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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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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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In the last 40 years, no National League game has gone more innings than the one played by the Cardinals and Mets on Sept. 11-12, 1974.

bake_mcbride2Beginning at 8:08 p.m. on Sept. 11 and ending at 3:15 a.m. on Sept, 12, the Cardinals beat the Mets, 4-3, in 25 innings at New York’s Shea Stadium. Started before a crowd of 13,460, it ended before about 1,000 spectators, including baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, his wife and their son.

The Cardinals-Mets marathon remains the longest National League night game in innings played.

In the longest major-league game by innings, the Dodgers and Braves played to a 1-1 tie in 26 innings on May 1, 1920. That National League game was played on a Saturday afternoon at Braves Field in Boston. Boxscore

Only one 25-inning game has been played in the major leagues since the Cardinals-Mets classic in 1974. In an American League game, the White Sox, managed by Tony La Russa, beat the Brewers, 7-6, in 25 innings at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. That game began on a Tuesday night, May 8, 1984, was suspended after 17 innings with the score tied at 3-3 and completed on May 9. Boxscore

With no National League curfew, the Cardinals and Mets played their 25-inning game without a stop in play.

When it ended, Cardinals outfielder Reggie Smith told his teammates, “There’s no way that your wives are going to believe you guys were out playing baseball all night.”

Reitz to the rescue

The Mets had been within an out of winning the game in nine innings.

Behind starter Jerry Koosman, the Mets took a 3-1 lead into the ninth. After Joe Torre struck out, Ted Simmons singled and was replaced by pinch-runner Larry Herndon. When Koosman unleashed a wild pitch while pitching to Bake McBride, Herndon advanced to second.

McBride struck out.

The Cardinals’ last hope was Ken Reitz. He had hit just one home run since July.

Reitz lofted a two-run home run against Koosman, tying the score at 3-3.

Cardinals reliever Claude Osteen, who had a clear view of the home run from his perch in the bullpen, held his hands less than a foot apart when he told United Press International that the ball “went out by about that much.”

Scoreless relief

For the next 15 innings, Cardinals and Mets relievers threw shutouts.

Al Hrabosky, Rich Folkers, Ray Bare, Osteen and Sonny Siebert were the Cardinals relievers who stopped the Mets in extra innings. Osteen pitched 9.1 innings _ the equivalent of a complete-game shutout.

A pair of former Cardinals, Harry Parker and Bob Miller, joined Bob Apodaca and Jerry Cram as the Mets relievers who stopped the Cardinals. Cram pitched eight innings.

They escaped several jams.

_ Torre was out at the plate trying to score on a single by McBride in the 13th.

_ In the 20th, the Cardinals had runners on first and second, no outs, until Smith was picked off at second and the threat fizzled.

_ In the 23rd, the Mets loaded the bases with two outs before Cleon Jones flied out.

_ Both teams loaded the bases with two outs in the 24th but failed to score.

Bake was cooking

Hank Webb, making his first appearance of the season for the Mets, relieved Cram in the 25th inning. The first batter he faced, McBride, got an infield single. Reitz was up next.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst gave the hit-and-run sign. Webb, sensing McBride might be running, made a pickoff throw, but it sailed over first baseman John Milner and rolled into foul territory in right field.

“I figured I could get to third,” McBride told the Associated Press. “Then, when I turned second, I said to myself, ‘I’m going all the way.’ “

McBride raced around third without looking toward coach Vern Benson. “He was going too fast to see any sign anyway,” Benson said.

Milner, who had retrieved the ball, fired a throw to catcher Ron Hodges. McBride and the ball arrived at the plate about the same time. Hodges caught the ball, then dropped it before he could attempt a tag.

“I don’t think he would have had me, even if he had held the ball,” McBride said. “He was out in front of the plate and I was past him.”

The run gave the Cardinals a 4-3 lead, but the Mets still had their turn to bat.

Happy ending

Siebert retired the first two batters, Ken Boswell and Felix Millan, on fly outs.

Brock Pemberton, appearing in his second big-league game, pinch-hit for Webb. He singled, prolonging the drama with his first big-league hit. When the ball was removed from the game so that Pemberton would have a keepsake, Mets pitcher Tom Seaver yelled from the dugout, “Don’t give it to him. It’s the last ball we’ve got left.” (Fifteen dozen balls were used in the game, The Sporting News reported.)

Milner, the Mets’ top home run hitter, batted next.

Siebert struck him out, ending the game at 7 hours, 4 minutes. Boxscore

Dizzying stats

The Cardinals used 26 players and the Mets, 24. The Cardinals stranded 20 base runners and the Mets, 25.

Nine players played the entire game. They were McBride, Reitz, Smith, Torre and Ted Sizemore for the Cardinals; Millan, Milner, Wayne Garrett and Dave Schneck for the Mets.

McBride, Reitz and Millan each had four hits in 10 at-bats. Garrett was 0-for-10 with four strikeouts. Lou Brock, the Cardinals’ future Hall of Famer, was 1-for-9 and was caught stealing in his lone attempt.

The home plate umpire, Ed Sudol, also had worked the plate in a 23-inning game between the Mets and Giants in 1964 and a 24-inning game between the Mets and Astros in 1968.

Asked to sum up the long night, Mets pitcher Tug McGraw said, “The only thing I regret now is that all the eating places are closed. I’ll have to go home and make myself a baloney sandwich.”

Previously: Reggie Smith and the Cardinals’ after-hours club

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In a performance that was as remarkable as it was messy, Al Hrabosky and the Cardinals turned the last home game of the 1974 season into a classic.

al_hrabosky2Forty years later, Cardinals reliever Tyler Lyons brought that 1974 game back into the spotlight.

On Aug. 30, 2014, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cubs at St. Louis, Lyons struck out eight in 4.2 innings of relief. Boxscore Those were the most strikeouts by a Cardinals left-handed reliever since Hrabosky struck out nine in 6.1 innings versus the Pirates on Sept. 25, 1974, at St. Louis.

Hrabosky’s effort was among many dramatic, unusual feats in a wild 13-12 victory that gave the Cardinals an edge in their pursuit of a National League East division title.

“Never in my life have I seen a game like that,” Cardinals first baseman Joe Torre told the Alton (Ill.) Telegraph.

Battle for first

The Cardinals entered the game that Wednesday night trailing the first-place Pirates by a half-game with a week remaining in the season. Facing a season-ending trip to Chicago and Montreal, the Cardinals needed to beat the Pirates to have momentum as well as the division lead.

Rookie right-hander Bob Forsch, who started for the Cardinals, gave up five runs in the first inning before being yanked.

Because the Pirates had stacked their lineup with left-handed batters  _ Richie Hebner, Al Oliver, Willie Stargell, Dave Parker and Ed Kirkpatrick _ Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst went with left-handed relievers. First, he used Rich Folkers. Then, Claude Osteen.

The Cardinals rallied for six runs in the third off Ken Brett and Larry Demery.

In the fifth, the Pirates got a run against Osteen, tying the score at 6-6. The Pirates had runners on first and second with no outs when Schoendienst replaced Osteen with his third left-handed reliever, Hrabosky.

Decent curve

Hrabosky got the Cardinals out of that jam without either runner scoring. In the bottom of the fifth, the Cardinals scored three, taking a 9-6 lead.

The Pirates scored twice off Hrabosky in the sixth. Entering the ninth, the Cardinals clung to a 9-8 lead.

Hrabosky struck out Stargell, but then hit Parker with a pitch. Manny Sanguillen singled and, when center fielder Bake McBride made an error on the play, Parker raced home, tying the score at 9-9.

“I was discouraged because the club had given me a three-run lead and I couldn’t hold it,” Hrabosky said. “I didn’t feel like I had a good fastball, but I did have a decent curve.”

Hrabosky struck out at least one batter in each of the seven innings he worked.

In the 11th, though, he began to falter. “I was tired and the Pirates didn’t help it,” Hrabosky said. “They took the rest of the life I had left.”

Hrabosky gave up three runs on three singles and a double before he was relieved by Mike Garman with one out in the 11th. Hrabosky’s line: 6.1 innings, 6 runs, 10 hits, 0 walks, 9 strikeouts. The innings, runs, hits and strikeouts are single-game highs for Hrabosky in his 13-year big-league career.

Garman retired the two batters he faced, but the Pirates led, 12-9.

“We knew where we were at and it was now or never for us,” Torre said.

Rally time

The Pirates had used five pitchers, including their two best relievers, Dave Giusti and Ramon Hernandez. Danny Murtaugh, Pirates manager, brought in rookie Juan Jimenez to nail down the win. Jimenez had appeared in two big-league games.

“It was a kid pitching out there and he wanted to throw strikes,” Torre said. “When he couldn’t, he started to aim the ball.”

Ted Sizemore led off with a single. Reggie Smith walked. Ted Simmons was up next.

“I figured if he walked Smith I was going to swing at the first pitch in the strike zone,” Simmons said.

Simmons launched a double to right, scoring Sizemore and cutting the Pirates lead to 12-10.

Pirates unravel

Murtaugh lifted Jimenez and replaced him with another rookie, Jim Minshall, appearing in his third game. The first batter he faced was Torre.

“I wanted to hit the ball the other way to at least score Smith (from third) and get Simmons to third base,” Torre said.

Torre hit a broken-bat grounder to the right of second base. Rennie Stennett, the second baseman, fielded the ball, but his throw to first was wild. Smith and Simmons scampered home, tying the score at 12-12, and Torre advanced to second. Larry Herndon pinch-ran for Torre.

McBride bunted for a single and Herndon moved to third. Ken Reitz struck out _ the first out of the inning.

Due to bat was Jack Heidemann, a light-hitting shortstop. Schoendienst sent Jim Dwyer, a reserve outfielder batting .282, to pinch-hit.

Dwyer lifted a sacrifice fly that scored Herndon from third with the winning run.

Said Dwyer: ” I was on the spot … That is my biggest contribution to the team this season.”

Down the stretch

Steve Porter, covering the game for the Alton Telegraph wrote, “It was more than just a baseball game … It was a whole season unfolding over 11 innings and a pennant race hanging in the balance for one inning.” Boxscore

The improbable four-run uprising gave the Cardinals a 13-12 victory and propelled them into first place.

The Cardinals would win three of their next five. The Pirates, though, would win five of their next six.

On Oct. 2, the final day of the season, the Pirates held a one-game lead over the Cardinals. To finish in a tie and force a playoff, the Cardinals needed to beat the Expos that day and the Cubs needed to beat the Pirates.

Instead, the Pirates beat the Cubs, 5-4, in 10 innings. The Cardinals-Expos game was called off because of rain and wasn’t rescheduled. The Pirates were NL East champions, finishing 1.5 games ahead of the Cardinals.

Previously: Cardinals century club: Mark Littell, Trevor Rosenthal

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