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Feeling ridiculed by the needling he got from former Cardinals teammates, Tim McCarver lashed out at a friend, Lou Brock, and started a fistfight with him.

Fifty years ago, on Sept. 6, 1971, during a game between the Cardinals and Phillies at Philadelphia, McCarver punched Brock in the face on the field at Veterans Stadium. Brock fought back, swinging at McCarver and landing a couple of shots, before they wrestled to the ground and were separated.

The sight of influencers from Cardinals glory days tearing into one another was, as broadcaster Jack Buck put it, “a bit sickening,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bob Broeg noted.

A week later, McCarver and Brock got physical again _ not in a fight, but in a jarring collision at home plate. 

Sticks and stones

Brock and McCarver were integral players on Cardinals clubs that won three National League pennants and two World Series titles in the 1960s. After the 1969 season, McCarver was traded to the Phillies.

On Sept. 6, 1971, the Cardinals and Phillies had a Monday night doubleheader in the City of Brotherly Love. The opener matched pitchers Bob Gibson of the Cardinals against Rick Wise. Brock, the Cardinals’ left fielder, was in his customary leadoff spot. McCarver was the Phillies’ catcher and batted second.

The game was scoreless in the third when Brock led off with a single and stole second. After Ted Sizemore coaxed a walk, Matty Alou hit a pop fly in foul territory near the Cardinals’ dugout. McCarver dropped it for an error.

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst told the Post-Dispatch, “McCarver was mad because of missing that pop-up.”

From the dugout and from the basepaths, Cardinals players heckled McCarver about botching the play.

“To say there was a little noise drifting out of the Cardinals’ dugout whenever McCarver was in earshot thereafter is to put it mildly,” the Philadelphia Daily News noted.

Cardinals first-base coach George Kissell said, “They were getting on Tim pretty good.”

Given the chance to continue his plate appearance, Alou drew a walk, loading the bases.

The next batter, Joe Torre, singled, scoring Brock and Sizemore. In his book, “Oh, Baby, I Love It,” McCarver said, “I was still burning from my error.”

When Brock got to the dugout, he continued to taunt McCarver, who had allowed more steals than any other National League catcher in 1971.

“Brock kept trying to show me up,” McCarver told the Post-Dispatch. “When Torre was on first base, Brock was yelling, ‘There he goes! There he goes!’ “

As The Sporting News noted, “The inference was McCarver’s arm was so bad that he couldn’t even throw out a slow runner like Torre.”

In his book, McCarver said, “I really snapped … I took my catching and throwing seriously.”

Unsympathetic, Schoendienst told the Post-Dispatch, “It’s not anyone else’s fault that McCarver can’t throw anybody out.”

Brock said to Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Frank Dolson, “Yelling, ‘There he goes!’ shouldn’t be enough to upset McCarver, who is one of the biggest agitators in the game.”

According to George Kissell, McCarver yelled to Brock, “We’re going to stick one in your ear.”

While McCarver stewed, Wise unraveled. He gave up a RBI-double to Ted Simmons and a three-run home run to Joe Hague before being replaced by rookie Manny Muniz.

McCarver’s miscue had opened the gates to a 6-0 Cardinals lead. Adding to the embarrassment, his former teammates laughed at him, he told the Post-Dispatch.

“Guys beating you 6-0 know better than to laugh at you,” McCarver said to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Regarding Brock, McCarver told Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News, “We played together long enough and he knows my boiling point … I just don’t like to be shown up.”

Macho man

Brock was the first batter for the Cardinals in the fourth. In his book, McCarver said, “I encouraged my pitcher, Manny Muniz, to intimidate Lou.”

“The first pitch crowded Brock back from the plate,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “The second pitch, another inside serve, also made him give ground.”

Brock took two or three steps in the direction of the mound. McCarver followed and heard Brock shout something to Muniz.

“I just asked Muniz, ‘What’s going on?,’ ” Brock said to the Post-Dispatch. “The kid was making me a dartboard.”

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, McCarver said Brock warned Muniz he’d come after him if another pitch came close.

“No, you’re not,” McCarver replied to Brock.

Brock turned and headed to the plate, his arms at his sides, when McCarver punched him.

“A sucker punch,” George Kissell told the Post-Dispatch.

“It was a sucker punch,” Bob Gibson agreed, “and I didn’t think much of it.”

Brock retaliated, landing a couple of punches, and then grabbed McCarver. They fell to the ground before being pulled apart by teammates.

“I’ve known McCarver since he was a kid, but I lost a lot of respect for him tonight,” Kissell said to the Post-Dispatch. “He shouldn’t let his emotions take over like that.”

What are friends for?

McCarver was ejected by plate umpire Al Barlick.

“I’m sorry the thing happened, but I felt I was right when I did it,” McCarver said to the Philadelphia Daily News. 

In his book, McCarver added, “I can’t say I’m proud of what I did, but I do have to say that put in the same situation I’m sure I would react the same way.

“In moments like that, however irrationally, your instincts simply take over.”

Brock told the Philadelphia Daily News, “I was surprised Tim punched at me, but sometimes these things just explode. Tim’s too much of a pro to do what he did, but when there’s a feeling of frustration you do strange things. I have no hard feelings against him.”

McCarver said, “As far as I’m concerned, it’s all over. He’s a good friend of mine.”

Long may you run

After McCarver’s ejection, Brock continued his plate appearance versus Muniz, drew a walk and swiped second against McCarver’s replacement, Mike Ryan.

Leadng off the bottom of the fourth, Ryan was the first batter Bob Gibson faced after the fight. Gibson’s first pitch to Ryan sailed over his head.

In the sixth, Brock reached on an error, stole second and was thrown out by Ryan attempting to steal third.

An inning later, the Phillies brought in their third-string catcher, rookie Pete Koegel, after Ryan was injured. Brock swiped second _ his fourth steal of the game _ against Koegel in the eighth. Boxscore

Encore performances

The next night, Sept. 7, the Cardinals and Phillies played the series finale, and emotions remained raw.

In the first inning, Brock walked, tried to steal second and was thrown out by McCarver.

Brock noted to the Post-Dispatch, “He threw me out trying to steal, and I didn’t go punching him.”

McCarver countered to the Philadelphia Daily News, “I threw him out, and I didn’t go prancing over to the dugout like King Kong.” Boxscore

Six days later, on Sept. 13, the Phillies were in St. Louis for a two-game series.

Before the opener, Bob Broeg asked McCarver whether he regretted punching Brock. McCarver replied, “From practically the very minute I threw the punch. It was, I’m afraid, a sucker punch and I’m not proud of it.”

McCarver added, “I was agitated and apparently misunderstood something Lou had said … I like to think that out of this unfortunate flare-up we’re better friends than before. I hope so.”

In that night’s game at Busch Memorial Stadium, McCarver “was lustily booed by a crowd that used to adore him,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

McCarver produced three hits, scored twice and threw out Dal Maxvill attempting to steal. Boxscore

Storybook stuff

Hollywood would have a tough time coming up with a better script for what happened in the Sept. 14 series finale.

In the first inning, Brock was awarded first base on catcher’s interference when McCarver accidentally tipped his bat. Brock stole second and advanced to third on McCarver’s errant throw. Matty Alou’s infield out scored Brock.

In the ninth, the Phillies led, 5-4, but the Cardinals had Brock on third with one out and their top run producer, Joe Torre, at the plate.

Facing Chris Short, Torre hit a fly ball to medium right. Willie Montanez, a former Cardinals prospect, caught it for the second out. Brock tagged and sped for the plate, trying to score the tying run.

The throw reached McCarver on a hop. McCarver snared it and spun around to tag Brock, who was barreling toward him.

“Brock went into McCarver like a NFL bomb-squader goes into a punt returner,” Bill Conlin wrote in the Philadelphia Daily News. “The collision was tremendous, McCarver getting flipped over backwards, Brock landing in a heap on the first-base side of the plate.”

McCarver held onto the ball and Brock was called out by umpire John McSherry, ending the game. Boxscore

As Phillies players congratulated McCarver, he “broke away from them and went for Brock, grabbed his hand and shook it,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

“I told Lou to have a nice winter,” McCarver said.

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An experiment with technology went haywire for the Reds in a game against the Cardinals.

Sixty years ago, on Aug. 18, 1961, Reds manager Fred Hutchinson used a shortwave radio to communicate instructions from the bench to his third-base coach.

The innovative effort lasted an inning before Hutchinson went back to using traditional hand signals to relay signs.

Sign language

The Reds were the surprise of the National League in 1961. In addition to talents such as Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Wally Post, the Reds were loaded with former Cardinals. They included the manager (Fred Hutchinson), hitting coach (Dick Sisler), relief ace (Jim Brosnan) and three infield starters (second baseman Don Blasingame, shortstop Eddie Kasko and third baseman Gene Freese).

On Aug. 18, the Reds (73-46) were in first place, 13 games ahead of St. Louis (58-57) and one ahead of the second-place Dodgers (69-44), entering a weekend series with the Cardinals at Cincinnati.

Earlier that season, the Dodgers unveiled a walkie-talkie system for manager Walter Alston to communicate with base coaches, the Dayton Journal-Herald reported. The Reds were determined not to be left out of the modern communications game.

Before the series opener against the Cardinals, Hutchinson informed reporters of the new way he planned to send instructions to the third-base coach.

Hutchinson had a microphone in the dugout and coach Reggie Otero, stationed at third, was provided an earpiece.

“A blue wire, connected to an amplifier in the dugout, has been run underground to the third-base coaching box, where it forms a loop around Otero,” the Dayton Journal-Herald reported. “Otero is equipped with a receiver under his shirt and an earplug. Anything broadcast through the amplifier can be heard by Otero as long as he’s within the loop.”

Party line

In the first inning, Otero heard Hutchinson’s instructions just fine. Problem was, so did a lot of others.

Because of a snafu in the system, Hutchinson’s instructions to Otero also were coming through the loudspeaker in the press box.

Fans in seats near the press box could hear what was being said, too, United Press International reported.

“It threw the Reds’ bosses into a tizzy,” the Associated Press noted.

General manager Bill DeWitt Sr. called Hutchinson in the dugout and told him to stop using the shortwave device.

Hutchinson went back to using hand signals to send signs to Otero, who relayed them the same way to the batters and runners.

Unfazed, the Reds scored four runs in four innings against Bob Gibson. Gordy Coleman hit a three-run triple with two outs in the first. Frank Robinson stole home with two outs in the third.

Behind the complete-game pitching of American League castoff Ken Johnson, who mixed knuckleballs with sinkers, the Reds won, 6-3. Boxscore

They finished the season four games ahead of the Dodgers and became National League champions for the first time in 21 years.

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A four-game sweep by the Cardinals contributed to an epic losing streak by the Phillies.

Sixty years ago, in 1961, the Phillies lost 23 consecutive games _ the longest losing streak by a team since the American League joined the National League to form the majors in 1901.

Before then, two clubs deemed as major-league had longer losing streaks. The Cleveland Spiders of the National League lost 24 in a row in 1899. The Louisville Colonels of the American Association lost 26 straight in 1889.

Dim view

Managed by Gene Mauch, 35, the 1961 Phillies were not expected to be good. In its preview of the 1961 season, Sports Illustrated listed the Phillies’ weak spots as “pitching and hitting.”

In May, the Phillies traded one of their best pitchers, Turk Farrell, to the Dodgers for outfielder Don Demeter and third baseman Charlie Smith. By the end of June, the Phillies were 22-45 and out of contention.

The first of their 23 consecutive losses came on July 29 against the Giants. In the first inning, with Giants runners on second and third, one out, Mauch ordered an intentional walk to Willie Mays. Orlando Cepeda followed with a grand slam and the Giants won, 4-3. Boxscore

Wrong direction

The losing streak was at five when the Phillies went to St. Louis for a four-game weekend series with the Cardinals.

In the Aug. 4 opener, the Phillies trailed by a run in the ninth, but had runners on first and second, none out.

Tony Gonzalez hit a drive to deep right. Joe Cunningham leaped and caught the ball for the first out, but the runner on second, rookie George Williams, failed to tag and didn’t advance. The baserunning lapse prompted Mauch to stage “a helmet-throwing tantrum in the dugout,” according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

The next two batters, ex-Cardinal Bobby Gene Smith and Lee Walls, struck out, and the Cardinals escaped with a 9-8 victory. Boxscore

In the clubhouse, Mauch “singed the entire team with a post-game lecture,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

“It was building up, up, up,” said Mauch, who regretted the outburst.

On Aug. 5, the Cardinals won, 7-0, on a shutout by Curt Simmons, a former Phillie, and two home runs by Bill White. Boxscore

The next day, the Cardinals used the Polish power of Ray Sadecki and Carl Sawatski to win both games of a Sunday doubleheader .

In the opener, Sadecki hit a three-run double and pitched a four-hitter for a 3-1 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

In the second game, Sawatski, a former Phillie, drove in all three runs in a 3-2 victory. Boxscore

The Cardinals’ sweep stretched the Phillies’ losing streak to nine. “This team doesn’t act like a team that goes out to get beat,” Mauch told the Philadelphia Daily News. “They’re trying.”

That’s a winner

The Phillies had one extra-inning game during the streak and it resulted in their 20th consecutive loss, 7-6 to the Braves on Aug. 17. The Braves won in the 11th on a RBI by Philadelphia native Al Spangler. Boxscore

“The Phillies have had some inept clubs, but nothing to match this,” The Sporting News declared. “It was hard to assess more blame on the pitching than the hitting. Both were failing.”

Three days later, in a Sunday doubleheader at Milwaukee, the Braves won the opener, 5-2, on Warren Spahn’s five-hitter, giving them 10 consecutive wins and extending the Phillies’ losing streak to 23. Boxscore

Relief came in the second game. Clay Dalrymple had three hits, ex-Brave Wes Covington hit a home run and the Phillies prevailed, 7-4. Boxscore

The winning pitcher, John Buzhardt, went the distance and held Eddie Mathews and Joe Torre hitless.

“I had a feeling we were going to win,” Buzhardt told the Philadelphia Daily News. “I said, ‘Get me two runs and I’ll win.’ It’s a good thing they got me seven.”

Buzhardt was the lucky charm the Phillies had been seeking. He wore uniform No. 23, same number as the losing streak, and he was the winning pitcher in the Phillies’ last victory before the streak began.

“The kid probably felt like he was pitching in the seventh game of the World Series,” Mauch said to the Associated Press.

In the victorious Phillies clubhouse, the mood was more consolation than celebration.

“We were so embarrassed by then that we had no elation,” Mauch recalled to Sports Illustrated.

Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News observed, “If you think champagne corks popped or pheasant suddenly appeared out from under glass, think again. They had spare ribs, cheese and crackers, and beer in the clubhouse.”

Welcome home

The Phillies’ charter flight from Milwaukee arrived in Philadelphia at 1:10 a.m., 90 minutes late.

As the plane taxied to the gate, the Phillies saw a crowd of about 200 people waiting for them in a drenching rain.

Peering from his window seat, Phillies pitcher and funnyman Frank Sullivan shouted to his teammates, “They are selling rocks at $1.50 a pail. Leave the plane at five-minute intervals. That way, they can’t get us all with one burst.”

The fans had come to congratulate the team on snapping the losing streak, “and nobody threw anything more dangerous than confetti,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

As a band played “Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” fans hoisted Mauch on their shoulders and staged an impromptu victory march through the airport.

Mauch told the crowd, “One day, we’ll come home after winning 23 out of 24, and they’ll have to build a new airport.”

Summing up the day, Frank Sullivan dead-panned, “Well, we gained a half-game on first-place Cincinnati.”

Bad numbers

The 1961 Phillies lost 19 of 22 games against the champion Reds and finished the season in last place at 47-107.

The Cardinals were 13-9 versus the Phillies. Curt Simmons (4-0, 1.52 ERA) and Bob Gibson (3-0, 0.67) did best against them.

Don Demeter led the Phillies in home runs (20) and RBI (68). Their top hitter was Tony Gonzalez (.277).

John Buzhardt finished with a 6-18 record. Frank Sullivan needed a sense of humor. He was 3-16. Future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts was 1-10.

The Phillies placed last in the league in batting average (.243), on-base percentage (.310) and runs (584). Their staff ERA of 4.61 was worst in the league.

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Adding a mix of controversy and comedy with a demonstration of clout, baseball’s greatest showman gave a commanding performance while reaching a milestone before a St. Louis audience.

Ninety years ago, on Aug. 21, 1931, in a game against the Browns at Sportsman’s Park, Yankees slugger Babe Ruth hit his 600th career home run.

Usually, such a feat would provide enough drama for one day, but not for Babe. Next, he got ejected. Then, he sparked a treasure hunt by offering a reward for his home run ball.

Big blow

Ruth, 36, hit his 599th home run, a ninth-inning grand slam, on Aug. 20 against the Browns at Sportsman’s Park. Boxscore

The next day, a Depression Era crowd of 4,000 came to Sportsman’s Park to see if he could hit No. 600.

Before the game, Ruth informed Browns secretary Willis Johnson that he’d like to have the ball if he hit the milestone home run, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

In the third inning, with a runner on first, Ruth did his part. He hit a pitch from George Blaeholder high and deep to right, “a gorgeous, virile blow” that “stirred the sopranos to violent shrilling,” the New York Daily News noted.

The ball carried over the pavilion roof and struck a parked car on Grand Avenue, according to the Associated Press.

“The din had just subsided” when Lou Gehrig “duplicated the Bambino’s feat,” the Daily News reported. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Gehrig’s ball bounced off the roof and into the street.

Prize money

Four innings later, with the Yankees ahead, 8-1, Browns cleanup batter Red Kress hit a three-run home run to left against Hank Johnson.

Ruth, playing left field, claimed a spectator in the bleachers interfered with the ball while it was in play. When Ruth persisted with his argument, umpire Roy Van Graflan ejected him. It was the 10th of Ruth’s 11 career ejections as a player, but only the second time the gate attraction had been tossed since 1924.

Done for the day, Ruth’s thoughts were on his home run ball. When he got to the clubhouse, he sent word to the press box, asking that radio stations relay his request for the ball to be returned to him. Ruth said he would reward the finder with $10 and a new baseball.

Ruth was drawing a salary of $80,000 in 1931 _ when asked after signing the contract whether he believed he deserved to be making more money than President Herbert Hoover, Babe supposedly replied, “’I had a better year than he did.” _ but a $10 offer for a baseball was a good deal during the depths of economic depression.

Three St. Louis radio stations _ KMOX, KWK and WIL _ carried Browns home games in 1931, so when Ruth’s request went on the airwaves it reached a wide audience.

Kid stuff

When a 10-year-old newsboy, Tom Callico of North Grand Avenue, showed up at the Sportsman’s Park press gate with a ball, Willis Johnson, the Browns’ secretary, took him to meet Ruth.

According to Dick Farrington of The Sporting News, “Babe greeted the kid like a father. He fished around and handed the boy a $10 bill and in another few minutes had a brand new ball for him.”

While Callico was meeting with writers in the press box, another boy arrived at the gate and said he had the Ruth home run ball. According to The Sporting News, the boy was brought to Ruth, who gave him $10 and a new ball, too.

“Babe doesn’t know which of the balls he purchased was the one he hit,” The Sporting News noted.

Ruth guessed one of the balls was Gehrig’s home run. Boxscore

Ruth finished the season with 46 home runs, the 12th and last time he led the American League in that category.

Against the Browns in 1931, he hit .383 with eight home runs, including four at Sportsman’s Park.

For his career, Ruth batted .351 with 96 home runs versus the Browns. He hit 58 regular-season home runs at Sportsman’s Park. He also hit six there against the Cardinals _ three in Game 4 of the 1926 World Series Boxscore and three in Game 4 of the 1928 World Series. Boxscore

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(Updated Sept. 12, 2021)

Three future Hall of Famers converged on center stage for a climactic scene in a Cardinals classic. On the mound, Bob Gibson. Behind the plate, Ted Simmons. In the batter’s box, Willie Stargell.

On Aug. 14, 1971, Gibson got his lone no-hitter when he struck out Stargell for the last out.

Finishing a no-hitter is a formidable task under any circumstance, but for Gibson the degree of difficulty was heightened. Stargell was leading the majors in home runs and RBI.

Simmons, in his first full season as Cardinals catcher, had an intriguing role in the drama. He earned respect with his bat, but took pride in his catching, too. Being involved in a Gibson no-hitter would help secure Simmons’ reputation.

Pride still matters

Gibson earned his second National League Cy Young Award in 1970. At 35, he looked as dominant as ever at the start of the 1971 season, winning three of his first four decisions. The only loss in that stretch was in extra innings to the Cubs’ Ferguson Jenkins.

Trouble soon followed. In his last April start, Gibson got shelled in a loss to the Mets’ Tom Seaver. In May, Gibson was 1-3 with a 5.21 ERA. He tore a thigh muscle late in the month and didn’t pitch from May 30 through June 20. When he returned, he lost two June starts, dropping his record to 4-7 with a 4.31 ERA.

Losing none of his intensity and focus, Gibson told The Sporting News, “I get paid for winning,” and he set his sights on earning the money.

Gibson was 5-2, including consecutive shutouts of the Phillies and Mets, with a 1.95 ERA in seven starts in July.

“Pride keeps him going,” teammate Joe Torre told The Sporting News. “He’s the greatest competitor I ever saw.”

On Aug. 4, with Simmons catching, Gibson struck out nine, including Willie Mays twice, and beat Gaylord Perry and the Giants for his 200th career victory. Boxscore

Overpowering stuff

Ten days later, Gibson was the starter against the Pirates on a Saturday night at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.

The Cardinals knocked out Pirates starter Bob Johnson in the first inning and also pounded relievers Bob Moose and Bob Veale. Gibson contributed three RBI. Simmons had four hits, a RBI and scored three times. Torre also had four hits and a RBI, and scored twice.

On the mound, Gibson was in command.

“This was the first time in my life I ever was overpowered by anyone,” Pirates center fielder Al Oliver said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I never was able to get my bat around in time.”

Pirates second baseman and future Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski told the Associated Press, “Gibson was throwing them right where he wanted. He hit the outside corner every time. I broke two of my bats.”

Simmons told the Baseball Hall of Fame yearbook in 2021, “I can remember specifically thinking in the fourth inning that I was watching something that was pretty special … The slider was just so wicked. Complete and total command of a fastball that he could ride and sink, four-seam and two-seam.”

When the Cardinals scored three runs in the eighth to take an 11-0 lead, the outcome wasn’t in doubt. The focus was on whether the Pirates would get a hit. Gibson never had pitched a no-hitter at any level, amateur or professional.

“In the last two innings, I was bearing down extra hard,” Gibson told The Sporting News. “I was trying not to make any bad pitches. Even when I was falling behind in the count, I was being careful not to groove any pitches. I was throwing sliders and curves on 3-and-2 counts.”

Despite his best efforts, Gibson made a mistake to Dave Cash. With two outs in the eighth, Gibson said he hung a slider. Cash hit a high bouncer to third. For a moment, Joe Torre couldn’t see it in the lights.

“It scared the heck out of me, man,” Torre told the Baseball Hall of Fame yearbook in 2021. “I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to whiff this thing,’ but it didn’t happen. I was able to make the play.”

Stretching on tiptoes, he snared the ball and fired a throw to first to nip Cash.

Friend or foe?

“By the ninth inning, I was so nervous my knees were actually knocking,” Gibson said in his book “Stranger to the Game.”

The first batter was Vic Davalillo, a former Cardinal who started in right field instead of Roberto Clemente. Gibson got him to ground out to shortstop Dal Maxvill.

Al Oliver followed and grounded out to second baseman Ted Kubiak.

Willie Stargell was all that stood between Gibson and a no-hitter _ and he stood like a giant from the left side of the plate.

“His weight shifting rhythmically from one foot to the other, his bat moving in circles like an airplane propeller, Stargell creates a feeling of menace as he waits for the pitch,” Newspaper Enterprise Association reported.

At that point in the season, Stargell had 39 home runs and 101 RBI. No one else in the majors had more.

Stargell also had hit four home runs in his career versus Gibson then.

(The final career numbers for Stargell against Gibson: .290 batting average, .388 on-base percentage, five home runs, 20 walks and 41 strikeouts. According to baseball-reference.com, Stargell struck out more times versus Gibson than he did against any other pitcher. Gibson and Phil Niekro were the only pitchers to issue as many as 20 walks to Stargell.)

In “Stranger to the Game,” Gibson said, “Aside from former teammates, the only opposing player I ever really made friends with was Willie Stargell. I don’t have a good excuse for this, except that Stargell’s personality left me no choice. I was just fortunate he didn’t spread around the league that I was a nice guy or something. I couldn’t have that.”

Caught looking

Increasing the tension with every pitch, Gibson got ahead in the count, 1-and-2, on Stargell. On the next one, “I was looking for a fastball,” Stargell told The Sporting News.

Instead, with his 124th pitch of the game, Gibson threw a slider.

Stargell watched it go into Simmons’ mitt and heard umpire Harry Wendelstedt call, “Strike three!”

“That last pitch to Stargell really exploded,” Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said to The Sporting News.

Stargell said the slider “cut over the plate at the last instant.” Boxscore and Video

“You can tell all those people who have been saying that Gibson was washed up that they should have been at the plate with a bat in their hands,” Stargell said.

Jack Buck, calling the ninth inning on the KMOX radio broadcast, said after the completion of the no-hitter, “If you were here, it would have made you cry.” Audio broadcast of Jack Buck and Jim Woods

Gibson’s no-hitter was the first in a big-league game in Pittsburgh since 1907 when rookie Nick Maddox of the Pirates did it against the Dodgers at Exposition Park. No big-leaguer pitched a no-hitter at Forbes Field, the Pirates’ home from 1909-69.

Gibson finished the season with a 16-13 record, 3.04 ERA, 20 complete games and five shutouts, his most since his most dominant season in 1968.

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Matty Alou had the perfect audience to appreciate a daring dash around the bases.

Fifty years ago, on Aug. 7, 1971, Alou used skill, imagination and nerve to produce the winning run for the Cardinals in a victory versus the Dodgers at St. Louis.

With the score tied at 2-2, Alou batted with one out and none on in the 10th inning. He reached base on a bunt single, then made a fearless sprint from first to home while the Dodgers botched every attempt to catch him.

Alou’s aggressive baserunning was reminiscent of Enos Slaughter, who scored the winning run for the Cardinals on a mad scramble from first to home in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series.

Twenty-five years later, Slaughter and several of his contemporaries were in St. Louis for a reunion of the 1946 World Series teams and were at the ballpark to witness Alou’s performance.

Making it happen

After sweeping the Giants, the Cardinals (62-50) were seven games behind the division-leading Pirates (69-43) as they entered a three-game series with the Dodgers at Busch Memorial Stadium.

The opening game, played on a Saturday night, featured left-handed starting pitchers Claude Osteen of the Dodgers and Steve Carlton of the Cardinals. The Dodgers went ahead, 2-0, with a pair of runs in the sixth, but the Cardinals tied the score in the seventh on a RBI apiece by Jim Beauchamp and Jerry McNertney.

When the game moved to the bottom of the 10th, Pete Mikkelsen, a former Cardinal, came in to pitch. He struck out the first batter, Julian Javier, before Alou, batting .325, stepped to the plate.

Batting left-handed, Alou executed a drag bunt between first base and the mound. Another former Cardinal, first baseman Dick Allen, fielded the ball, but Alou eluded his tag attempt and reached base safely.

Meeting over

Cleanup batter Joe Torre was up next, but Mikkelsen was focused on Alou. He gathered second baseman Jim Lefebvre and shortstop Maury Wills for a conference between the mound and second to discuss whether to try a pitchout on the first pitch.

As the group gabbed, Alou realized no one had called timeout, so he bolted for second. “I thought I could beat them to the base,” Alou told the Los Angeles Times.

Dodgers manager Walter Alston said, “There’s an umpire at every base. All you’ve got to do is call time.”

Though caught by surprise, Lefebvre got to the bag before Alou did. “The consensus among the Dodgers was Alou would have been out by 10 feet if Mikkelsen had made a good throw,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Instead, Mikkelsen hurried a high toss to Lefebvre. As Lefebvre reached for it, the ball went off the top of his glove and into center field. Alou kept running and headed to third on Mikkelsen’s error.

“I went to third because I know on the AstroTurf the ball would go a long way,” Alou explained to the Los Angeles Times.

However, Alston noted, “The ball only went 15 feet.”

Bold move

Lefebvre got to the ball, but failed to field it cleanly while trying to keep an eye on Alou.

“When I saw Lefebvre couldn’t pick the ball up, I thought I could score,” Alou told the Los Angeles Times.

Alou sped for the plate and arrived ahead of Lefebvre’s throw to catcher Joe Ferguson, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 triumph. Boxscore

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Alston told the Post-Dispatch, “and I never want to see it again.”

Dom DiMaggio, center fielder for the Red Sox team that opposed the Cardinals in the 1946 World Series, said, “They were running fools then, like Alou now.”

In baseball, though, a bum one day can be a hero the next. Sure enough, the day after his role in the Dodgers’ lapse, Lefebvre got redemption, hitting a three-run home run against Jerry Reuss and helping the Dodgers recover for a 4-2 victory. Boxscore

Alou finished with 192 hits, 85 runs and a career-high 74 RBI for the 1971 Cardinals.

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