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Teetering on the brink of another letdown in their bid to end a pennant drought, the Cardinals got the matchup they sought against the Astros in Game 6 of the 2004 National League Championship Series. Jim Edmonds provided the desired result.

jim_edmonds4Ten years ago, on Oct. 20, 2004, Edmonds launched a two-run, walkoff home run in the 12th inning, ending a tense drama and carrying the Cardinals to a 6-4 victory at St. Louis.

At the time, Edmonds joined Ozzie Smith (Game 5 of the 1985 National League Championship Series) as the only Cardinals to end postseason games with walkoff home runs. Edmonds was the first Cardinals hitter to do so in an elimination game. Since then, two others _ David Freese (Game 6 of 2011 World Series) and Kolten Wong (Game 2 of 2014 National League Championship Series) _ have produced walkoff home runs in Cardinals postseason victories.

Kept alive by Edmonds’ home run, the Cardinals won Game 7 _ helped, in part, by a diving catch by Edmonds that prevented two runs from scoring in the second inning _  and earned their first National League pennant in 17 years.

Under manager Tony La Russa, the Cardinals had gotten to the National League Championship Series three previous times (1996, 2000 and 2002) but couldn’t clinch a pennant.

It appeared for a while during Game 6 in 2004 that the Cardinals would fall short again.

Sense of dread

After scoring four runs in the first 2.1 innings off starter Peter Munro, the Cardinals were held scoreless by four Astros relievers _ Chad Harville, Chad Qualls, Dan Wheeler and Brad Lidge _ over the next 8.2 innings.

Lidge, the Astros’ closer, had been especially dominating. Bernie Miklasz, columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, described Lidge as “bulletproof.”

Lidge, who entered in the ninth, retired all nine batters he faced. He struck out five, including Edmonds. Only one batter, pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson, who flied to left in the 11th, hit a ball out of the infield against Lidge.

Miklasz wrote that “a growing sense of dread spread through Busch Stadium” as Lidge mowed down the Cardinals.

Lidge, though, had been stretched to the limit with his three innings of relief. He had appeared in 80 games during the regular season and never had worked more than a two-inning stint.

In the 12th, manager Phil Garner lifted Lidge and, in so doing, lifted the spirits of the Cardinals and their fans.

High pitch, high drive

Dan Miceli, 34, a right-hander pitching for his 10th big-league team, replaced Lidge.

Miceli walked the leadoff batter, Albert Pujols. Scott Rolen then popped out to the catcher.

Edmonds stepped to the plate. This was the matchup La Russa wanted.

In the 2004 regular season, left-handed batters hit .307 versus Miceli, with seven home runs.

Edmonds, with his upper-cut swing, had hit 37 of his 42 home runs against right-handers in 2004. More than half of Edmonds’ hits (83 of 150) that season were for extra bases.

“I was yelling at him, ‘Hit a line drive. Let’s get first and third.’ That’s all I wanted,” La Russa said to the Associated Press.

On an 0-and-1 pitch, Edmonds got a high, tight fastball. He whipped the bat around and connected, sending the ball on a majestic arch over the right-field fence before it crashed against the wall behind the Cardinals’ bullpen. Check out the You Tube video.

“I got the pitch up again and they hit it out again,” said Miceli, who had yielded home runs to Pujols and Rolen in the eighth inning of Game 2.

Said Edmonds: “I wasn’t trying to go deep. I was just trying to hit the ball hard.”

La Russa, delighted Edmonds hadn’t settled for the single his manager had been urging him to hit, said, “I didn’t feel too smart. Just happy. Happy and stupid.” Boxscore

Previously: Slugging, fielding give Jim Edmonds hope for Hall of Fame

Previously: How Jim Edmonds got Tony La Russa an April champagne toast

With the Cardinals in need of a public relations boost, Stan Musial went to bat for Red Schoendienst.

red_schoendienst8As usual, Musial delivered.

Fifty years ago, on Oct. 20, 1964, the Cardinals hired the popular Schoendienst to replace Johnny Keane as their manager. Four days earlier, Keane had stunned the Cardinals by resigning less than 24 hours after leading St. Louis to a World Series championship.

Schoendiesnt, 41, a former all-star second baseman who was a coach on Keane’s staff, had no managerial experience. “I never had really thought about managing,” Schoendienst said in his book “Red: A Baseball Life.”

According to broadcaster Harry Caray, in his book “Holy Cow,” the Cardinals had told Schoendienst that summer they wanted him to get experience managing in the minor leagues. Schoendienst said he told the Cardinals he had no desire to manage and would prefer to remain a major league coach for the next 25 years.

Fan favorite

Keane quit because Cardinals owner Gussie Busch had fired general manager Bing Devine in August and plotted to replace Keane with former St. Louis shortstop Leo Durocher after the season. Even though Busch changed his mind about firing Keane after the Cardinals rallied to win the National League pennant and World Series crown, Keane refused to stay. His surprise departure triggered a firestorm of criticism against Busch and general manager Bob Howsam.

Desperate to repair the damage, Busch ordered Howsam to fire consultant Branch Rickey, who had advocated for Devine’s dismissal and for Durocher to replace Keane, and he formed a six-person executive committee to seek a replacement for Keane.

Musial, in his first year as Cardinals vice president after a stellar playing career, and Howsam were the key members of the committee. Joining them were Busch, club executive Dick Meyer and Cardinals board of directors members Jim Conzelman and Mark Eagleton.

According to multiple sources, Howsam favored hiring either White Sox scout Charlie Metro, who had managed for Howsam in the minor leagues at Denver, or former Giants manager Al Dark, a one-time Cardinals shortstop.

Musial advocated for Schoendienst, who was Musial’s friend and road roommate during their playing days together for St. Louis.

“I knew Red needed experience _ we all did _ but we felt he was the best man for the job,” Musial said, according to George Vecsey’s 2011 biography of the Cardinals icon.

Said Schoendienst: “With Musial leading my support, it came down to as much a public relations decision as a baseball one and that’s where I had the advantage … The prevailing thought was the new manager needed to be someone who was a favorite of the fans.”

Quick decision

Schoendienst got tipped off by a Busch relative, Ollie Von Gontard, that the committee was considering him as a serious candidate.

Caray told Schoendienst, “Red, if you keep your nose clean with all the craziness that’s going on here, you’re going to wind up being manager of this club.”

Schoendienst said Busch called and asked to meet at the ballpark. Schoendienst said he met with Busch and Howsam. After Howsam quizzed Schoendienst about game strategies and player personnel evaluations, Schoendienst said the general manager “suddenly jumped up from his chair and asked how I would like to manage. I said that would be great and he said, ‘You’re my new manager.’ It happened so quickly I really didn’t have time to think about it.”

Said Schoendienst: “I felt comfortable that I could do the job and was ready to put my full-time energy and devotion into the post.”

Take my advice

Cardinals players, who respected and supported Keane, were tolerant of Schoendienst, who wisely avoided micro-managing while learning on the job.

In his book “Stranger to the Game,” pitcher Bob Gibson said, “The only problem I had with Schoendienst was that he wasn’t Johnny Keane. But he was a good man and a good man for us … Schoendienst, like Keane, respected our intelligence and our professionalism. His only rules were ‘Run everything out’ and ‘Be in by 12.’ Somehow, we got the words tangled up and lived instead by the motto ‘Run everything in and be out by 12.’ “

Schoendienst also listened to his players. Said Gibson: “Red was uncertain of himself in the beginning, a fact which the ballplayers were well aware.”

Gibson said he and catcher Tim McCarver would sit on either side of Schoendienst in the dugout and offer suggestions to one another about game strategy. “We never actually told him to make a move; we were just there as birdies in the ear, now and then providing the information he needed to make his decision,” Gibson said.

Center fielder Curt Flood, in his book “The Way It Is,” said of Schoendienst, “When he was required to think two or three moves ahead, as in choosing pinch-hitters or replacing pitchers, he accepted advice readily. And it was given matter-of-factly, with every consideration for Red’s position.”

Outfielder Carl Warwick told author Peter Golenbock for the book “The Spirit of St. Louis” that Schoendienst was a popular choice with the players. “You couldn’t help but love Red,” Warwick said. “You knew he was going to be on your side all the time … Red was available to help anybody any time.”

The Cardinals finished seventh and sixth in Schoendienst’s first two years as manager, then won two consecutive pennants and a World Series title. He managed the Cardinals from 1965-76 and for parts of 1980 and 1990. His 1,041 wins rank second only to Tony La Russa (1,408 wins) among Cardinals managers all-time.

Previously: Red Schoendienst: ‘Lover of hot ballgames and cold beers’

Previously: How Red Schoendienst survived Cardinals’ 5-20 start in 1973

Previously: Big 3: Red Schoendienst, Whitey Herzog, Tony La Russa

Previously: Why Gussie Busch fired Bing Devine in championship year

Previously: Johnny Keane to Gussie Busch: Take this job and shove it

Gussie Busch broke Johnny Keane’s cardinal rule. Keane couldn’t forgive him.

johnny_keane2Fifty years ago, on Oct. 16, 1964, just 19 hours after St. Louis had won the World Series championship, Keane resigned as Cardinals manager, stunning Busch, the Cardinals owner, who had expected to sign Keane to a contract extension that day.

Loyalty was sacrosanct to Keane. He had been loyal to the Cardinals, serving the franchise for 35 years. When Busch became disloyal to him, Keane’s personal code of conduct required he take action: He quit.

Surprising news

In the celebration that immediately followed the Cardinals’ World Series Game 7 victory over the Yankees on Oct. 15, Busch announced he would hold a news conference at the Anheuser-Busch brewery the next morning. Word leaked that Busch intended to present Keane with a three-year contract extension, reportedly for $50,000 per year.

When Keane arrived at the brewery, he handed Busch a resignation letter 30 minutes before the news conference. Busch, in a hurry to begin the event, gave the letter to an assistant without reading it, according to the book “October 1964.” The assistant read the letter and insisted the owner do the same.

Flanked by Keane and general manager Bob Howsam, Busch, visibly shaken, announced Keane’s resignation to the surprised gathering, who were expecting a celebratory contract signing.

“This really has shocked me,” Busch said. “I didn’t know a thing about it until I saw Johnny this morning. All I can say is that I’m damned sorry to lose Johnny.”

Said Keane: “I told Mr. Busch not to make any offer. I handed him my resignation and said my decision was firm _ that I didn’t want to embarrass him _ but that no offer would be acceptable.”

In his book “Uppity,” Cardinals first baseman Bill White wrote, “I wasn’t there, but I was told Busch and Howsam looked as if Johnny had just kicked them in the teeth _ which, in effect, he had.”

The resignation letter was dated Sept. 28 _ the day after the Cardinals had completed a five-game sweep of the Pirates, with six games remaining in the regular season.

The decision had been made 10 days before then.

Higher calling

Keane, a St. Louis native, briefly had studied for the priesthood at St. Louis Prepatory Seminary. At 18, he signed a Cardinals contract and was assigned to the minor leagues.

“I’ve been asked about that often,” Keane told The Sporting News. “Did I give up the priesthood for baseball? The answer is no. I knew after consultation with the priests at the seminary that the life was not for me.”

Keane was a baseball lifer. More specifically, a Cardinals lifer, or so it seemed.

He was an infielder in the St. Louis organization from 1930 until becoming a Cardinals minor league player-manager in 1938. He spent 21 seasons as a manager in the St. Louis farm system and had winning records in 17 of those years.

In 1959, Keane made it to the major leagues for the first time as a coach on the staff of Cardinals manager Solly Hemus. Keane replaced Hemus as St. Louis manager in July 1961.

Matter of principle

In August 1964, Busch, thinking the fifth-place Cardinals were out of contention, fired general manager Bing Devine, business manager Art Routzong and player personnel director Eddie Stanky. All were friends of Keane.

Though Keane remained manager, published reports indicated Busch planned to replace Keane after the season with Dodgers coach and former Cardinals shortstop Leo Durocher.

Keane felt betrayed.

On Sept. 18, with the Cardinals 6.5 games behind the first-place Phillies, Keane and his wife agreed that Keane would resign after the Cardinals’ final game. They kept their agreement private.

Ten days later, Keane wrote his resignation letter and put it aside.

Hold that letter

The Cardinals then won four of their final six games, including a sweep of the Phillies, and clinched the pennant on the last day of the regular season.

Carl Warwick, a Cardinals reserve outfielder, said of Keane, “He was as nearly perfect as any manager I ever saw. He didn’t panic.”

In the World Series, the Cardinals won four of seven against the Yankees, clinching their first title in 18 years.

At the news conference the next day, Keane told reporters a series of “little things” led to his resignation. Pressed for details, Keane admitted Devine’s firing and Busch’s open flirtation with Durocher were factors that caused him to depart.

Devine and Keane had become friends in 1949 when Devine was general manager of the Cardinals’ minor league club at Rochester and Keane was the manager.

In his book “The Memoirs of Bing Devine,” Devine wrote, “As a person, Keane impressed me as Stan Musial did … I’m talking about basic traits as a person.

“I didn’t think he needed to _ or should have _ quit the Cardinals because of me. But Johnny Keane was a loyal guy _ and that’s how he felt.”

Players react

Most Cardinals players said Keane’s resignation surprised them. But Cardinals pitcher Roger Craig told United Press International he had predicted Keane’s decision in August when it became known Busch wanted Durocher as manager. “Knowing the pride he has,” Craig said of Keane, “I knew this would happen.”

In his book “Stranger to the Game,” Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson wrote, “My anger toward the ballclub _ and it was tangible _ stemmed largely from the needless nature of Keane’s departure … I stayed mad through the winter.”

Hours after Keane’s resignation became public, the Yankees fired manager Yogi Berra. Three days later, Keane was hired to replace him.

Previously: Why Gussie Busch fired Bing Devine in championship year

Previously: 5-game sweep of Pirates positioned Cardinals for pennant

Having achieved unprecedented personal success while falling short of the ultimate team goal, Joe Torre’s six-year stay with the Cardinals came to an unsatisfying, though not unexpected, end.

joe_torre5Forty years ago, on Oct. 13, 1974, the Cardinals traded Torre to the Mets for pitchers Ray Sadecki and Tommy Moore.

Popular and productive, Torre hit .308 with 1,062 hits in 918 games for the Cardinals from 1969-74. His on-base percentage during that time was .382, nearly 20 points better than his career mark.

Though a multi-time all-star who regularly ranked among baseball’s top hitters, Torre exceeded all expectations in 1971 when he led the National League in hits (230), RBI (137) and batting average (.363) and was awarded the NL Most Valuable Player honor over Willie Stargell of the World Series champion Pirates.

Time for change

After the 1974 season, however, the Cardinals were ready to make Keith Hernandez, 21, their everyday first baseman. In an interview with United Press International, Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said of Hernandez: “He looks like a tremendous prospect. We had to make room for him.”

Though Torre also played third base and catcher, the Cardinals were set at those positions with Ken Reitz and Ted Simmons.

At 34 and with a yearly salary of $150,000, Torre was deemed expendable.

Wrote the Associated Press: “His ample salary and his age may have been factors in arranging the deal. He was one of a half dozen Cardinals players earning more than $100,000.”

Torre, too, was expecting a departure. In his book “Chasing the Dream” (1997, Bantam), Torre wrote, “I knew I wasn’t going to be back with the Cardinals. They had brought up a young first baseman from the minor leagues named Keith Hernandez and made him eligible for the playoffs if we won the East.”

Falling short

The Cardinals, though, finished in second place in the National League East Division in 1974 for the second consecutive year and for the third time in four seasons. They never qualified for the postseason during Torre’s time with the club.

Torre in 1974 hit .312 for the Cardinals in July and .320 in August. Then he slumped to a .200 batting mark with 22 strikeouts in September. It wasn’t until after the season that The Sporting News reported Torre had played the last month of the season with a cracked thumb.

“He’ll play anywhere,” Schoendienst said of Torre. “And he’ll play hurt.”

When Torre was acquired by the Cardinals from the Braves for slugger Orlando Cepeda in March 1969, the Cardinals were a premier team, the two-time defending National League champions. “Torre did a heck of a job for us,” Cardinals general manager Bing Devine told The Sporting News. “I’m sincere when I say he took me off the spot by doing so well for us after we traded Cepeda for him.”

Meet the Mets

The Braves almost had dealt Torre to the Mets instead of to the Cardinals. United Press International reported, “The Mets thought they had him before the 1969 season and Gil Hodges, who was then their manager, went so far as to tell Torre during spring training that, ‘You’ll be with us in a couple of days.’ But that deal fell through because the Mets refused to part with Amos Otis, then a red-hot prospect to play center field for New York.”

Six years later, the Mets finally got their man. It was the first trade for Mets general manager Joe McDonald, who would become general manager of the Cardinals from 1982-84.

“We’ve needed another right-handed hitter in our lineup and Torre gives us that,” Mets manager Yogi Berra said.

Said Torre, a Brooklyn native: “If I had to be traded anywhere, I’m glad I’m going to New York.”

Devine said Torre didn’t want to be a Cardinals reserve and that his first choice among teams to be dealt to was the Mets.

But, in his book, Torre revealed, “I was going to a team whose season had just ended with 91 losses. That was a very fragile time for me. On top of being unhappy with my marriage, I hit rock bottom in the big leagues with a losing team. And to make matters worse, I became a part-time player. I hated it _ and it showed.”

Aftermath of the deal

Though Torre was the Mets’ starting third baseman on Opening Day in 1975, he eventually was platooned that season at first base with Ed Kranepool and at third base with Wayne Garrett. Torre hit .247 in 114 games for the 1975 Mets.

“In 1975, for the first time in my life, I dreaded going to the ballpark,” Torre wrote. “Baseball felt like work. I thought maybe it was time to quit.”

Two years later, Torre became Mets player-manager. He would manage the Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Yankees and Dodgers _ winning four World Series titles with the Yankees _ and earning induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Meanwhile, the pitchers the Cardinals got from the Mets for Torre, had short stays with St. Louis.

Moore, 26, was 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 10 relief appearances for the Cardinals before he was traded in June with shortstop Ed Brinkman to the Rangers for outfielder Willie Davis.

Sadecki, 34, was in his second stint with St. Louis. He had been a 20-game winner for the 1964 Cardinals and got the win in Game 1 of the World Series that year, beating Whitey Ford and the Yankees. In 1975, Sadecki was 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in eight relief appearances for the Cardinals before being traded in May with pitcher Elias Sosa to the Braves for pitcher Ron Reed and outfielder Wayne Nordhagen.

Nine years earlier, in May 1966, the Cardinals had traded Sadecki to the Giants for Cepeda.

In proving the adage that “what goes around, comes around,” the Cardinals dealt Sadecki for Cepeda, who later was traded to the Braves for Torre, who eventually was traded to the Mets for Sadecki.

Previously: Joe Torre, Nolan Ryan and the April streak

Previously: Joe Torre erased Felix Millan with 4 double plays

Mike Matheny became the first Cardinals manager to lead St. Louis to the postseason in each of his first three full seasons with the club.

mike_matheny9He’s also only the fifth big-league manager all‐time to have achieved that feat, joining Ron Gardenhire (2002-04 Twins), Larry Dierker (1997-99 Astros), Ralph Houk (1961-63 Yankees) and Hughie Jennings (1907-09 Tigers), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Matheny receives my top vote for the Connie Mack Award presented by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance to the most deserving manager in the National League.

Bloggers representing each National League franchise will vote for the Connie Mack Award. My vote is one of two representing the United Cardinal Bloggers.

Voters are required to list three managers on the Connie Mack Award ballot. Here, in order, starting with the top pick, are the managers who received my votes:

MIKE MATHENY

He led the Cardinals to their second consecutive National League Central Division championship. Under Matheny, the 2013-14 Cardinals became the first St. Louis teams to achieve consecutive seasons of 90 wins or more since the 2004-05 clubs.

His leadership skills and ability to overcome obstacles are exemplary.

Matheny excelled even though:

_ Yadier Molina, the catcher and heart and soul of the team, was limited to 110 games because of injury.

_ Allen Craig, considered a vital part of the offense, hit just .237 with a pitiful .291 on-base percentage before being banished to Boston.

_ Peter Bourjos, acquired from the Angels for David Freese, was a bust as the everyday center field candidate, hitting .231 with an on-base percentage of .294.

_ Two starters in the rotation, Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha, got injured and missed big portions of the season. Garcia was limited to seven starts and Wacha made 19 starts.

_ Randy Choate, the 39-year-old left-handed relief specialist, posted an unacceptable 4.50 ERA.

_ Kevin Siegrist, projected as the top left-handed reliever, was an abysmal 1-4 with a 6.82 ERA.

_ The Cardinals ranked last in the National League in home runs at 105.

_ The Cardinals ranked next-to-last in the National League in steals at 57.

_ The Cardinals ranked ninth among 15 National League clubs in runs at 619.

Wrote Richard Justice of MLB.com: “Mike Matheny has kept things rolling because he’s great with the players and he’s poised.”

BRUCE BOCHY

The Giants manager led San Francisco to its third postseason appearance in five years even though ace Matt Cain was limited to 15 starts because of injuries, no player achieved 90 RBI and the club ranked last in the National League in steals.

CLINT HURDLE

The Pirates manager got Pittsburgh into the postseason for the second consecutive year and masterfully utilized utility player Josh Harrison (.315 batting mark, 164 hits in 143 games) to plug a myriad of holes by rotating him at third base, right field, left field, second base and shortstop.

Previously: Mike Matheny, Eddie Dyer share rare rookie achievement

A decade after the Cardinals and Dodgers were matched again in a National League Division Series, the result was familiar. So was the touch of class.

jim_tracyAfter the Cardinals eliminated the Dodgers from the 2004 National League Division Series, players and staff from both teams met on the field and shook hands.

After the Cardinals eliminated the Dodgers from the 2014 National League Division Series, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny tipped his cap to his opponent.

On Oct. 7, 2014, the Cardinals beat the Dodgers, 3-2, in Game 4 at St. Louis and advanced to the National League Championship Series. Boxscore As Matheny entered the field to congratulate his team, he turned toward the Dodgers’ dugout, doffed his cap and, in a gesture of respect, nodded in their direction. Check out the video clip.

Ten years earlier, on Oct. 10, 2004, the Cardinals beat the Dodgers, 5-2, in Game 4 at Los Angeles and advanced to the National League Championship Series. In an unscripted act of sportsmanship prompted by Cardinals outfielder Larry Walker and led by managers Jim Tracy of the Dodgers and Tony La Russa of St. Louis, the teams met near the third-base line and the Dodgers offered congratulations.

A surprised Matheny, then the Cardinals’ catcher, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch afterward, “I didn’t know what was going on. I thought we were going to brawl.”

Hockey lesson

Late in the regular season, after the Cardinals had clinched the 2004 Central Division crown, Walker suggested to La Russa that the Cardinals and their Division Series opponent shake hands on the field after the series finale. Walker, a Canadian, was impressed by how National Hockey League players formed a line on the ice after games and congratulated one another.

“Those guys (hockey players) go out and beat the daylights out of each other and then shake hands,” Walker said. “I think it’s a class thing.”

At the time Walker proposed his idea, the Cardinals didn’t know who they’d face in the first round of the postseason. “It sends a great message,” La Russa said of Walker’s suggestion. “But it depended on who we go up against. I know some managers better than others. But I know Jim Tracy really well.”

Before Game 1 of the Cardinals-Dodgers series, La Russa and Tracy discussed Walker’s idea, but neither mentioned it again.

Impromptu gesture

After the Cardinals’ clinching victory in Game 4, La Russa, like Matheny in 2014, went onto the field and turned toward the Dodgers’ dugout. He waved to Tracy. Then, La Russa made a handshake motion.

Tracy got the message.

He led the Dodgers onto the field.

“It was a class act,” said Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan. “Tracy led the way.”

Said an appreciative La Russa: “I know it had to be much more difficult for them to come out of the dugout and meet us halfway. It was impressive.” Boxscore

Walker, who had joined the Cardinals two months earlier in a trade with the Rockies, was delighted.

“This is something I’ve thought about for a long time,” Walker said. “You can laugh at it, but I think it’s something that can be done. It can’t hurt.”

Previously: Mike Matheny sparked Cardinals over Dodgers in 2004 NLDS

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