Omar Vizquel played a key role in the Cardinals’ first interleague series 15 years ago.
Vizquel, 45, said recently this will be his final season. He’s the oldest to play shortstop in the big leagues, surpassing Bobby Wallace, who played 12 games for the 1918 Cardinals.
Though he played primarily in the American League in a big-league career that began in 1989 with the Mariners, Vizquel enjoyed success against the Cardinals.
Now a reserve infielder with the Blue Jays, Vizquel played against St. Louis while with the Indians and the Giants.
His initial appearance against the Cardinals came in their first interleague game. In the opener of a doubleheader on June 14, 1997, at St. Louis, Vizquel, batting leadoff, was the first batter to appear in a Cardinals interleague game. The shortstop was 0-for-4 with a walk, a run and a stolen base in the Indians’ 8-3 victory. Boxscore
In the finale of the three-game series, Vizquel broke up a scoreless duel between the Cardinals’ Todd Stottlemyre and Cleveland’s Charles Nagy, lifting the Indians to a 9-2 victory.
Stottlemyre had yielded one hit through seven innings. In the eighth, the Indians loaded the bases. Vizquel, who had been 1-for-10 in the series and had hit just one ball out of the infield, stepped to the plate.
Stottlemyre hung a slider and Vizquel pulled it to right field for a bases-clearing triple and a 3-0 Cleveland lead.
“He got a pitch he could handle and he hit it down the line,” Stottlemyre said to the Associated Press.
Two pitches later, Vizquel scored when Stottlemyre unleashed a wild pitch.
In the ninth, Vizquel drilled a RBI-double off Mark Petkovsek and scored on a single by third baseman Matt Williams, who had been 0-for-12 in the series with five strikeouts. Boxscore
The four-RBI performance by Vizquel enabled Cleveland to win its first interleague series, 2-games-to-1. “I don’t know that I’m a big fan of interleague play yet,” Indians manager Mike Hargrove said, “but I like the city, I like the ballpark and I like the Cardinals fans. We were very well-treated.”
Vizquel played in 11 games for the Indians against the Cardinals and in 16 games for the Giants against the Cardinals. He was especially effective while with San Francisco, hitting .350 (7-for-20) with a .458 on-base percentage against the Cardinals in 2005 and .438 (7-for-16) with a .526 on-base percentage against St. Louis in 2006.
One of the most memorable games for both Vizquel and the Cardinals in that stretch was on Aug. 19, 2005, at St. Louis. Vizquel was 2-for-4 with a home run (off Chris Carpenter) and helped the Giants take a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth. But the Cardinals rallied for five runs in the inning on a three-run homer by catcher Yadier Molina and a two-run, two-out double by center fielder Jim Edmonds. Boxscore
Vizquel, who is nearing 2,900 career hits, has a .297 batting average (30-for-101) and .363 on-base percentage in 27 games against the Cardinals.