In 1946, the Cardinals started a left-handed pitcher in the postseason, knowing he was injured and in pain.
In 2012, a Cardinals left-handed starting pitcher asked to be removed from a postseason game after he experienced discomfort in his shoulder.
Despite different approaches in different baseball eras, left-handers Howie Pollet and Jaime Garcia are linked by a pair of shortened postseason starts.
In Game 2 of the 2012 National League Division Series between the Nationals and Cardinals Oct. 8. Garcia yielded a run in two innings before he was lifted at his request. The Cardinals went on to win, 12-4. Boxscore
Garcia had the second-shortest postseason start by a Cardinals pitcher who gave up one run or less, according to ESPN.
Pollet lasted one-third of an inning, surrendering a run on three hits, before he was relieved in Game 5 of the 1946 World Series against the Red Sox.
Using today’s standards of handling pitchers, Pollet shouldn’t have been allowed to start that game, but in 1946, a year after the end of World War II, pitching with pain wasn’t unusual.
In his return to the Cardinals following two years of military service, Pollet, 25, was St. Louis’ ace in 1946. He led the NL that season in wins (21), ERA (2.10) and innings pitched (266). Pollet pitched in 40 regular-season games, 32 starts and eight relief appearances.
Under the heavy workload, Pollet was ailing in September. His back ached and he either had a torn shoulder muscle or a torn side muscle, according to conflicting published reports.
Nonetheless, Pollet kept taking his turn in the rotation. When the Cardinals and Dodgers finished the regular season tied for first place, they went to a best-of-three playoff series to determine the NL champion. Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer selected Pollet to start Game 1 on Oct. 1.
According to The Sporting News, Pollet agreed to the start despite a torn muscle in his left shoulder. (The magazine subsequently reported the injury as a torn muscle in his side.)
Pollet pitched a complete game and the Cardinals won, 4-2. Boxscore
Five days later, Pollet was the starting pitcher in Game 1 of the World Series. Pitching valiantly and effectively with what the Associated Press described as an aching side, Pollet carried the Cardinals into the ninth inning with a 2-1 lead.
He was one strike away from retiring the final batter and sealing a win when Boston right fielder Tom McBride poked a single between short and third, scoring pinch-runner Don Gutteridge.
Dyer stayed with Pollet. In the 10th, with two outs, Red Sox first baseman Rudy York hit a Pollet curve 375 feet for a home run into the last row of the left-field seats at Sportsman’s Park, giving Boston a 3-2 victory. Boxscore
“I just shut my eyes and slugged,” York said to the Associated Press.
Said Pollet: “Yes, my back bothered me a couple of times, but I didn’t think it was affecting my pitching.”
With the Series even at two wins apiece, Pollet was the Cardinals’ choice to start Game 5 at Boston.
When three of the first four batters singled, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead, Dyer lifted Pollet for another left-hander, Al Brazle. (Boston scored five runs off Brazle in 6.2 innings and won, 6-3. Boxscore But the Cardinals won the final two games to earn the championship.)
Wrote Sam Levy in the Milwaukee Journal: The biggest surprise to the 35,982 fans … was the rapid exit of Howie Pollet.
The Associated Press reported Pollet experienced an “extremely painful back ailment” and “torn side muscle.”
“Unless Pollet gives his bad back a six-month rest,” an unnamed source told the wire service, “he may never pitch again. His back and side are in awful shape. How that boy can throw at all is a mystery.”
Robert Hyland, the Cardinals’ team doctor, instructed Pollet not to pitch again until spring training. Pollet had considered a $2,500 offer to appear in exhibition games with an off-season barnstorming team, The Sporting News reported. The magazine added: Howie figures that if he had taken a full week off in September after he first pulled a muscle in his back he would have been in better condition for the World Series.
Pollet continued to pitch in the major leagues until 1956. He was a 20-game winner again for the 1949 Cardinals. In nine seasons with St. Louis, he was 97-65. Pollet also was a Cardinals coach from 1959-64.
Previously: How Chase Riddle got Steve Carlton for Cardinals