Mulder, 27, making his fourth Cardinals start after coming to St. Louis from the Athletics in a December 2004 trade, was better.

In a ballpark that had been the site of gems by Cardinals pitchers such as Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Bob Forsch, Joaquin Andujar and John Tudor, Mulder’s performance ranked among the best. It was the last 1-0 game played at Busch Stadium II.

“Somewhere, Bob Gibson was smiling,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote. “This was Gibby’s kind of hardball.”

Throwing strikes

Mulder became:

_ The first Cardinals starter to pitch an extra-inning shutout win since John Tudor did so on Sept. 11, 1985, in a 1-0 St. Louis victory over the Mets.

_ The first Cardinals starter to go 10 innings since Jose DeLeon went 11 against the Reds in a 2-0 Cincinnati victory on Aug. 30, 1989.

_ The first Cardinals starter to go 10 innings and win since Greg Mathews did so against the Mets in a 3-1 St. Louis victory on Aug. 16, 1986.

_ The first major-league starter to pitch a 10-inning shutout win since Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays did so against the Tigers in a 1-0 Toronto victory on Sept. 6, 2003.

“Any time it’s a 0-0 game or 1-0 game or 1-1, I love that,” Mulder told Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch. “It makes me focus … I’m throwing strike one. I’m getting ahead. It’s enabling me to do a lot more things as far as working both sides of the plate.”

Said Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan: “He’s really changed his delivery, which has allowed him to repeat pitches better.”

Dodging trouble

In the fourth inning, Mulder escaped serious injury. Mike Lamb’s bat shattered when he hit a ground ball to second. The barrel of the bat struck Mulder on the ankle and he doubled over in pain. “It hit me right in a spot where it made my whole foot go numb,” Mulder said to MLB.com.

Feeling quickly returned to the ankle, though, and Mulder was able to continue.

Before sending Mulder to pitch the 10th, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa consulted with the pitcher. “He said he was OK to go,” La Russa said.

After setting down the Astros in the top half of the extra inning, Mulder was scheduled to lead off the bottom of the 10th. La Russa sent Reggie Sanders to hit for Mulder against Qualls. Sanders produced an infield single. “It was a swinging bunt that feels just as good as a ringing line drive,” Sanders told the Associated Press.

Walker walkoff

On a hit-and-run, David Eckstein grounded out, with Sanders advancing to second.

Up next for St. Louis was Larry Walker. Astros manager Phil Garner replaced Qualls with Brad Lidge. Walker lined a hit into the right-center gap, scoring Sanders with the lone run. Boxscore

“It was a fastball, down and away, and he reached for it,” Lidge said. “I’m not upset about the pitch at all.”

Said Walker: “To put the ball in play off (Lidge) is tough to do … He’s got phenomenal stuff.”

The victory gave La Russa 2,125 career wins as a major-league manager, moving him into a tie for fifth place with Hall of Famer Joe McCarthy. “You win with great organizations and great players,” La Russa said. “I’ve been lucky enough to have had both.”

Previously: Dan Haren proved more durable than Mark Mulder

Seventy-five years ago, with water filling the dugouts and lapping at the feet of spectators in the box seats, the Cardinals and Reds raced to complete a game at Cincinnati before flooding made conditions unplayable.

crosley_fieldCompleting nine innings in 1:56, the Reds beat the Cardinals, 6-1, on April 22, 1940, at Crosley Field.

The night before, the Ohio River reached the 55-foot stage. Reds officials knew Crosley Field, located near Mill Creek, started flooding when the river got to 57 feet, or five feet above normal flood stage, International News Service reported.

It was expected the river stage would reach 57 feet in late afternoon or early evening on April 22. The Reds moved up the starting time of their game with the Cardinals that afternoon by an hour, from 3 p.m. to 2 p.m.

At game time, however, water stood a foot deep in both dugouts _ even deeper in nearby parking lots _ and a crowd of 5,197 “had to puddle-jump their way into the park,” the Associated Press reported.

Patrons seated in field-level box seats behind third base “pulled their feet higher and higher” as the game progressed and water continued to rise.

The players sat on benches in foul territory because the water in the dugouts eventually reached three feet deep, according to the book “Cardinals Journal” by John Snyder.

The game matched starting pitchers Bucky Walters, a 27-game winner in 1939 when he earned the National League Most Valuable Player Award, for the Reds against Bill McGee.

Cincinnati, the defending National League champions, broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the fifth against McGee. The Reds added three more in the seventh off Clyde Shoun.

Walters drove in three runs and pitched eight scoreless innings before the Cardinals struck for a run in the ninth. By then, water was seeping onto the field. Boxscore

The Cardinals were supposed to play the Reds again on April 23 and April 24, but both games were postponed. By then, the Ohio River had reached 58 feet and water covered the Crosley Field outfield. Another foot would put home plate under water.

Previously: Ray Sadecki: Wild, nearly unhittable in 1st Cardinals win

Previously: How Cardinals rookie Dick Hughes struck out 13 _ and lost

(Updated April 11, 2015)

In 2005, Jason Marquis used his bat and arm against the Reds to jump-start a Cardinals club that had lost three of its first five games. On April 12, 2005, Marquis hit a three-run triple and held the Reds to a run in 6.1 innings, carrying the Cardinals to a 5-1 victory at St. Louis.

jason_marquisTen years later, Marquis joined the Reds, looking to jump-start his career against the Cardinals. In his first big-league appearance since 2013, Marquis, 36, started for the Reds against the Cardinals on April 10, 2015, at Cincinnati. He pitched six innings, allowed three runs and struck out seven in the Reds’ 5-4 victory. Marquis also had a single in two at-bats. Boxscore

‘Our best hitter’

In 2005, after consecutive losses at home to the Phillies, the defending National League champion Cardinals were seeking a spark as they entered a two-game series versus the Reds.

In the second inning, with the Reds ahead, 1-0, the Cardinals loaded the bases with none out against Aaron Harang.

Yadier Molina popped out to shortstop, bringing Marquis to the plate.

According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jim Edmonds, the base runner on third, turned to third baseman Joe Randa and said, “We got one advantage here: Our best hitter is at the plate right now.”

A right-handed pitcher who batted left-handed, Marquis had hit .292 (21-for-72) for the 2004 Cardinals.

Nice stroke

Fighting back after falling behind 0-and-2, Marquis worked the count full.

The next pitch was high and Marquis pulled it sharply on the ground past first baseman Sean Casey and into the right-field corner for his first big-league triple, giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead. Boxscore

The triple was the first by a Cardinals pitcher since Jason Isringhausen hit one off Joe Beimel of the Pirates on July 26, 2003.

“He really has a nice stroke,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Marquis. “The ball jumps off his bat. He loves to hit, so he takes those at-bats real seriously.”

Said Harang to The Cincinnati Post: “In that situation … I’ve got to put something around the zone. I just left it up a little bit and he turned on it.”

Silver Slugger

Marquis’ performance sparked the Cardinals, who won 11 of their next 13. He batted .310 (27-for-87) for the 2005 Cardinals and earned The Sporting News NL Silver Slugger Award as the top-hitting pitcher. Marquis also posted 13 wins for a Cardinals club that won 100 on their way to a division championship.

“My goal is to help myself win as many games outside of being on the mound, whether bunting, fielding or hitting,” Marquis said. “I take pride in what I do.”

In three years (2004-06) with the Cardinals, Marquis had a 42-37 record and batted .262.

Previously: Revisiting the deal that made Adam Wainwright a Cardinal

Previously: Cardinals players tried making Greg Maddux a teammate


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