In the game that produced one of the most important Cardinals home runs, an exchange between Todd Worrell and his coach, Mike Roarke, played a critical role in setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
On Oct. 14, 1985, Ozzie Smith hit a walkoff home run in the ninth inning against the Dodgers’ Tom Niedenfuer, lifting the Cardinals to a 3-2 victory in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series at St. Louis.
Smith’s blast became a beloved part of Cardinals lore, in part, because of broadcaster Jack Buck’s joyous, pitch-perfect call _ “Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!” _ and because of the shock value.
Smith, a switch hitter known more for his fielding than his hitting, had played eight seasons in the big leagues and hadn’t slugged a home run left-handed until doing so in the critical Game 5. The victorious shot gave the Cardinals their third win in a row after losing the first two games of the series and put them in position to clinch the pennant and a World Series berth in Game 6 at Los Angeles.
Circumstances might have been much different, though, if Roarke hadn’t connected with Worrell two innings earlier.
Rookie feels heat
In the seventh, with the score tied at 2-2, Ken Dayley was preparing to pitch his fourth inning in relief of Cardinals starter Bob Forsch. The first batter of the inning, Mike Scioscia, walked on four pitches. The next batter, Enos Cabell, hit the first pitch for a single, putting runners on second and first with none out.
Manager Whitey Herzog replaced Dayley with Worrell.
The hard-throwing rookie faced Steve Sax, who was instructed to bunt.
Worrell’s first two pitches were out of the strike zone and Sax took both for balls.
“The adrenaline was pumping and I was excited,” Worrell told Larry Harnly of The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill.
With the count 2-and-0, Sax got the take sign from third-base coach Joe Amalfitano.
Worrell threw another out of the strike zone, making the count 3-and-0.
Roarke to the rescue
From the top step of the dugout, Roarke, in his second season as pitching coach, shouted at Worrell and got his attention. Roarke had noticed that Worrell’s pitches were being thrown from an angle that brought his arm up and over the top.
Roarke knew “that Worrell’s accuracy improves when his delivery is from three-quarters rather than directly overhead,” the Daily News of Los Angeles reported.
Said Worrell: “Sometimes I try too hard and get myself mechanically screwed up.”
When Worrell threw from what appeared to the batter as an angle at 10 o’clock, he was effective. He lost command when his pitches were delivered from a 12 o’clock direction.
As Worrell peered into the dugout at his coach, Roarke held his arm at a 10 o’clock angle and moved it toward 12.
Worrell got the message.
Awaiting the 3-and-0 offering, Sax got another take sign. The pitch was a strike.
“After I got the first strike in there to Sax, I knew I would be all right,” Worrell said.
With the count 3-and-1, Sax got a third straight take sign. The pitch, another fastball, was a strike, making the count 3-and-2.
Said Worrell of Sax: “He’s aggressive _ he had doubled off me in another game _ so I knew if I got a fastball close, he would be hacking.”
Worrell threw a pitch that tailed away from the batter. Sax swung and missed, striking out.
Asked about being given three take signs, Sax told the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Calif., “I just have to do what I’m told.”
Said Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda: “We were looking for a walk to Sax to load the bases.”
Out of danger
The next batter, pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, hit a groundball up the middle. Worrell knocked down the ball, recovered it behind the mound and made an accurate toss to first, retiring Valenzuela as the runners advanced to second and third.
“I let Fernando hit because I was happy with the way he was throwing the ball,” Lasorda said when asked why he didn’t use a pinch-hitter.
Mariano Duncan, the Dodgers’ slumping leadoff batter, followed by swinging at the first pitch and popping out to catcher Darrell Porter, ending the threat. Video
“First and second, nobody out and a 3-and-0 count,” said Dodgers outfielder Mike Marshall, lamenting the lost scoring opportunity. “You either have to say we blew it, or give them credit.”
The score remained tied until, with one out in the ninth, Smith worked his magic. Boxscore
Previously: How speedsters rattled Bob Welch in 1985 NLCS