A risky decision by Giants manager Al Dark backfired against the 1964 Cardinals, helping them rally for a key victory and keeping alive their longshot pennant hopes. In retrospect, the Cardinals might not have won the National League pennant and advanced to a World Series championship if Dark hadn’t made his controversial move.
Fifty years ago, on Aug. 21, 1964, the Giants had a 5-3 lead against the Cardinals with two outs in the ninth when Dark ordered an intentional walk to Bill White, putting the potential tying run on base. The Cardinals took advantage, scoring three runs and winning, 6-5.
On the morning of Aug. 16, the Giants had been in second place in the National League, four behind the Phillies. Then they lost five in a row. As the Cardinals opened a three-game series at San Francisco, the Giants were 7.5 behind the Phillies and St. Louis was 10 back.
A win in the series opener was essential for the Cardinals to keep alive their slim pennant hopes.
The Giants, though, scored five runs in the first three innings against Curt Simmons and Bob Humphreys.
Jim Duffalo, a right-hander, relieved starter Bob Hendley with one out in the sixth and held the Cardinals scoreless for 2.2 innings. He entered the ninth with the 5-3 lead.
Lou Brock led off with a single to left. Dick Groat grounded out, with Brock moving to second. Then, Ken Boyer also grounded out, with Brock staying put.
Dark and White
White, a left-handed batter, was up next. He was hitless in the game, but he had hit a couple of foul balls over the right-field fence.
On four previous occasions that season, Dark had put the potential winning run on base intentionally. Each time, the Giants won.
Concerned about White’s power and preferring Duffalo face a right-handed batter, Dark ordered an intentional walk to White, putting runners on second and first.
In his book “When in Doubt, Fire the Manager” (1980, Dutton), Dark wrote, “You can do everything by the book day after day, but there’ll come a time when you feel a need to try something unorthodox, and if it fails you’re sure to be criticized … Never put the winning run on base? I’ve done it when I thought the batter was a greater threat to beat us than the man on deck.”
The next batter was light-hitting Dal Maxvill.
Maxvill hit a soft liner to left for a single, scoring Brock and reducing the Giants lead to 5-4. White advanced to second.
Mike Shannon came to the plate. He hit a ground ball that eluded Duffalo and rolled toward second base. As second baseman Hal Lanier fielded the ball on the grass, White rounded third and steamed toward home.
Lanier hurried an off-balance throw toward the plate, but the ball went up the third-base line and eluded catcher Tom Haller as White, unchallenged, scored the tying run.
Duffalo, backing up the play, couldn’t field the errant throw. As the ball bounced away from him and toward the wall, Maxvill, who never stopped running, scored, giving the Cardinals a 6-5 lead.
The intentional walk had opened the door to a pair of singles and an error, resulting in three runs.
Dark lifted Duffalo for left-hander Billy Pierce, who got Jerry Buchek to fly out to center.
Save for Schultz
The Giants, though, still had a chance.
Cardinals manager Johnny Keane brought in knuckleball specialist Barney Schultz to face a formidable trio of Harvey Kuenn, one-time American League batting champion, and future Hall of Famers Duke Snider and Willie Mays.
Schultz, 38, who had been called up from the minor leagues three weeks earlier, was up to the challenge. Kuenn and Snider grounded out; Mays popped out to shortstop.
The Associated Press wrote, “Al Dark pulled the trigger once too often in his gambling game of Russian roulette.”
The Oakland Tribune wrote, “When you’re going bad, nothing seems to work.”
Undaunted, Dark, a former Cardinals shortstop, shrugged and said, “You gotta lose some.” Boxscore
The Cardinals went on to win the pennant, finishing a game ahead of both the Reds and Phillies.
The Giants finished fourth, three behind the Cardinals. After the season, Dark was fired and replaced by Herman Franks.
Previously: 1956 Cardinals groomed nine managers