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As a rookie, Carlos Villanueva almost kept the 2006 Cardinals from qualifying for the postseason and winning their first World Series title in 24 years.

carlos_villanuevaNine years later, Villanueva is competing in spring training for a spot on the pitching staff of the 2015 Cardinals.

On Oct. 1, 2006, the Cardinals entered the final day of the regular season needing a win over the Brewers at St. Louis or an Astros loss to the Braves in Atlanta to clinch outright the National League Central Division title. If the Cardinals lost and the Astros won, the Cardinals would need to win a regular-season makeup game against the Giants to clinch the division title and avoid a one-game playoff with the Astros to advance to the National League Division Series against the Padres.

Rookie starters

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa gambled and started rookie Anthony Reyes against the Brewers on only three days of rest, choosing to hold back Chris Carpenter in the hope St. Louis would clinch the division crown versus Milwaukee and have their ace available for Game 1 of the NL Division Series.

Brewers manager Ned Yost chose Villanueva as his starter. In his fourth big-league start, Villanueva had faced the Cardinals for the first time on Sept. 20 at Milwaukee and pitched seven scoreless innings in a 1-0 Brewers victory. Boxscore

Reyes flopped. The Brewers scored four in the first on a two-run home run by Prince Fielder, a solo home run by Geoff Jenkins and a RBI-single by David Bell (who is the bench coach for the 2015 Cardinals). Reyes was lifted before he could complete the opening inning.

Keep me in, coach

Given a 4-0 lead, Villanueva first faced Cardinals leadoff batter Aaron Miles. who “smacked a sharp one-hopper off Villanueva’s pitching hand,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“It felt bad,” Villanueva said.

Yost went to the mound and asked his right-hander, “How are you doing?”

“Of course, I said, ‘I’m doing great,’ ” Villanueva said.

In truth, the hand throbbed.

Said Yost: “I came close to taking him out. He couldn’t even swing a bat. I kept an eye on him and if I noticed a drop-off in effectiveness I would have taken him out. But I didn’t see it.”

Villanueva baffled the Cardinals. With each inning, their hopes of beating the Brewers dimmed.

Bailout by Braves

Then, in the fifth, Ronnie Belliard stepped to the plate for St. Louis and a roar erupted from the Busch Stadium crowd as the final from Atlanta was posted: Braves 3, Astros 1. The Braves had prevailed behind six shutout innings from starter John Smoltz and a home run by Jeff Francoeur. Boxscore

The loss by the Astros meant the Cardinals had clinched the division title, regardless of the outcome of their game with the Brewers.

As fans cheered in appreciation, Villanueva stepped off the mound and Belliard stepped away from the plate. Derryl Cousins, the home plate umpire, motioned for the game to resume, but Villanueva lingered, letting “the celebration last a few more seconds,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“I wanted to give them their moment,” Villanueva said. “I knew what was going on.”

Drama in ninth

Villanueva shut out the Cardinals through eight innings, extending his scoreless streak against them to 15 innings over two starts.

In the bottom of the ninth, with the Brewers ahead, 5-0, Villanueva got Miles to fly out to right. Then, the Cardinals thundered to life. Chris Duncan launched a 414-foot home run. Albert Pujols followed with a 424-foot shot.

Francisco Cordero relieved and struck out Preston Wilson, but Scott Spiezio followed with a home run, cutting the deficit to two. Cordero then ended the drama _ and the regular season _ by striking out Juan Encarnacion, preserving a 5-3 victory for Villanueva and the Brewers. Boxscore

Unfazed, the Cardinals regrouped and beat the Padres in the NL Division Series, the Mets in the NL Championship Series and the Tigers in the World Series.

Villanueva went on to pitch for nine big-league seasons with the Brewers, Blue Jays and Cubs. He never pitched a complete game and only once matched the 8.1 innings he pitched against the Cardinals.

Previously: 2006 was critical to Tony La Russa earning Hall of Fame status

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Imagine Pete Rose in a Cardinals lineup with Ted Simmons, Keith Hernandez, George Hendrick and Garry Templeton. The Cardinals did. They tried to make it happen.

brock_roseThe catch: Rose likely would have been brought in to replace Lou Brock, relegating the popular Cardinals standout to a reserve role.

In November 1978, Rose left the Reds, his hometown team and the only one for whom he had played since entering the majors in 1963, and became a free agent. Five clubs _ Cardinals, Phillies, Braves, Pirates and Royals _ were finalists in bidding to sign him.

Rose chose the Phillies, even though the Cardinals and the others made more lucrative offers.

On Feb. 5, 2015, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN Radio he planned to discuss the possibility of reinstating Rose, who was banned from baseball in 1989 for misconduct related to gambling. In 2004, Rose admitted to betting on games during his tenure as Reds manager.

This is the story of how the Cardinals, determined to become contenders after finishing 24 games under .500 in 1978, wanted Rose, 37, to bring his hitting, hustle and hubris to St. Louis.

Sorely needed

Before the December 1978 baseball winter meetings began in Orlando, Rose met with Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, general manager John Claiborne and manager Ken Boyer in St. Louis “with the hope the Cardinals might be able to land a man who certainly would fit the type of offensive player so sorely needed by the Redbirds,” The Sporting News reported.

Rose, who started at third base for the 1978 Reds, likely would have played left field for the 1979 Cardinals, joining an outfield of Hendrick in right and Tony Scott in center. Simmons was the St. Louis catcher. The infield for the 1979 Cardinals was Hernandez at first, Ken Oberkfell at second, Templeton at shortstop and Ken Reitz at third.

Brock, the stolen base champion and future Hall of Famer who had sparked the Cardinals to three National League pennants and two World Series titles, had experienced a miserable 1978 season, batting .221 with no home runs and 12 RBI. He would turn 40 in 1979 and there were doubts whether he could be an effective everyday player.

In a 2014 interview with the Web site of Boston radio station WEEI, Rose recalled, “I went to St. Louis to talk with Gussie Busch, who offered me a Budweiser distributorship. I liked that, but he wanted me to replace Lou Brock and I didn’t want to get in that situation.”

(Brock remained the Cardinals’ regular left fielder in 1979 and rebounded strongly, hitting .304 in his final big-league season.)

In the book “The Lords of the Realm,” author John Helyar wrote that Busch talked with Rose about being a Budweiser spokesman and also discussed a distributorship. The meeting occurred at a St. Louis hospital, where Busch was preparing for hernia surgery.

“I probably would have had a hernia, too, if I had to carry all the money he was offering me,” Rose said.

In the Jan. 13, 1979, edition of The Sporting News, Claiborne denied Rose was offered a distributorship from Anheuser-Busch, though he confirmed the Cardinals “had made a very strong pitch for Rose.”

Treated like son

Indeed, Rose said the Phillies’ offer was lower than the bids of the Cardinals, Braves, Pirates and Royals.

“There were five bids and I took the lowest one,” Rose said. “Being conservative, I could have gotten at least another million and a half.

“I wish I could have played a year for each of the other four owners. They treated me like a son. But I had to analyze where I’d be the happiest. And the Phillies’ revised offer was enough that I didn’t have to worry about the money.”

The Phillies initially offered Rose a three-year, $2.1 million contract _ an average of $700,000 per year. When they sweetened the deal to $3.2 million for four years _ an average of $800,000 per year _ Rose accepted. He said his friendship with Phillies players Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt also persuaded him.

(The book “Pete Rose: A Biography” reports the breakdown of the Phillies deal as $905,00 the first year, $805,000 the second, $705,000 the third and $565,000 the fourth, with a $245,000 bonus if Rose played in 125 games.)

Chasing The Man

Royals owner Ewing Kauffman had made an aggressive bid, “but Rose has insisted all along he is a National Leaguer and what he lusts after most is Stan Musial’s record for hits in that league,” The Sporting News reported.

(Rose would surpass Musial’s NL record of 3,630 hits and then move ahead of Ty Cobb for the all-time mark. Cobb had 4,189 hits. Rose finished with 4,256.)

If Rose had selected the 1979 Royals, he would have played that season for manager Whitey Herzog.

The Braves thought Rose would pick them. Team owner Ted Turner offered Rose $1 million per year for “three years, four years, five years, whatever you want,” Sports Illustrated reported.

“A major network and a wire service columnist reported Rose was headed for the Braves,” wrote The Sporting News. “Team officials in Orlando for the winter meetings had Rose’s statistics printed upon the club’s letterhead and another member of the front office staff flew from Atlanta to Orlando with a Braves jersey and cap for Rose to wear at the signing.”

The contract Rose got from the Phillies made him baseball’s highest-paid player. “$3.2 million for a leadoff man, ye gods!” wrote Atlanta columnist Furman Bisher.

Phillies vs. Cardinals

Rose made his Phillies debut on Opening Day, April 6, 1979, against the Cardinals at St. Louis. Playing first base and batting leadoff a week before his 38th birthday, Rose was 1-for-3 with a walk against John Denny, who pitched a five-hitter in an 8-1 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

The Cardinals would finish ahead of the Phillies in the NL East in 1979. The Cardinals were third at 86-76 and the Phillies were fourth at 84-78.

Rose had a spectacular 1979 season, collecting 208 hits and batting .331. He finished second to Hernandez (.344) for the NL batting title. Rose led the league in on-base percentage (.418), edging Hernandez (.417).

Previously: How Cardinals’ mystery man nearly derailed 1980 Phillies’ title run

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With the 2015 Cardinals, Matt Belisle becomes teammates with a manager and a run producer who once hit significant home runs off him.

matt_belisleA free agent who signed with the Cardinals on Dec. 2, 2014, Belisle, 34, is expected to join Trevor Rosenthal, Jordan Walden and Seth Maness as the key right-handed relievers for St. Louis.

In 11 seasons with the Reds and Rockies, Belisle has a 48-54 record, 4.41 ERA and five saves. He has made more than 65 appearances in each of the last five seasons.

The first and last home runs he yielded to Cardinals were hit by Mike Matheny and Matt Holliday. Matheny is the manager of the 2015 Cardinals and Holliday is their top RBI threat.

MLB debut

On Sept. 7, 2003, Belisle made his big-league debut for the Reds against the Cardinals at St. Louis. He entered the game in the sixth inning with the Cardinals ahead, 5-0.

After pitching a scoreless sixth and retiring the first batter in the seventh, Belisle faced Matheny, the Cardinals’ catcher. Matheny welcomed the rookie to the big leagues with a home run into the left-field seats.

“He’s a tiger,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Matheny. “Other coaches and managers talk to me and they just admire how consistent he is, how hard he works.” Boxscore

Misplaced heater

Nine years later, on Aug. 1, 2012, Belisle was brought in to face Holliday with the Rockies leading the Cardinals, 5-3, in the seventh inning at Denver. The Cardinals had two runners on base with one out.

Holliday, who broke into the majors with the Rockies, had hit a two-run home run off Drew Pomeranz in the first inning.

On a 1-and-0 pitch, Belisle threw a fastball that caught too much of the inner part of the plate. Holliday crushed a home run that traveled 452 feet, giving the Cardinals a 6-5 lead and propelling them to a 9-6 victory. Video

“If I had to do it over again, I still feel real confident with going inside with a heater, but just maybe stay inside a little more,” Belisle said to the Associated Press. “I just pride myself in preparing for big pitches in big situations. This one is extremely hard to swallow and I take it completely on my shoulders for this loss.”

Said Holliday: “I was looking to hit the ball through the middle. We had runners in scoring position and I was trying to get something to hit hard.” Boxscore

Milestone homer

Belisle also is the pitcher who yielded career home run No. 200 to the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols.

On Sept. 30, 2005, Pujols hit a grand slam off Belisle in the Cardinals’ 12-6 victory over the Reds at St. Louis. Video

“The best swing I took in two weeks,” Pujols told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It was Pujols’ 40th home run of the 2005 season and his fourth career grand slam. Only Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews reached 200 home runs at ages younger than Pujols. Boxscore

Previously: Mike Matheny sparked Cards over Dodgers in 2004 NLDS

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In the last 85 years, only three pitchers have achieved 30 wins in a season: Denny McLain (31 with 1968 Tigers), Dizzy Dean (30 with 1934 Cardinals) and Lefty Grove (31 with 1931 Athletics).

gibson_mclainI met McLain on Jan. 31, 2015, at a sports card show at the American Legion Hall in Sebastian, Fla. Richard Stone, who produces the show the last Saturday of each month, was kind in introducing me to McLain and arranging the interview.

McLain, 70, was friendly, talkative, outspoken.

The pitcher, who used to drink a case of Pepsi a day, said he has dropped 180 pounds, crediting a procedure called bariatric surgery, which removed a portion of his stomach.

In 1968, when he won both the American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards, McLain had a 31-6 record, 1.96 ERA and 28 complete games.

He won a second Cy Young Award in 1969, with a 24-9 record, 2.80 ERA and 23 complete games.

McLain was suspended by baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn for part of the 1970 season because of his association with bookmakers. After his playing career, he twice went to prison: the first time on a conviction for racketeering and the second time on a conviction for embezzlement.

Today he is involved in a sports merchandising and memorabilia business at http://www.dennymclain31-6.com.

Here are excerpts from my tape-recorded interview with Denny McLain:

Q.: You are the last pitcher with 30 wins in a season. Do you think the achievement gets the credit it deserves?

Denny McLain: “As time goes by, the stories about it become greater, but the appreciation becomes a little less. Will anyone win 30 again? Obviously not. The game has changed. No else is going to do it.”

Q.: Do you think today’s major leaguers appreciate the feat?

Denny McLain: “A lot of players today don’t know historically what happened 30, 40 years ago. There are some, but they are the exceptions. Very few know or actually care. It’s about the paycheck. Despite how the current guys treat them, the former players still respect the players today. That’s the difference.

“Of course, we’re all a little jealous of the money. The guys today don’t understand what we did to get them to the place where they are today. We walked out (on strike) when we were making $20,000, $30,000 a year. I wonder if they were making $20,000, $30,000 a year today how many guys would walk out. Guys today win 15 games and make $30 million a year.”

Q.: Insane?

Denny McLain: “Insane is a kind word. They should be committed.”

Q.: You and Dizzy Dean are the last two pitchers to win 30 in a season. You both are considered to be free spirits. Do you see similarities to him?

Denny McLain: “Dizzy and I both had the same personalities. We got along super well because he was as nuts as I was.”

Q.: You got to meet him?

Denny McLain: “I met both Dizzy Dean and Lefty Grove.”

Q.: What was Dizzy Dean like?

Denny McLain: “He wanted to have a good time all the time. He was a big-time gambler. On the night before I won my 30th in 1968, Dizzy says to me, ‘How you feeling? Anything bothering you? Think you’re going to win tomorrow?’ At the time, I didn’t know he was a big-time gambler. Dizzy was soliciting information.”

Q.: What was Lefty Grove like?

Denny McLain: “Lefty Grove was the nicest man I ever met in my life. He was a class act. He was articulate. He knew the game.”

Q.: In 1966, at age 22, you were the starting pitcher for the American League in the All-Star Game at St. Louis and retired all 9 batters you faced …

Denny McLain: “Six of them are in the Hall of Fame.”

Q.: They would be Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Ron Santo and Joe Torre. Mays led off and struck out …

Denny McLain: “I had him 3-and-2. Bill Freehan, my catcher, called for a curve. In an All-Star Game, to call a curve on 3-and-2 is pretty drastic. I was so pumped up. I threw a curve that was one of the greatest I’ve ever thrown in my life. They call it a 6 o’clocker.” Boxscore

Q.: Then Clemente flied out and Aaron struck out …

Denny McLain: “In winter ball in 1964 in Puerto Rico, I played against Santurce. That team had Clemente and (Orlando) Cepeda. First time I pitched against them, I struck them out each four times. That’s when Clemente came up to me and said, ‘Why aren’t you in the big leagues?’ I said, ‘I am.’ ”

Q.: The story is that before the 1968 World Series you said you wanted not only for the Tigers to beat the Cardinals, you wanted to humiliate them. True?

Denny McLain: “I wanted us to beat them in four. I got tired of hearing about Bob Gibson’s (1.12) ERA. I kept saying, ‘If he’s that good, why didn’t he win some more games?’ I know one of the quotes I said was, ‘He won 22 games. I won 21 by the end of July.’ That really got everybody ticked off.”

Q.: Then in Game 1 of the World Series, Gibson strikes out 17, pitches a shutout and you get lifted after five innings …

Denny McLain: “There’s nothing you could do. We got beat 4-0. One of us was going to win and one of us was going to lose. I lost.” Boxscore

Q.: You and Gibson were matched again in Game 4. Again, he won …

Denny McLain: “We shouldn’t have played the game. It was played in a downpour. I was never a mudder.” Boxscore

Q.: In Game 6, you start against Ray Washburn, pitch a complete game and win …

Denny McLain: “That was my day. If we lose that game …”

Q.: The World Series is over …

Denny McLain: “It would have killed me.”

Q.: You received a cortisone shot for your right shoulder before that game. How much did that help?

Denny McLain: “I got the injection about an hour before the game. I got another touch to it about 20 minutes before I went to warm up. Took some kind of pill. I didn’t have any pain until the fifth or sixth inning.” Boxscore

Q.: You struck out seven, walked none, the Tigers win, 13-1 …

Denny McLain: “The thing that made me mad about that ballgame is there were two outs in the ninth and I had a shutout. Julian Javier got a base hit with a man on second. Boy, was I mad. It was just a lousy ground ball that went through the hole.”

Q.: Did you feel the win was redemption after two losses to Gibson?

Denny McLain: “They only had one pitcher. That was Gibson. The rest of them weren’t very good. We were surprised at how bad their pitching was. But what St. Louis did is much like what we did: Play fundamentally sound baseball. If you play the game soundly, you will win.”

Previously: Should Curt Flood have caught Jim Northrup’s drive?

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In a deal that triggered their transformation into champions, the 1985 Cardinals got a sleeping giant to wake up their offense.

jack_clark4Thirty years ago, on Feb. 1, 1985, the Cardinals acquired Jack Clark from the Giants for Dave LaPoint, David Green, Jose Uribe and Gary Rajsich.

Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog saw Clark as the answer for an offense that lacked consistent power.

“I’m getting a sleeping giant who immediately fits right into our picture a lot better,” Herzog said to The Sporting News.

Clark, 29, was a proven run producer, but he had missed three months of the 1984 season because of right knee surgery. He also had developed a reputation as a malcontent.

Green, 24, was a prized prospect, but he hadn’t fulfilled his potential and his personal problems led to him being admitted to a treatment center in 1984.

“You’re really gambling on his potential,” Herzog said. “Of all the players I’ve had the opportunity to manage, David Green has more ability than anyone as far as hitting, hitting with power, speed and throwing arm. (Garry) Templeton and George Brett are in that category, but Green has more power than either, he runs better than either and he throws better than George.”

Prime target

After the Cardinals traded their top run producer, George Hendrick, to the Pirates in a December 1984 deal that brought them pitcher John Tudor, Herzog sought a replacement for the heart of the batting order. Clark was a prime target.

“It all happened rather quickly,” Giants general manager Tom Haller said. “The Cardinals instigated talks about Clark and we threw some names at him.”

In his book “The White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said, “I’d always wondered what it would be like to write his name down on my lineup card. We went after Jack Clark hammer and tong in the winter of 1984-85.

“With Hendrick gone, we stepped up the campaign for Clark, the same kind of hitter George had been, only better. We knew he was unhappy in San Francisco, playing in that disgraceful ballpark of theirs (Candlestick Park). The Giants were down on him because he was unhappy there.”

Let’s make a deal

The trade initially called for the Cardinals to receive Clark and minor-league pitcher Colin Ward. Talks hit a snag when it was discovered Clark had several financial incentives in his contract, including a clause that stated Clark would be given a $250,000 payment if he joined another team in 1987.

When Giants owner Bob Lurie agreed to compensate the Cardinals with $125,000, Ward was dropped from the deal and the transaction was completed.

“I’ll be playing somewhere I can be more productive and it will be more fun coming to the park every day,” Clark said to columnist Stan Isle. “You don’t develop good work habits at Candlestick Park. You can’t always do what you want to do out there, like trying to hit Nolan Ryan with dust blowing in your eyes.”

Said Herzog to the Associated Press: “Jack Clark puts us in the situation of definite contenders again. Here’s a guy who can win a ballgame with one swing of the bat. He’s the only player in the league besides (Mike) Schmidt who could hit 20 homers a year playing in our park.”

Said Lurie to columnist Art Spander, “Nobody in the organization was anxious to trade Jack Clark … but we need players; we need starting pitchers. We’re supposed to be getting some top prospects.”

Upper hand

The deal was lopsided in favor of the Cardinals.

The Giants, who had finished in last place in the National League West at 66-96 in 1984, did even worse after the trade, finishing last again at 62-100 in 1985.

Green, primarily playing first base, hit .248 with 20 RBI in 106 games in 1985.

Uribe, who had played for the 1984 Cardinals under the name Jose Gonzalez, was the everyday shortstop for the 1985 Giants. He hit .237 and committed 26 errors.

Rajsich hit .165 as a utility player. LaPoint was 7-17 with a 3.57 ERA in 31 starts.

Clark connects

The Cardinals, who had finished in third place in the NL East at 84-78 in 1984, won the division title at 101-61 in 1985.

Sparked by the additions of Clark and rookie left fielder Vince Coleman, the Cardinals, who scored 652 runs in 1984, scored a league-leading 747 runs in 1985.

Clark, primarily playing first base, had a .393 on-base percentage and .502 slugging percentage for the 1985 Cardinals. He had 26 doubles, 22 home runs, 83 walks and 87 RBI. Clark hit the game-winning home run that clinched the pennant for St. Louis in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series versus the Dodgers.

In the book “You’re Missin’ a Great Game,” Herzog said, “Jack Clark could pull a bullet … I could be blindfolded and tell when Jack was taking (batting practice). He was the only guy I had who didn’t sound like he was hitting underwater … The man’s power scared people, kept the defenses honest and kept our jackrabbits circling the bases.”

In three seasons with the Cardinals, Clark had a .413 on-base percentage and a .522 slugging percentage, powering St. Louis to two pennants.

Previously: How ouster of Joe McDonald put Whitey Herzog in peril

Previously: Why Cardinals were right to try George Hendrick

Previously: Redbirds ripoff: How Bob Horner replaced Jack Clark

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Whether facing a journeyman such as Barney Schultz or a fellow Hall of Famer like Steve Carlton, Cubs icon Ernie Banks produced some of his most spectacular performances against Cardinals pitching.

ernie_banksBanks, 83, died Jan. 23, 2015, a week before his 84th birthday.

In a 19-year playing career with the Cubs, Banks had 512 home runs, 1,636 RBI and 2,583 hits. Against the Cardinals, Banks batted .277 with 326 hits in 324 games, including 64 home runs.

“One thing that the fans never really knew about Ernie … is that he talked all of the time,” George Altman, an outfielder with the Cubs and Cardinals, wrote in his autobiography. “He talked to the opposing hitters when they reached first base. He talked to our infielders. He talked to us on the bench.”

All of that talking became too much for Cardinals ace and Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.

“Ernie Banks was a good example of a guy whom I probably would have enjoyed quite a bit if he had been on my side _ I don’t doubt that he was as nice a guy as everybody said _ but as it was he talked too damn much,” Gibson said in his book “Stranger to the Game.”

“He was always jabbering at me a day or two before I pitched against the Cubs, trying to get me off my game. One day at old Busch Stadium he came by during batting practice and said, ‘Hoot, you pitching tomorrow? We’re going to beat you. We’re going to beat your ass tomorrow.’ I said, ‘Ernie, you’d better leave me alone.’

“It wasn’t in his nature to do that, though, and the next day I answered him.”

Gibson drilled Banks in the ribs with a pitch. “He didn’t have much to say to me after that,” Gibson said.

That day, July 18, 1962, Gibson struck out Banks three times and held the Cubs to three hits in a 2-1 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Banks had a career batting mark of .229 (24-for-105) against Gibson with three home runs and 13 RBI.

Some of Banks’ most memorable games versus the Cardinals:

Communication breakdown

Banks hit two home runs on April 16, 1955, but the Cardinals won, 12-11, in 14 innings at St. Louis.

In the second inning, Randy Jackson, Banks and Dee Fondy hit consecutive home runs off Tom Poholsky.

With the score at 9-9 in the 12th, Banks and Fondy connected for back-to-back homers off Schultz. The Cardinals tied the score in the bottom half of the inning on Wally Moon’s two-run homer with two outs off Bubba Church.

A misplay involving Banks ignited the winning rally in the 14th. Bill Sarni lifted a fly to short left. Banks, the shortstop, and left fielder Hank Sauer miscommunicated and the ball dropped in for a double. Moon followed with a single off Vicente Amor, making his big-league debut, scoring Sarni. Boxscore

Slugging shortstop

Three months later, on July 8, 1955, Banks again homered twice against the Cardinals. This time, the Cubs won, 6-4, in 11 innings.

Banks hit a solo home run off Floyd Wooldridge in the first. In the 11th, Banks broke a 4-4 tie with a two-run homer off Gordon Jones. Boxscore

The home runs gave Banks a season total of 23, most for a shortstop in one year since Glenn Wright slugged 22 for the 1930 Dodgers.

In a five-game stretch against St. Louis in July 1955, Banks hit .550 (10-for-18).

Perfect at plate

Banks produced five hits in a game for the only time in his major-league career on Sept. 29, 1957, against the Cardinals. He was 5-for-5 with a career-best three doubles and two singles in an 8-3 Cubs victory in the season finale. Boxscore

Lucky seven

Banks had a career-high seven RBI in a game three times. The second time was against the Cardinals at St. Louis on May 1, 1963. Banks hit a pair of three-run home runs _ in the first inning off Ray Sadecki and in the seventh off Harry Fanok _ and added an RBI-single in the eighth. The Cubs won, 13-8. Boxscore

Fit to be tied

Ten years after his 12th-inning home run off Schultz, Banks hit another dramatic shot against the Cardinals knuckleball pitcher.

On April 12, 1965, in the season opener at Chicago, the Cardinals carried a 9-6 lead into the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and none on, Tracy Stallard walked Ron Santo and Altman followed with a single.

Red Schoendienst, in his debut as manager, replaced Stallard with Schultz. Banks greeted him with a three-run homer “into the teeth of a 20 mph wind,” according to the Associated Press, tying the score at 9-9.

After each team scored in the 11th, the game was ended because of darkness and declared a tie, with all statistics counting. Boxscore

“Stallard pitched like a son of a gun,” said Schoendienst. “But when Altman got that good, solid hit I … decided to take him out. Why not? Schultz was warmed up and nobody has touched him for anything in the spring games.”

Last hurrah

At 39, Banks hit a pair of two-run home runs off Carlton _ the first giving the Cubs a 4-3 lead in the sixth and the second snapping a 4-4 tie in the eighth _ but the Cardinals rallied and won, 8-6, at St. Louis on June 29, 1970.

The home runs were the 506th and 507th of Banks’ career and were the last he would hit against Cardinals pitching. Boxscore

Composer Burt Bacharach, Banks’ self-described No. 1 fan, was in St. Louis for a concert and was greeted by Banks outside the clubhouse after the game.

“You were making beautiful music out there,” Bacharach said to Banks.

Banks played against the Cardinals for the final time on Sept. 10, 1971, when he grounded out as a pinch-hitter against Don Shaw at Wrigley Field. Boxscore

Previously: Bob Gibson vs. Billy Williams: a classic duel

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