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mike_matheny8In a pivotal Game 2 of the 2004 National League Division Series, Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny drove in four runs and coaxed reliever Dan Haren through two scoreless innings for the win against the Dodgers.

Ten years later, in the 2014 National League Division Series, the Cardinals again are matched against the Dodgers. This time, Matheny is the Cardinals’ manager and Haren is a Dodgers starting pitcher.

On Oct. 5, 2004, Matheny contributed a solo home run off reliever Elmer Dessens in the Cardinals’ 8-3 victory over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the best-of-five Division Series at St. Louis.

Cardinals fans rewarded him with an ovation and urged a curtain call. A hesitant Matheny went to the top step of the dugout and acknowledged the sustained applause.

“It’s a huge honor,” Matheny, 34, said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s taken me five years (with the Cardinals) and this is the first year I’ve had one. I didn’t know how to get out there.” Boxscore

Hot hitter

Two days later, the Cardinals entered Game 2, knowing a victory would give them control of the series.

In the fifth inning, with the Cardinals ahead, 4-3, Matheny batted against starter Jeff Weaver with the bases loaded and two outs. Matheny stroked a two-run single to center, giving the Cardinals a 6-3 lead and knocking Weaver out of the game.

“He gets fired up,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Matheny.

Haren, who followed starter Jason Marquis and Cal Eldred, held the Dodgers scoreless in the fifth and sixth, stabilizing the game for St. Louis. It was an impressive effort for a pitcher making his first postseason appearance.

A grateful La Russa called Haren, 24, “a cool dude” and “tough as nails” before adding that Haren’s shutdown of the Dodgers “turned the momentum.”

Said Matheny of Haren: “He came into a tough situation and made pitches right away.”

RBI record

In the seventh, the Cardinals, looking to stretch their three-run lead, had Reggie Sanders on second and Edgar Renteria on third, with two outs. Though first base was open and pitcher Ray King was on deck, the Dodgers decided to pitch to the Cardinals catcher.

Matheny singled to left off a first-pitch curve from Giovanni Carrera, scoring both runners. The Cardinals won by the same score as the opener, 8-3. Boxscore

“The hit (Matheny) got off Weaver, he hit a good pitch,” said Dodgers manager Jim Tracy. “It was a breaking ball down and away and he got it. In the seventh, that wasn’t a good pitch.”

Wrote Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz: “The Dodgers probably wonder how it is that Matheny became Johnny Bench.”

Matheny became the first Cardinals hitter to produce four RBI in a Division Series game.

“I know that I haven’t put up huge (regular-season) numbers offensively, but I also know what my purpose is on this team,” Matheny said. “First of all, it’s behind the plate _ and I put a whole lot more pressure and expectations on myself back there.”

The Cardinals eliminated the Dodgers with a Game 4 triumph, advancing to the National League Championship Series against the Astros. The Cardinals beat the Astros in four of seven games, winning their first pennant in 17 years and progressing to the World Series against the Red Sox.

Previously: Why Mike Matheny ended his playing career as a Giant

Previously: Pitcher for 1964 Cardinals was mentor to Mike Matheny

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On the final day of the 1934 season, in a feat that combined ironman endurance with exceptional skill, Dizzy Dean carried the Cardinals to the National League pennant by pitching his second shutout in the span of 48 hours.

dizzy_dean6Eighty years ago, on Sept. 30, 1934, Dean earned his 30th win of the year in the Cardinals’ 9-0 victory over the Reds at St. Louis. Dean became the first National League pitcher to achieve 30 wins in a season since Grover Cleveland Alexander did so for the 1917 Phillies.

Dean’s performance enabled the Cardinals to finish a game ahead of the Giants and propelled them into the World Series against the Tigers.

September sizzle

The Cardinals, who trailed the first-place Giants by seven games on Sept. 7, won nine of 10 between Sept. 16 and Sept. 25.

On Sept. 28, the Cardinals were a half-game behind the idle Giants entering a Friday afternoon contest against the Reds at St. Louis. Dean started and pitched a shutout. The 4-0 victory moved the Cardinals into a first-place tie.

The next day, after the Cardinals beat the Reds and the Giants lost to the Dodgers, St. Louis was alone in first place with a game remaining.

Cardinals manager Frankie Frisch chose Dean to start the Sept. 30 finale. It would be Dean’s fifth appearance in eight days.

Personal quest

In the book “Ol’ Diz” (1992 Harper Collins), author Vince Staten wrote, “Diz had made it his personal quest to pitch the Cardinals into the World Series. He wanted the ball every day.”

The Cardinals could clinch the pennant _ their fifth in nine years _ on Sept. 30 with a win over the Reds, or a Giants loss to the Dodgers. If the Cardinals lost and the Giants won, a playoff would be needed to determine the league champion.

“Give me a couple or three runs _ there ain’t going to be any playoff,” Dean said to his teammates.

Playing at the Polo Grounds, the Giants scored four in the first, but the Dodgers rallied. The score was tied at 5-5 after nine innings.

At St. Louis, before a packed house of 35,274, Dean and the Cardinals were cruising. Bill DeLancey drove in four runs. Rip Collins hit a two-run home run for his 200th hit of the season.

Fastballs like pistol shots

Entering the ninth, the Cardinals led, 9-0.

In the book “Diz” (1992 Viking), author Robert Gregory wrote, “He was working on a five-hitter, his second straight shutout, and with fastballs that sounded like pistol shots he had made it a calm, effortless, one-sided game.”

The Reds, though, opened the ninth with two hits and a walk, loading the bases.

Wrote the Associated Press, “Grinning in that cocksure way of his, Dizzy arose to the heights.”

He struck out Clyde Manion.

Ted Petoskey was up next.

With the count 0-and-2, the scoreboard posted the final from the Polo Grounds:

Dodgers 8, Giants 5, in 10 innings.

The loss eliminated the Giants and assured the Cardinals the pennant.

All that remained to be settled now was whether Dean would get the shutout.

Finish with a flourish

Petoskey struck out.

Then, Sparky Adams fouled out to the catcher.

Dean completed the shutout in 2:01. Boxscore

“A few minutes later … five cops were escorting Diz to the dugout as thousands of fans swept onto the field,” Gregory wrote.

The Cardinals celebrated their pennant by swigging soda pop.

Dean, though, “his eyes glazed with fatigue, was unusually quiet and bumming cigarettes.”

The final stats for Dean that season: 30-7 record, 2.66 ERA, 50 games pitched, 33 starts, 24 complete games, seven shutouts and 311.2 innings pitched.

Dean won Games 1 and 7 of the 1934 World Series and was chosen the recipient of the National League Most Valuable Player Award.

Previously: Cardinal cool: How Dizzy Dean survived armed robbery

Previously: Why Cardinals dealt Dizzy Dean to Cubs

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In a matchup critical to the pennant hopes of the Cardinals, Barney Schultz faced Roberto Clemente on the penultimate Sunday of the 1964 season.

barney_schultzTwo months earlier, Schultz, 38, was pitching in the minor leagues. Clemente, 30, was on his way to the 1964 National League batting title.

Who could have imagined the two would be paired in one of the best baseball dramas of the season?

Steel City success

Fifty years ago, on Sept. 27, 1964, the Cardinals faced the Pirates at Pittsburgh, looking to complete a five-game sweep.

Four days earlier, on Sept. 23, the Cardinals were five games behind the first-place Phillies and 1.5 behind the Reds.

In the book “October 1964″ (1994, Villard), author David Halberstam quotes Cardinals outfielder Bob Skinner saying to teammate Dick Groat, “OK, Dick, the only thing we have to do is sweep the Pirates in five.”

Skinner and Groat, both former Pirates, knew how unlikely it was for any club to accomplish that task at Pittsburgh.

The Cardinals then won both games of a doubleheader versus the Pirates on Sept. 24 and followed that with wins at Pittsburgh on Sept. 25 and Sept. 26.

In the series finale, on the first day of the last week of the season, the Cardinals started Roger Craig. He had lost four consecutive decisions since his last win on Aug. 12.

On this day, though, he delivered a stellar start, holding the Pirates scoreless and limiting them to six singles through 7.2 innings.

Save for Schultz

In the eighth, with the Cardinals ahead, 3-0, the Pirates had runners on first and second, two outs, when Cardinals manager Johnny Keane brought in Schultz to face Clemente, who represented the tying run.

The odds seemed stacked in favor of Clemente. The Pirates outfielder hit .361 with runners in scoring position in 1964 and .374 with runners on base. Clemente would hit .417 (5-for-12) against Schultz in his career.

This time, however, Schultz had the edge.

Clemente struck out.

Inspired, the Cardinals scored twice in the ninth and Schultz retired the Pirates in order in the bottom half of the inning, preserving a 5-0 St. Louis victory. Boxscore

In sweeping the five games at Pittsburgh, the Cardinals played nearly flawless baseball, committing one error and holding the Pirates to eight total runs.

“That was a disgrace in Pittsburgh,” Phillies scout Don Hoak, a former Pirates third baseman, said to Groat. “They just handed you five games.”

Replied Groat: “You forgot to mention the most important thing about those five games _ that we didn’t make a single mistake in all five of them.”

Pennant push

The win moved the Cardinals 1.5 games behind the first-place Reds and just a half-game behind the fading Phillies.

Arriving at the St. Louis airport after their flight from Pittsburgh, the Cardinals were greeted by an adoring crowd of at least 8,000, The Sporting News reported.

“The adrenaline was flowing,” said Cardinals outfielder Carl Warwick to Peter Golenbock in the book “Spirit of St. Louis” (2000, Avon). “All of a sudden you’re saying, ‘We’re not out of this thing.’ “

Back in St. Louis, the Cardinals won four of their last six against the Phillies and Mets, winning the pennant by a game over both the Phillies and Reds.

Previously: Why Gussie Busch fired Bing Devine in championship year

Previously: Why the Cardinals played baseball in Delaware on D-Day

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Grant Dunlap possessed a variety skills. He was a winning coach in multiple sports, an accomplished author and a pinch-hitter deluxe for the Cardinals.

grant_dunlapDunlap, whose lone big-league season was with the 1953 Cardinals, died Sept. 11, 2014, at his home in Vista, Calif. He was 90.

A Stockton, Calif., native, Dunlap, 17, was signed by the Reds in 1941. He was given an $870 bonus and used the money to pay for surgery for his mother. A year later, he joined the Marines and served in the South Pacific and China during World War II.

In 1952, Dunlap was the Texas League batting champion, hitting .333 for Shreveport. The first baseman, a right-handed hitter, was purchased by the Cardinals in December 1952 and placed on the big-league roster. The Cardinals said Dunlap would compete with Steve Bilko and Dick Sisler for the everyday first base role.

Ready to hit

A 29-year-old rookie, Dunlap made a favorable impression when he joined the Cardinals at their spring training camp at St. Petersburg, Fla., in February 1953.

In its March 11 edition, The Sporting News reported, “Perhaps the outstanding ‘sleeper’ in camp is Grant Dunlap … In the early batting drills, he attracted attention and in the first squad game he swung at the first pitch and whacked the ball far over the left field wall into Tampa Bay. Dunlap looks like a hitter. He poises his bat and is ready for every pitch.”

Said Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky: “Dunlap looks pretty shifty around first base, too.”

Two weeks later, The Sporting News wrote, “Grant Dunlap is another substantial hitter on the Cardinals squad and may remain because of his prowess with the war club.”

Wounded warrior

Late in spring training, during an exhibition game against the Braves, Dunlap suffered an injury that derailed his chances of winning the first base job. After stroking a single, Dunlap was on first when Hal Rice hit a grounder to second baseman Jack Dittmer. Dunlap braked to avoid a tag and Dittmer threw out Rice at first.

First baseman Joe Adcock then pursued Dunlap, who got trapped in a rundown. In the frenzy, Adcock accidently stepped on Dunlap’s left foot. Dunlap suffered “a five-suture spike wound” near the instep and was “carried off the field on a stretcher to minimize bleeding,” The Sporting News reported.

Bilko opened the season as the Cardinals’ starting first baseman. Stanky kept Dunlap on the roster as a pinch-hitter.

St. Louis slugger

Dunlap’s first two big-league hits were significant.

In his third big-league at-bat, Dunlap got his first hit _ a pinch-hit home run off Ken Raffensberger in a 5-2 Reds victory at Cincinnati on May 10. Boxscore

A month later, Dunlap got his second hit. This one produced a Cardinals victory.

On June 12 at New York’s Polo Grounds, the Giants led the Cardinals, 1-0. In the seventh, with Cardinals runners on first and second, one out, Dunlap drove a pinch-hit triple off the right field wall against Dave Koslo. Ray Jablonski and Rip Repulski scored, giving the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. Pitcher Harvey Haddix ran for Dunlap and scored on Solly Hemus’ sacrifice fly. The Cardinals won, 3-1. Boxscore

Used primarily as a pinch-hitter, Dunlap batted .353 (6-for-17) for the Cardinals. But he couldn’t displace Bilko at first base and he wasn’t getting at-bats. In August, the Cardinals sent Dunlap to their minor-league affiliate at Houston. Stanky predicted Dunlap would be “a terrific man” for Houston given the chance to play regularly.

On Aug. 11, Dunlap went 5-for-5 for Houston in a game against Dallas. He hit .277 in 35 games for Houston.

Life after baseball

After the season, the Cardinals sold Dunlap’s contract to their Rochester affiliate. In December 1953, Rochester traded Dunlap to another Class AAA club, Minneapolis, for pitcher Bill Connelly.

Dunlap spent the 1954 and ’55 seasons in the minor leagues. Then he began a successful second career.

An all-conference baseball and basketball player at Occidental College, Dunlap returned to the Los Angeles school in 1955 to coach both sports teams.

In 30 years as Occidental baseball coach, Dunlap had a 510-316 record and won nine conference titles. He was 205-156 with five league championships in 16 years as Occidental basketball coach. Dunlap also was the Occidental athletic director from 1971-76. He retired in 1984.

Dunlap wrote an acclaimed mystery novel “Kill the Umpire” that was published in 1998. Dunlap was praised for his vivid, lively prose, drawing on his minor-league experience to recreate the feel of the Texas League towns of the 1940s and what it was like to be a ballplayer in that time. The book is available on Amazon.

Previously: Like Polish Falcons, 2013 Cardinals soar with doubles

Previously: The story of how Tom Alston integrated Cardinals

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Over the last 90 years, the Cardinals are the only National League franchise to have won three consecutive pennants.

harry_brecheenSeventy years ago, on Sept. 21, 1944, the Cardinals swept a doubleheader from the Braves, clinching the pennant for the third season in a row. No National League franchise has matched that feat since.

Before the Cardinals’ stretch of pennants from 1942-44, the last National League franchise to win three consecutive pennants was the Giants. They won four in a row from 1921-24.

Since 1900, the only other franchises that have won three National League pennants in a row are: Pirates (1901-03), Cubs (1906-08) and Giants (1911-13).

Managed by Billy Southworth, the 1942-44 Cardinals also were the first National League teams with 100 or more wins in each of three consecutive seasons.

Familiar feeling

In 1944, the Cardinals took the National League lead on April 29 and never relinquished it. A September slump kept them from clinching early in the month. They entered the Sept. 21 doubleheader against the Braves at Boston having lost eight of their last nine and 15 of their last 20.

In the doubleheader opener, the Cardinals broke a 4-4 tie in the eighth when backup second baseman George Fallon singled to right with two outs, scoring Whitey Kurowski from second.

Harry Brecheen pitched five innings in relief of starter Mort Cooper and got the win. Brecheen, usually a starter, yielded one run and three hits in five innings.

The 5-4 victory clinched the pennant for the Cardinals, giving them a 13-game lead over the second-place Pirates with 12 remaining. Boxscore

Wrote The Sporting News, “The Redbirds walked off the field as if it had been an ordinary game, probably one of the least demonstrative reactions that has followed a pennant clincher. Except for the customary picture showing the players in a jubilant mood, there was no celebration in the clubhouse.”

Keep on rolling

In the second game, Cardinals pinch-hitter Walker Cooper slugged a two-run home run off starter Jim Tobin in the ninth, tying the score at 5-5, and Marty Marion drove in Ken O’Dea from second with a single in the 10th, lifting St. Louis to a 6-5 victory.

Brecheen pitched two scoreless innings, the ninth and 10th, to get his second win of the day and improve his record to 15-5. Boxscore

In saluting the 1944 Cardinals on their pennant-clinching day, The Sporting News noted, “Every player except two _ Danny Litwhiler and Debs Garms _ bears the Cardinals trademark, having come up through the club’s farm system.”

In an interview with author Peter Golenbock for the book “The Spirit of St. Louis” (2000, Avon), Litwhiler said, “In 1944, we played the same Billy Southworth baseball. He never went for the big inning. Get a man on and get him over. At the time, we defined National League baseball. What I remember most about ’44 was that every day you knew you were going to win … It was so easy. And it wasn’t one person who did it. It was always someone new.”

The Cardinals finished the 1944 season at 105-49, 14.5 games ahead of the runner-up Pirates, and clinched the World Series championship with four wins in six games against the crosstown Browns.

Previously: Why the Cardinals played baseball in Delaware on D-Day

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Three years after he left the Busch Stadium mound with his pitching career _ as well as his pitches _ spiraling out of control, Rick Ankiel returned to St. Louis as a confident Cardinals reliever embraced by the fans.

rick_ankiel6Ten years ago, on Sept. 19, 2004, Ankiel made his first Busch Stadium appearance since 2001 and pitched two hitless innings against the Diamondbacks, departing to a standing ovation.

In his previous home appearance, on May 10, 2001, Ankiel regressed against the Pirates, yielding three runs, three hits, five walks and two wild pitches in three innings, departing with his head down and bolting the ballpark without talking with reporters. Boxscore

After that debacle, Ankiel went to the minor leagues and pitched there for the remainder of 2001. After sitting out the 2002 season because of a left elbow sprain, Ankiel pitched in the minors in 2003 until undergoing left elbow surgery in July.

Ankiel spent most of the 2004 season on the disabled list, returned to the minors in August that summer and was called up by the Cardinals in September. Ankiel made a pair of scoreless one-inning stints at San Diego against the Padres and at Los Angeles against the Dodgers.

Welcome home

On Sept. 19, 2004, a Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium, Ankiel relieved starter Jeff Suppan to start the fifth inning. As he walked to the mound, Ankiel tipped his cap to an appreciative crowd of 41,279.

“You walk out there with the electricity of the crowd and you feel like you’re floating,” Ankiel said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s pretty indescribable.”

Mixing a 91 mph fastball with a 66 mph curve, Ankiel faced three batters _ Luis Terrero, Alex Cintron and Danny Bautista _ in the fifth and struck out all three.

“His fastball was running and sinking hard,” Cintron said to the Post-Dispatch. “His curveball _ I’ve never faced anything like it in my life. He’s the Rick Ankiel everyone expected him to be.’

Facing Ankiel in the sixth, Shea Hillenbrand grounded out, Chad Tracy walked, Chris Snyder struck out and Doug DeVore lined out to right. “He was tricky,” Snyder said to the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat. “He was pretty deceptive. He had a good fastball and a good snap to his curveball.”

Said Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny: “He’s got good tempo … That curve’s amazing. You can hear it spinning all the way up there.”

Walking off the mound, Ankiel again tipped his cap to a standing ovation.

“Unbelievable … I was pretty much in the sky,” Ankiel said to the News-Democrat. Boxscore

Last hurrah

In his next appearance, at Colorado, Ankiel yielded five runs in two innings. He rebounded five days later, on Oct. 1, in limiting the Brewers to a run in four innings.

It would be Ankiel’s final big-league game as a pitcher.

Ankiel declared he would convert into an outfielder and abandon his pitching career.

In 2007, Ankiel returned to the Cardinals and spent seven seasons in the big leagues as a power-hitting and strong-armed outfielder.

Previously: Rick Ankiel joins Babe Ruth, Joe Wood in postseason lore

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