Imagine a Cardinals lineup of Willie McGee at shortstop, Ricky Horton in right field and Jose Oquendo on the mound.
Manager Whitey Herzog could.
Twenty-five years ago, during a blowout loss to the Phillies, Herzog made all of those unusual moves. He also batted Oquendo for Jack Clark and used John Tudor as a pinch-hitter with two runners on base.
On Aug. 7, 1987, the Cardinals were in first place in the National League East Division. But on that Friday night at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium the Phillies grabbed control early, scoring seven runs in the first two innings off Joe Magrane.
In the fifth inning, with the Phillies ahead 12-1, St. Louis had runners on first and second, two out, when Herzog lifted Clark, the Cardinals’ slugging first baseman, for Oquendo. (Clark would hit 35 home runs in 1987; Oquendo, one.)
Oquendo struck out against Phillies starter Shane Rawley and stayed in the game, replacing Ozzie Smith at shortstop.
In the eighth, Philadelphia led 12-4 and St. Louis had runners on first and third with one out. Reliever Bill Dawley, who had two hits in a game against the Braves in May, was due to bat against Kent Tekulve, the Phillies’ sidearm-throwing right-hander. Herzog instead sent another pitcher, Tudor, a left-handed batter, to face Tekulve.
Tudor, a career .154 hitter, grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Then things got even more strange.
Needing a pitcher to replace Dawley for the bottom of the eighth, Herzog turned to his shortstop. Oquendo already had played every position except pitcher and catcher in 1987. Now he was making his big-league pitching debut.
To replace Oquendo in the infield, Herzog moved his center fielder, Willie McGee, to shortstop. The right fielder, John Morris, moved to center. That left the Cardinals without a right fielder. So Herzog put pitcher Ricky Horton in that spot.
It would be the only times in their big-league careers McGee would play shortstop and Horton would appear in the outfield.
Two balls were hit to right field. Both sailed over the head of the harried Horton. The first, by Phillies outfielder Glenn Wilson, was ruled a double and drove in a run. The second was a single by catcher Lance Parrish that scored Wilson.
“Some outfielders shy away from the walls,” Horton said to The Sporting News. “I just happened to shy away 30 yards from it.”
McGee handled his defensive chores at shortstop skillfully. With a runner on first, outfielder Milt Thompson grounded to McGee, who fielded the ball and threw to second for the forceout. Later in the inning, with Parrish at first, infielder Steve Jeltz grounded to first baseman Jim Lindeman, who threw to McGee covering second for the forceout.
Oquendo surrendered three runs on four hits and a walk (the latter to pinch-hitter Ron Roenicke, now the Brewers’ manager) in his inning of relief work. He also hit a batter.
(Oquendo would pitch for the Cardinals in two more games, one in 1988 and the other in 1991. He went four innings in ’88 against the Braves and took the loss in a 19-inning affair won by Atlanta, 7-5.)
After the debacle in Philadelphia, a 15-5 win that broke a six-game Phillies losing streak, Herzog told the Associated Press, “The best thing I can say is that nobody got hurt. In 162 games, you’ll have one like this.” Boxscore
Previously: How Andy Van Slyke amazed Jose Oquendo