During a season in which he led the National League in runs scored (126) and stolen bases (64), it was power _ not speed _ that produced two of the most satisfying moments for Lou Brock.

lou_brock12Brock hit just seven home runs for the 1971 Cardinals, but two of those overcame ninth-inning deficits, tying the score and forcing extra innings.

Forty-five years later, Jedd Gyorko duplicated Brock’s home run feats. In 2016, Gyorko became the first Cardinals batter with two ninth-inning, score-tying home runs in a season since Brock in 1971, according to researcher Tom Orf.

Gyorko, a right-handed batter, hit a ninth-inning solo home run off Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen, tying the score at 3-3 on July 22, 2016, at St. Louis. The Cardinals won, 4-3, in 16 innings. Boxscore

A month later, Gyorko hit a two-run home run in the ninth off Phillies reliever Jeanmar Gomez, tying the score at 3-3 on Aug. 19, 2016, at Philadelphia. The Cardinals won, 4-3, in 11 innings. Boxscore

Handling Hoerner

Brock, a left-handed batter, produced 200 hits in 1971. Though he batted better that season versus right-handers (.328) than he did against left-handers (.287), Brock would hit five of his seven home runs off southpaws. The first of those came against a former Cardinals teammate, Joe Hoerner of the Phillies, on May 5, 1971.

Almost three months later, on July 31, 1971, the Phillies held a 4-2 lead over the Cardinals entering the ninth inning at Philadelphia.

Ted Sizemore, leading off the inning, drew a walk from Phillies reliever Ken Reynolds. When Reynolds fell behind in the count 2-and-0 to Brock, Phillies manager Frank Lucchesi lifted the right-hander and replaced him with Hoerner.

Brock worked the count to 3-and-1, then sliced a home run over the left-field fence, tying the score at 4-4. The Phillies won, 5-4, in 16 innings. Boxscore

Last hope

The outcome turned out better for the Cardinals when, a month later, Brock slugged another ninth-inning home run.

On Aug. 29, 1971, the Reds led the Cardinals, 3-2, entering the bottom of the ninth at St. Louis.

Don Gullett, 20, the Reds’ left-handed starter, was going strong in the ninth. When Gullett retired the first two batters of the inning, Brock represented the Cardinals’ last hope.

For much of the season, Brock had been using the bats of Dick Schofield, a light-hitting utility player.

“I started using Schofield’s bats in the third game of the season,” Brock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Brock explained to the Associated Press that he preferred the 36-ounce model used by Schofield. “I’ve only used my own bat, a light one, about a dozen times this season,” Brock said.

However, when the Cardinals traded Schofield to the Brewers in July 1971, he took most of his bats with him.

The Natural

During the weekend series with the Reds, Brock uncovered a leftover Schofield bat at Busch Stadium and used it when he faced Gullett in the first inning.

Brock flied out to center field. “I got under the pitch,” Brock said. “I was swinging behind it.”

Brock’s teammates retrieved the bat and hid it. “They figured Gullett was throwing too hard for me to be using it,” Brock said.

Before Brock went out to face Gullett with two outs in the ninth, Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson presented Brock with the Schofield bat.

Asked by the Carbondale (Ill.) Southern Illinoisan whether he was trying to hit a home run off Gullett with the heavier bat, Brock replied, “Sure, I was swinging for it. With two outs in the last inning and one run down, you rather subconsciously do.”

Brock took Gullett’s first pitch, a fastball, for a strike. “Then he gave me the same pitch again,” Brock said.

Brock swung and laced the ball down the left-field line. It carried over the fence, about 10 feet from the foul pole, for a home run that tied the score at 3-3. The Cardinals won, 4-3, in the 11th when Clay Carroll walked Sizemore with the bases loaded. Boxscore

For his career, Brock batted .357 (5-for-14 with two home runs) versus Hoerner and .322 (19-for-59 with three home runs) against Gullett.

Previously: Why Lou Brock got into Hall of Fame on first try

On a day when they would be expected to receive presents, five Cardinals delivered gifts to their team and to their fans.

randal_grichukJulian Javier, Ted Simmons, Todd Zeile, Colby Rasmus and Randal Grichuk are Cardinals who hit grand slams on their birthdays. Each led to a Cardinals triumph.

The youngest was Rasmus at 24. The oldest was Zeile at 28. The other three each achieved the feat on his 25th birthday.

Four of the five grand slams occurred on birthdays between Aug. 9 and Aug. 13. The other was in September.

Here is a look at each:

Stay fair

On Aug. 9, 1961, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Javier, who turned 25 that day, broke a scoreless tie with an eighth-inning grand slam off Pirates starter Joe Gibbon. The Cardinals won, 4-0, for their seventh consecutive victory.

Javier, who had been traded by the Pirates to the Cardinals a year earlier, swung at an 0-and-1 pitch from Gibbon and hit it the opposite way down the right-field line. It landed in the seats near the foul pole.

“I see fastball and I swing,” Javier said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It was the first of two major-league grand slams for Javier and one of just two home runs he would hit in 445 at-bats that season.

“Best birthday present I ever had,” Javier said.

In the ninth, facing Bobby Shantz, Javier again batted with the bases loaded. This time, he flied out to center field. Boxscore

Simba slam

On Aug. 9, 1974, at Busch Stadium II in St. Louis, Simmons, who turned 25 that day, erased a 1-0 Dodgers lead by hitting a slider from starter Geoff Zahn for a grand slam in the sixth inning. The Cardinals won, 5-3.

It was the third of nine grand slams for Simmons in his big-league career.

Said Simmons: “It certainly was a nice way to celebrate.” Boxscore

Giant slayer

On Sept. 9, 1993, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Zeile, who turned 28 that day, stretched the Cardinals’ lead from 5-2 to 9-2 with a grand slam off 6-foot-9 reliever Terry Bross in the sixth inning. The Cardinals won, 9-4.

Zeile hit a 2-and-1 pitch from Bross over the left-field wall for the second of his nine career big-league grand slams.

“It hurts a lot,” Bross said to the San Jose Mercury News. “I could have helped the team and didn’t get the job done.” Boxscore

Dramatic duel

On Aug. 11, 2010, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Rasmus, who turned 24 that day, snapped a scoreless tie with a grand slam off starter Bronson Arroyo in the fifth inning. The Cardinals won, 6-1, a day after a brawl during which Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto kicked two Cardinals, pitcher Chris Carpenter and catcher Jason LaRue.

Rasmus drove an 82 mph pitch 418 feet over the center field wall for the first of five career grand slams in the big leagues.

Bernie Miklasz, Post-Dispatch columnist, wrote, “It was one of the best at-bats of the Cardinals’ season, with Rasmus falling behind in the count 0-and-2, fouling off two pitches and working the duel back to 3-and-2 before launching a deep broadside toward the fake tugboat the Reds keep in center field.”

As the ball carried over the fence, Rasmus raised his fist in the air.

“After I hit that ball, it probably was about as jacked as I’ve been in a while,” Rasmus said. Boxscore

Streak stopper

On Aug. 13, 2016, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Grichuk, who turned 25 that day, hit an eighth-inning grand slam off reliever Joe Smith, extending the Cardinals’ lead over the Cubs from 4-2 to 8-2. The Cardinals won, 8-4, and broke the Cubs’ 11-game winning streak.

Grichuk had been recalled by the Cardinals from Class AAA Memphis two days earlier. “I’m definitely thankful for being up here right now and getting the opportunities and I’m definitely trying to take advantage of it,” Grichuk said to the Associated Press. Boxscore

Previously: Tim McCarver, Terry Pendleton share grand feat

In his first game as a starting catcher for the 1962 original Mets, Choo Choo Coleman dared to lead off an inning with a bunt against Bob Gibson.

choochoo_colemanBy having the audacity to challenge the Cardinals’ ace, Coleman played a key role in ending Gibson’s four-game winning streak and snapping the Mets’ 11-game losing streak.

On July 27, 1962, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cardinals, Coleman opened the third inning with a bunt single and scored the lone run in the Mets’ 1-0 victory at St. Louis. Coleman’s battery mate, Al Jackson, who hadn’t earned a win in more than a month, pitched the shutout.

It was the only 1-0 win for the 1962 Mets and one of just four shutout victories for them. Jackson pitched all four.

Coleman, 78, died Aug. 15, 2016, in Orangeburg. S.C. This post is a tribute to him.

Runaway train

Clarence Coleman told an interviewer he got the nickname “Choo Choo” as a boy in his hometown of Orlando because he ran fast like a train.

Small for a catcher at 5 feet 9 and 165 pounds, Coleman entered the big leagues with the 1961 Phillies. He batted .128 for them in 34 games.

The Mets selected Coleman in the National League expansion draft, but assigned him to Class AAA Syracuse before the start of the 1962 season. Wrote The Sporting News: “He didn’t take well to the demotion.”

Coleman batted .195 for Syracuse, but when Mets catcher Sammy Taylor fractured the ring finger on his right hand in July 1962, Coleman was promoted to the big club.

Getting a boost

The Mets had lost 16 of their previous 17 games entering the July 27 doubleheader versus the Cardinals.

Mets manager Casey Stengel, looking to show confidence in Coleman, put him in the starting lineup for the first time. He couldn’t have picked a much tougher opponent than Gibson.

Stengel “is currently embarked upon a psychological campaign designed to instill the big-league attitude into the shy and uncommunicative Choo Choo Coleman,” wrote The Sporting News.

Gibson had limited the Mets to a two-out Felix Mantilla single through the first two innings before Coleman led off the third.

Batting left-handed, Coleman bunted toward third baseman Ken Boyer and raced down the line with a single. Jackson followed with a sacrifice bunt, moving Coleman to second.

Gibson struck out Richie Ashburn for the second out.

The next batter, Rod Kanehl, hit a routine grounder. Shortstop Julio Gotay reached for the ball, but couldn’t come up with it.

Coleman, living up to his nickname, steamed around third base and dashed for home. While Gotay still struggled to field the ball, Coleman streaked across the plate with the unearned run. Boxscore

Off track

Stengel also started Coleman in the second game of the doubleheader. Facing Larry Jackson, Coleman produced the first of his two career triples, but the Cardinals won, 6-5.

Coleman played in 55 games for the 1962 Mets and batted .250. Grasping for a positive, The Sporting News said of the diminutive catcher, “Pitchers say he is one of the most adroit receivers of the low delivery.”

In his final two seasons with the Mets, Coleman hit .178 in 1963 and, after two years of exile in the minors, .188 in 1966. His career batting mark in four big-league seasons: .197.

After his playing career, Coleman worked as a cook in a Chinese restaurant in Virginia, according to his obituary in the New York Times. Choo Choo’s chop suey, anyone?

Previously: Cardinals have strong link to original Mets

Previously: Interview with former Cardinals pitcher Al Jackson

In August 1968, Mike Shannon slowed the Cubs’ momentum by hitting the first grand slam of his big-league career and helping the Cardinals split a four-game series at Wrigley Field.

mike_shannon5In August 2016, Randal Grichuk slowed the Cubs’ momentum by hitting the first grand slam of his big league career, helping the Cardinals split a four-game series at Wrigley Field.

Grichuk became the first Cardinals batter to hit his first big-league grand slam at Wrigley Field since Shannon did so 48 years earlier.

On Aug. 13, 2016, Grichuk, celebrating his 25th birthday, hit a grand slam off reliever Joe Smith in the eighth inning, carrying the Cardinals to an 8-4 victory in the third game of the series and snapping the Cubs’ 11-game winning streak. Boxscore The next night, the Cardinals won again, 6-4, and earned a split.

On Aug. 15, 1968, Shannon, 29, hit a grand slam off reliever Bill Stoneman in the second inning, carrying the Cardinals to an 8-0 victory in the finale of the series and putting a dent in the Cubs’ pennant hopes. Boxscore

Second City showdown

The Cardinals, defending World Series champions, entered their August 1968 series at Wrigley Field in first place, 14 games ahead of the second-place Cubs in the National League. After the Cubs won the first two of the set, cutting the Cardinals’ lead to 12, fans in Chicago were fired up, sensing their club was poised to get back into the pennant race.

Cardinals ace Bob Gibson dampened those hopes in Game 3, pitching a complete game in a 3-1 victory.

That set up a scenario in which the Cubs needed to win Game 4 in order to gain any ground on the Cardinals.

Get up, baby

A crowd of 23,116 turned out for the Thursday afternoon series finale. The bleachers were packed with rowdies.

Gibson, in a playful mood, pinned a button with the words “We’re No. 1” to the bill of his cap and bantered with fans in the right-field bleachers before the game. “I led the boos for Roger Maris,” Gibson said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, referring to his outfield teammate.

In the first inning, the Cardinals scored four runs off starter Ken Holtzman and knocked him out of the game. Shannon contributed a RBI-single.

In the second, the Cardinals loaded the bases with two outs against former teammate Jack Lamabe. With Shannon up, Lamabe was replaced by Stoneman.

Shannon hit Stoneman’s second pitch into the left-field seats. The grand slam _ the only one of his Cardinals career _ was his 500th hit in the big leagues.

“In Wrigley Field, if you get the ball in the air, you have a heck of a chance,” Shannon said.

Last laugh

The Bleacher Bums took out their frustrations on Cardinals outfielders Lou Brock, Curt Flood and Ron Davis.

“They were hitting us with everything,” said Flood. “Ice cubes, burned-out flashbulbs, fruit, tennis balls, paper cups and old sandwiches.”

Said Davis: “If you turned around, then you’d really get it. That’s when they’d start throwing things at you.”

Plotting his revenge, Flood printed a banner that stated, “We’re still No. 1.”

In the bottom of the ninth, with the Cardinals ahead 8-0, Flood took the banner with him to his position in center and spread it on the outfield grass, with the words facing the bleachers.

Knowing what was to come, Brock had stuffed his ears with cotton to block out the taunts.

Day shift

Shannon finished the game 3-for-5 with five RBI and two runs scored. The performance gave him a .415 batting average (27-for-45) in day games that season.

“I just can see that ball better in the daytime,” Shannon told the Associated Press.

The Cardinals went on to win the 1968 pennant, finishing nine games ahead of the Giants and 13 in front of the third-place Cubs.

Shannon finished his Cardinals career with 68 home runs. He had 16 against the Cubs, including 12 at Wrigley Field.

Previously: Mike Shannon ignited Cards with World Series blast

Following the advice of hitting coaches Mark McGwire and John Mabry, Matt Holliday made an adjustment in his batting stance and had his most productive game with the Cardinals.

matt_holliday7On June 16, 2012, Holliday had four hits, including two doubles and a home run, five RBI and two runs scored in the Cardinals’ 10-7 victory over the Royals at St. Louis.

Holliday, acquired by the Cardinals from the Athletics in a July 24, 2009, trade, fractured his wrist when hit by a pitch on Aug. 11, 2016, in a game against the Cubs.

With his contract expiring after the 2016 season, there’s speculation that Holliday may have played his last game with the Cardinals.

In eight years (2009-2016) with St. Louis, Holliday produced 1,046 hits in 979 games, including 155 home runs, 237 doubles and 614 RBI. He batted .292 and produced a .379 on-base percentage in his Cardinals career.

Holliday 13 times had four-hit games for the Cardinals and three times had five-RBI games for them.

Only once, though, did he have four hits and five RBI in a game for St. Louis. It happened while he was in a slump entering that June 16, 2012, game against the Royals at St. Louis.

Finding a flaw

Holliday had gone hitless in 12 consecutive at-bats before facing the Royals. He hadn’t hit a home run in almost a month.

McGwire and Mabry spotted a flaw in Holliday’s batting stance and told him about it hours before the game.

“Looking at video and working in the batting cage, Holliday was able to right what they saw was wrong,” reported Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He became more upright at the plate and kept from bending at the waist.”

Big bat

Making what he called a “little mechanical adjustment,” Holliday went on a tear against the Royals.

He hit a two-run home run in the first inning off Bruce Chen and a RBI-double against Chen in the second. Video The home run carried 431 feet into the Big Mac section of Busch Stadium III. Video

In the seventh, with the Royals ahead 7-6, Holliday hit a RBI-single off Greg Holland, tying the score. Video

Holliday capped his performance with a RBI-double off Kelvin Herrera in the eighth. Boxscore and Video

“It’s been frustrating,” Holliday said. “My swing has felt a little off. I’ve been trying to battle, trying to get a groove, trying to find a comfort zone.”

The four-hit game lifted Holliday’s batting average from .267 to .278. He finished with a stellar season for the 2012 Cardinals, hitting .295 with 27 home runs and 102 RBI.

Previously: Left field leaders: Matt Holliday, Stan Musial

Two of the best hitters of their era, Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols, were in their sophomore years in the big leagues when they played against one another for the first time in the regular season. Suzuki had the better overall series; Pujols produced the biggest hit.

albert_ichiroIn June 2002, Suzuki went 6-for-12 in helping the Mariners win two of three games versus the Cardinals at Safeco Field in Seattle. Pujols was 2-for-11, but one of those hits was a grand slam that carried the Cardinals to their lone win in the interleague set.

Fourteen years later, in August 2016, Suzuki, playing for the Marlins, capped his U.S. big-league career by getting his 3,000th hit.

Suzuki has a career .306 batting average (22-for-72) against the Cardinals. His best performance versus St. Louis was that first.

Bat man

In 2001, Suzuki won the American League Rookie of the Year Award and Pujols won the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

They brought star power to the Cardinals-Mariners series the following season.

On June 10, 2002, Suzuki was 3-for-5 with three runs scored and two RBI in the Mariners’ 10-0 victory over the Cardinals. Suzuki singled off starter Bud Smith and had a double and triple against Luther Hackman. Boxscore

Before the game, reporter Larry LaRue of the Tacoma News Tribune visited Suzuki in the clubhouse while Suzuki examined new bats.

“Each bat shipped to him from Japan comes shrink-wrapped (in cellophane) and once he unwraps a bat it’s kept in a specially-made case beside his locker,” wrote LaRue.

Mariners infielder Bret Boone called the case Suzuki’s humidifier.

Said Suzuki: “No matter how well you take care of your bat, eventually moisture gets into the wood. Even clubhouse air-conditioning can effect the wood.”

Before placing a bat in the case, Suzuki tapped the barrel with his palm, then held it to his ear, listening for a tone, LaRue reported.

Said Suzuki: “High pitch, better wood. Low pitch, it probably gets used for batting practice.”

Pujols pop

In Game 2 of the series, on June 11, 2002, Suzuki had another strong game. He was 2-for-3 _ a double off starter Woody Williams and a single against Steve Kline _ with two walks and a stolen base, but it was Pujols who created the sweetest sound with his swing.

In the sixth inning, with the Mariners ahead 1-0, the Cardinals had runners on second and third with one out. Mariners manager Lou Piniella instructed starter James Baldwin to issue an intentional walk to J.D. Drew and face Pujols with the bases loaded.

“I’m trying to get out of the inning with a double play ball,” Piniella said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Said Pujols: “I was surprised.”

Pujols watched two curves sail out of the strike zone. Behind in the count 2-and-0, Baldwin threw a fastball. Pujols pounded it over the center-field fence for the second grand slam of his Cardinals career.

“That young guy has some real pop,” Piniella said to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Pujols added a single and finished 2-for-4 with four RBI and two runs scored in a 7-4 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

Part of 3,000

In the series finale, June 13, 2002, Suzuki doubled off starter Darryl Kile and finished 1-for-4 in a 5-0 Mariners victory. Pujols was 0-for-3. Boxscore

For the series:

Suzuki’s totals: 6-for-12, three doubles, two singles, one triple, two walks, three runs and two RBI.

Pujols’ totals: 2-for-11, one home run, one single, four RBI, two runs.

Here is how Suzuki fared in his subsequent games versus the Cardinals:

_ 2004: 3-for-11.

_ 2010: 5-for-13.

_ 2014: 0-for-7.

_ 2015: 3-for-15.

_ 2016: 5-for-14.

Previously: Is Seung Hwan Oh as determined as So Taguchi?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 70 other followers