Twenty-five years after Mike Aldrete threatened to derail St. Louis’ pennant push with a knockout smash off the foot of Danny Cox, both were on the field for another Giants-Cardinals showdown.
This time, Cox survived without a scratch.
Cox, a starting pitcher for the 1987 pennant-winning Cardinals, threw the ceremonial first pitch Oct. 17 before Game 3 of the 2012 National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium III. Aldrete, a lethal hitter for the 1987 Giants, was in the dugout as bench coach for Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
In 1987, Aldrete clobbered Cardinals pitching. He hit .438 (14-for-32) against St. Louis during the regular season. His most damaging swing, however, produced a groundout that broke a bone in Cox’s right foot and sidelined him for a month.
Cox got even in the 1987 NL Championship Series. In a Game 7 triumph that carried the Cardinals into the World Series, Cox held Aldrete hitless and shut out the Giants.
Riding a seven-game winning streak, the first-place Cardinals had opened a nine-game lead over their nearest NL East Division pursuers, the Expos and the Cubs, entering a four-game series against the Giants at St. Louis on July 9.
In the seventh inning, Aldrete smacked a low liner that struck Cox in the right foot. The ball caromed back to catcher Tony Pena, who threw out Aldrete at first base.
Cox remained in the game and completed eight innings before being relieved by Todd Worrell with the score tied 3-3. (The Cardinals won, 7-6, scoring four in the 10th after the Giants had scored three in the top of the inning. Boxscore)
The next day, it was discovered during an examination by team physician Dr. Stan London that Aldrete’s shot had broken a bone in Cox’s foot. Cox, who had an 8-3 record at the time, went on the 21-day disabled list and his foot was placed in a cast.
“I was throwing the ball real well and the team was playing real well,” Cox said to the Associated Press. “If anything good came out of it, at least we got (Aldrete) out.”
Aldrete, a Carmel, Calif., native and former standout for Stanford University, was enjoying a productive year for the Giants. He had replaced injured right fielder Candy Maldonado in late June and put together an 11-game hitting streak before the all-star break. In his first 21 outfield starts after replacing Maldonado, Aldrete hit .341 with 15 RBI.
“I’ve tried to be a patient, disciplined hitter,” Aldrete said to The Sporting News. “You swing at strikes and let the balls go _ that’s the key to hitting.”
Nick Peters, a respected Bay Area baseball reporter, wrote of Aldrete: He has a classic swing and the ability to foul off pitches until he finds something he likes. When he does, it usually becomes a rope.
Cox returned to the Cardinals’ rotation Aug. 8. He finished the regular season with 31 starts, 199.1 innings pitched, an 11-9 record and a 3.88 ERA.
Aldrete posted a .325 batting average and a .396 on-base percentage in 126 regular-season games. He hit .419 (36-for-86) with runners in scoring position.
As division champions, the Cardinals and Giants advanced to the NL Championship Series. They split six games, setting up a deciding Game 7 at St. Louis.
For the winner-take-all finale, Cox was named the Cardinals’ starting pitcher by manager Whitey Herzog. Aldrete was placed first in the Giants’ batting order by manager Roger Craig.
Cox set the tone early. He retired Aldrete on a groundout to second to begin the game.
In the third, with the Cardinals ahead 4-0, the first two San Francisco batters of the inning singled, bringing Aldrete to the plate with a chance to spark the Giants. Cox got him to ground into a double play.
From there, Cox and the Cardinals were in control. Aldrete flied out to left, leading off the sixth, and he ended the eighth with a groundout to third. Cox pitched a complete-game shutout and the Cardinals won, 6-0. Boxscore
“He’s a good pitcher, no matter what the score is,” Aldrete said of Cox to the Associated Press. “When he gets a lead, it makes him that much tougher.”