Three of the most memorable Cardinals World Series home runs were hit by third basemen: Ken Boyer, David Freese and Tom Lawless.
In 1964, Boyer hit a sixth-inning grand slam off Al Downing in Game 4 at New York, carrying the Cardinals to a 4-3 victory over the Yankees and evening the series at 2-2.
In 2011, Freese hit an 11th-inning walkoff home run off Mark Lowe in Game 6 at St. Louis, carrying the Cardinals to a 10-9 victory over the Rangers and evening the series at 3-3.
Boyer and Freese were established Cardinals starters in the years in which they hit their dramatic World Series home runs.
Not so for Lawless, who rarely played during the regular season for the 1987 Cardinals. After three games of the 1987 World Series, slugger Reggie Jackson, working the event for ABC television, told USA Today, “I’m still trying to find out who Tom Lawless is.”
In Game 4, on Oct. 21, 1987, Lawless introduced himself to the nation in a most unexpected manner. He hit a three-run home run off Frank Viola in the fourth inning, carrying the Cardinals to a 7-2 victory over the Twins and evening the series at 2-2.
Lawless had gotten just two hits, none a home run, and no RBI during the 1987 regular season.
Twenty-nine years later, Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs, playing in Game 2 of the 2016 World Series versus the Indians, became the first non-pitcher since Lawless to get a RBI in the Fall Classic after having had none in the regular season that year.
Schwarber, however, had sat out most of the the 2016 regular season because of an injury after appearing in two April games and going hitless in four at-bats. Lawless had been on the Cardinals’ active roster all of the 1987 season, but appeared in only 19 games, batting .080 (2-for-25).
Lawless, who made just three starts (none at third base) during the regular season, got his chance to play in the World Series because of a rib-cage injury to starting third baseman Terry Pendleton.
Lawless started at third base in Game 1 and was hitless in three at-bats. Jose Oquendo started at third base for the Cardinals in Games 2 and 3.
In Game 4, manager Whitey Herzog returned Lawless to the starting lineup. He batted eighth in the order and played third base, with Oquendo moving to right field.
Pitching for the Twins was Viola, who had earned 17 wins during the regular season and had started and won Game 1 of the World Series.
In the Cardinals’ half of the fourth inning, with the score tied at 1-1, Tony Pena led off with a walk and moved to third on Oquendo’s single.
Next up: Lawless.
With the count 0-and-1, Viola threw a fastball.
“A mediocre fastball,” said Twins manager Tom Kelly.
“It was less than mediocre,” said Viola. “It was a brutal fastball.”
Lawless swung and lifted a high fly toward left field.
Lawless “gazed fondly as the ball headed for the facing behind the wall,” wrote Rick Hummel in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“From the way he hit it and stood there, I thought it must be in the upper deck,” said Herzog.
Keeping his eye on the ball, Lawless, bat in hand, began a slow walk toward first base. When he saw the ball carry just beyond the wall and the umpire signal home run, Lawless flipped the bat into the air and began his jubilant home run trot. Video
On the ABC telecast, broadcaster Al Michaels exclaimed, “Did we really see that?”
Regarding the bat flip, Lawless said, “I just must have blanked out there for a second. This never happened to me before.”
The home run gave the Cardinals a 4-1 lead and stunned the Twins.
In the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Doug Grow described it as “a sporting miracle” and “a swing that will forever become a part of World Series lore.”
Paul McEnroe of the Star Tribune called the Lawless stunner “as important as any homer hit by a Cardinal in the 15 World Series the team has played in.”
Lawless said he walked slowly to first while watching the ball because he thought he had hit a sacrifice fly and didn’t want to pass Oquendo on the basepath.
“It’s a big stadium, especially for a little guy like me,” Lawless told Kevin Horrigan of the Post-Dispatch. “I’ve hit balls that good before, but they haven’t gone out.” Boxscore
On the rare side
Until then, Lawless had hit only one home run in the big leagues. It occurred on April 25, 1984, for the Reds against Ken Dayley of the Braves at Atlanta. Dayley was a teammate of Lawless on the 1987 Cardinals.
Lawless became the third Cardinals player to hit a World Series home run after having hit none during the regular season that year. The others were pitchers: Jesse Haines in 1926 and Bob Gibson, who did it twice, in 1967 and in 1968.
Before Lawless, the last non-pitcher to hit a World Series home run after having hit none during the regular season that year was outfielder Marv Rickert of the 1948 Braves, according to the Post-Dispatch.
Acknowledging the dreamlike status of his achievement, Lawless said, “I may sleep in my uniform tonight.”