Joe Garagiola, a St. Louis native who began his big-league career with the Cardinals, hit perhaps his most dramatic home run against his hometown team.
Pinch-hitting with two outs in the ninth inning of the second game of a Memorial Day doubleheader, Garagiola hit a three-run walkoff home run that erased a 3-1 deficit and lifted the Pirates to a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals on May 30, 1952.
Garagiola, who died at age 90 on March 23, 2016, was better known as a broadcaster than as a player. Nonetheless, he had several significant performances during a nine-year playing career in the majors as a catcher with the Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs and Giants.
Perhaps his most important contribution as a player was his performance for the Cardinals as a 20-year-old rookie against the Red Sox in the 1946 World Series. Garagiola batted .316 (6-for-19), scored twice and had four RBI. He caught 42.2 innings without an error for the Cardinals, who won the championship in seven games.
A left-handed batter, Garagiola hit 42 big-league home runs. In addition to the walkoff home run to beat the Cardinals, he hit two grand slams for St. Louis.
Here is a look at those three home runs:
First base open
The 1952 Pirates were a dreadful team. After the Cardinals beat them, 3-2, in the first game of the May 30, 1952, doubleheader at Pittsburgh, the Pirates’ record was 8-33.
In the second game, starting pitchers Cloyd Boyer of the Cardinals and rookie Ron Kline of the Pirates each pitched eight scoreless innings. Clem Koshorek singled to lead off the bottom of the first for the Pirates. Boyer held Pittsburgh hitless from then through the eighth.
The Cardinals scored three in the top of the ninth, breaking the scoreless tie.
In the bottom of the ninth, Koshorek led off with a bunt single. After Bobby Del Greco popped out, Gus Bell doubled, moving Koshorek to third.
Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky replaced Boyer with Gerry Staley. A starter, Staley was making his first relief appearance of the 1952 season. He issued an intentional walk to the first batter he faced, cleanup hitter Ralph Kiner, loading the bases. A rookie, Brandy Davis, ran for Kiner.
When Jack Merson grounded out, pitcher to first, Koshorek scored, with Bell advancing to third and Davis to second.
Garagiola, who had caught the first game, was sent by manager Billy Meyer to pinch-hit for catcher Clyde McCullough. Meyer wanted a left-handed batter, Garagiola, to face the right-handed Staley.
With two outs and first base open, Stanky could have had Staley issue an intentional walk to Garagiola. On deck was George Strickland, a right-handed batter who hit .177 for the 1952 Pirates.
Instead, the Cardinals pitched to Garagiola, who ended the game with his first home run of the season. Boxscore
Four years earlier, playing in his first game of the season, Garagiola broke a 5-5 tie in the seventh inning with a grand slam off reliever Harry Gumbert, lifting the Cardinals to a 13-7 victory over the Reds at Cincinnati on April 30, 1948.
Garagiola hit a line drive off Gumbert, 38, a former Cardinal, that carried over the right field screen at Crosley Field, according to the Associated Press.
As he rounded the bases, Garagiola was razzed by players in the Reds dugout. Garagiola challenged one of the Reds on his way to bench, The Sporting News reported.
Said baseball commissioner Happy Chandler, who witnessed the incident: “I told manager Eddie Dyer that he’d better have a talk with Garagiola and see that it didn’t happen again.”
Garagiola was 3-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored and four RBI in the game. His teammate, Stan Musial, was 5-for-6 with three runs scored and four RBI. Boxscore
Sizzling in Cincinnati
Two years later, Garagiola hit the second and last grand slam of his big-league career. Again, it occurred in Cincinnati.
On May 28, 1950, in the first inning of the second game of a doubleheader, the Cardinals led, 1-0, and had Red Schoendienst on third and Enos Slaughter on second, one out, when Reds starter Ewell Blackwell issued an intentional walk to Bill Howerton, loading the bases for Garagiola.
The grand slam hit by Garagiola was his first home run of the season, giving the Cardinals a 5-0 lead. Garagiola went 3-for-4 with a run scored and four RBI in a 7-2 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore
Four days later, on June 1, Garagiola separated his shoulder when he tripped over the legs of the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson on a play at first base.