Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Barry Bonds might have broken Hank Aaron’s career home run record as a member of the Cardinals, not the Giants, if he and the Redbirds had been able to agree on a compensation package.

barry_bondsTen years ago, in December 2006, the Cardinals and Bonds, a free agent, expressed mutual interest in exploring a deal.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who urged the front office to pursue discussions, was fascinated by the possibility of having Bonds and Albert Pujols in the same batting order.

“I was intrigued by the idea,” La Russa said to St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Joe Strauss. “… I’m thinking it might be there for (Bonds) in St. Louis … We have an opportunity if he thinks he fits with us.”

For Bonds, who had been with the Giants since 1993, the Cardinals looked appealing for at least two reasons:

_ La Russa had a track record of successfully managing, and protecting, sluggers (Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco) whose reputations had been tainted by suspicion of performance-enhancing drug use.

_ Bonds, 42, never had played on a World Series championship team and he knew his time for doing so was running short. The Cardinals, who won the 2006 World Series title, had qualified for the postseason in six of the previous seven years. The Giants had losing records in each of the previous two seasons.

Bonds “has thought seriously about playing alongside Albert Pujols in St. Louis,” the San Jose Mercury News reported.

La Russa envisioned a 2007 Cardinals batting order of David Eckstein at shortstop, Jim Edmonds in center field, Pujols at first base, Bonds in left field, Scott Rolen at third base, Juan Encarnacion (or Chris Duncan) in right field, Yadier Molina at catcher and Aaron Miles at second base.

Bonds still could produce. In 2006, he had 23 doubles, 26 home runs, 115 walks and 77 RBI in 130 games. With 734 career home runs, Bonds needed 22 more to break Aaron’s record of 755.

Though negotiations didn’t get much beyond a preliminary stage _ the Cardinals wanted Bonds to agree to a deeply discounted salary _ the flirtation between the two parties appeared sincere while it lasted.

Let’s talk

Shortly after he had surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow, Bonds became a free agent in October 2006. Though many expected him to stay with the Giants, other teams, most publicly the Athletics, were interested.

In a Nov. 11, 2006, column in the Post-Dispatch, Bernie Miklasz scoffed, “Scratch the ridiculous rumors of the Cardinals having an interest in signing Barry Bonds. There’s nothing to it. If the Cardinals make a run at any prominent free-agent hitter, it will be Alfonso Soriano.”

However, a month later, during the baseball winter meetings in Orlando in December 2006, La Russa became convinced Bonds was available and he encouraged the Cardinals to meet with Bonds’ representatives, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Cardinals met with the Bonds group, including Jeff Borris, the slugger’s agent, and then had internal meetings to discuss the matter. La Russa requested a meeting with Bonds, though it was unclear whether that session occurred.

However, Bonds did meet with Tigers manager Jim Leyland in Orlando. Leyland, who was Bonds’ manager with the Pirates from 1986-1992, “wasn’t acting on behalf of the Tigers,” the Mercury News reported.

“Leyland and La Russa are very close and it’s thought that Leyland might have been gathering a read on Bonds for his good friend,” wrote Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News.

The interest was serious enough that Cardinals officials considered polling their key players to get their take on the notion of Bonds joining the club, the Post-Dispatch reported.

“Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols, back to back? It’s more than a fantasy league lineup _ and more than a rumor,” the Mercury News told its readers.

Show me the money

When the discussions between the Cardinals and Bonds’ representatives turned to money, it became evident a deal wouldn’t occur.

The Cardinals had offered another veteran free-agent hitter, Luis Gonzalez, a one-year deal at $7.3 million, the Post-Dispatch reported. Bonds was seeking more than $10 million a year.

“It’s not realistic,” La Russa said to Strauss, “because if he comes with us he would only be making pennies.”

“We couldn’t pay him,” La Russa concluded.

Wrote the Mercury News: “Barry Bonds is intrigued with playing under the St. Louis arch, but the money is pointing him someplace else. Bonds isn’t known for leaving cash on the table.”

The San Jose newspaper predicted Bonds “would return to San Francisco if the Cardinals cannot approach the Giants’ offer.”

Pressed by reporters, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty snapped, “There’s nothing on with Bonds. I’m sick and tired of people asking that. We don’t have money for Bonds.”

On Dec. 7, 2006, Bonds and the Giants agreed on financial terms. Bonds would receive a $15.8 million base salary in 2007, plus bonus incentives that could increase the package to $20 million.

Messy affair

Naturally, just the idea the Cardinals would consider signing Bonds created controversy among Cardinals fans and media.

Bryan Burwell of the Post-Dispatch opined, “The Cardinals’ brief but unrequited dalliance with Barry Bonds turned out to be just like every other naughty romance: loaded with provocative attraction, potentially perilous consequences, a tinge of remorse, a hint of shame and a ton of relieved hindsight.”

Burwell asked, “Would the most despised man in all of sports suddenly have found a safe and welcome haven in the bosom of Cardinal Nation?”

Miklasz’s take: “The Cardinals and their fans have a history of embracing Mark McGwire and baseball’s steroids culture, so why draw the line at Bonds?”

In his final season, Bonds hit 28 home runs for the 2007 Giants. On Aug. 7, 2007, he hit career home run No. 756 off Mike Bacsik of the Nationals, breaking Aaron’s record. Bonds finished with 762 career home runs.

Previously: Albert Pujols and the start of his NL MVP run

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If Red Sox ace Boo Ferriss would have started Game 6 of the 1946 World Series against the Cardinals, would Boston have won the championship? In retrospect, probably not, but at the time the decision by Red Sox manager Joe Cronin to hold Ferriss for a possible Game 7 created controversy and second guessing.

boo_ferrissAfter the Red Sox won Game 5, giving them three wins in the best-of-seven Series, they needed one more victory to clinch the title. Cronin indicated he’d start Ferriss in Game 6. Ferriss had shut out the Cardinals in Game 3 and he had led the Red Sox in wins during the regular season, with 25.

At the last minute, however, Cronin changed his mind and started Mickey Harris in Game 6. The Cardinals beat Harris, evening the Series. Ferriss started the decisive Game 7, but the Cardinals won that, too, earning their third World Series crown in five years.

Cronin was criticized for not starting his best pitcher when the Red Sox had the opportunity to claim the championship with a Game 6 triumph. Few pitchers in 1946 had better credentials than Dave “Boo” Ferriss, who, 70 years later, died on Nov. 24, 2016, at 94.

Big winner

Ferriss _ he got his nickname when, as a child, he tried to say the word “brother” and it came out “boo,” according to a biography by the Society for American Baseball Research _ debuted with the Red Sox in 1945 and posted a 21-10 record.

In 1946, Ferriss, a right-hander, was even better. He won his first 10 decisions and finished the regular season at 25-6, including a 13-0 mark at home.

After the Red Sox and Cardinals split the first two games of the 1946 World Series at St. Louis, Ferriss got the start in Game 3 on Oct. 9 at Boston. Throwing a sinker from a three-quarters sidearm delivery, Ferriss held the Cardinals scoreless for nine innings, limiting them to six hits and a walk in a 4-0 Red Sox triumph.

Stan Musial tried to spark the Cardinals in the first inning when he walked with two outs and stole second base. Noticing Musial taking a big lead off second, Ferriss turned and caught him flat-footed. Holding the ball, Ferriss moved toward Musial, who broke for third. Ferriss threw to third baseman Pinky Higgins, who applied the tag.

In the ninth, Musial tripled with two outs, but Ferriss preserved the shutout by striking out Enos Slaughter. Boxscore

Chance to clinch

The Cardinals evened the Series with a win in Game 4 and Boston went ahead with a win in Game 5. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis Star-Times reported Ferriss would start Game 6 on Oct. 13 at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Cronin told reporters, “Don’t worry about any seventh game. There won’t be any.”

Post-Dispatch columnist John Wray wrote that Cronin “thinks Ferriss will turn back the Redbirds and clinch the world title in the sixth game. Ferriss is a real hurdle for the Birds.”

Dizzy Dean, retired Cardinals ace, told the Post-Dispatch on the eve of Game 6, “I reckon it’ll be Ferriss for the Sox tomorrow.”

Change of plans

Ferriss, though, would have been pitching on three days’ rest, instead of the usual four, if he had started Game 6. He also would have been matched against Harry Brecheen, who had shut out the Red Sox in Game 2 and was chosen the Cardinals’ Game 6 starter by manager Eddie Dyer.

“Ferriss was set to start,” reported the Detroit Free Press, “but at the last hour” Cronin reconsidered and opted to start Harris.

A left-hander, Harris had started and lost Game 2, though he yielded one earned run in seven innings. During the regular season, Harris had a 17-9 record.

“Cronin gambled on (Harris) because Sportsman’s Park usually has been a paradise for southpaws,” United Press reported.

This time, Harris gave up three runs in 2.2 innings and the Cardinals won Game 6, 4-1. Boxscore

Cardinals clout

After a scheduled off day on Oct. 14, Game 7 was played on Oct. 15 at St. Louis. Described by the Post-Dispatch as “a master of variable speed and control,” Ferriss, starting on five days’ rest, was opposed by Murry Dickson.

In the fifth inning, with the score tied at 1-1, Dickson doubled, scoring Harry Walker from second. Red Schoendienst followed with a single, scoring Dickson and giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead. After Terry Moore singled, Cronin replaced Ferriss with Joe Dobson.

Ferriss’ line: 4.1 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts.

The Red Sox tied the score with two runs in the eighth, but the Cardinals went ahead in the bottom half when Slaughter made a mad dash from first and scored on a Walker hit off Bob Klinger. Brecheen, who had relieved Dickson, shut down the Red Sox in the ninth, giving the Cardinals a 4-3 triumph and the championship. Boxscore

Decisions, decisions

Based on Brecheen’s performance in Game 6, Ferriss, if he had started that game, would have had to shut out the Cardinals in order to ensure the Red Sox of clinching then.

Still, Cronin caught heat for his decision-making:

_ Sid Kenner, St. Louis Star-Times: “Why didn’t Cronin pitch Ferriss in the sixth game and then, if the Red Sox lost that number, Joe Dobson was the top ace up the sleeve?”

_ Herbert Goren, New York Sun: “Cronin’s pitching strategy was questioned in the last two games. How judicious was it to save Ferriss for the seventh game when he was ready for the sixth?”

_ The Sporting News: “Some surprise was expressed over Cronin’s decision to start Harris. Many thought he would lead with Ferriss in the hope of winding up the Series.”

Keener reported Cronin “originally had Ferriss primed and ready” for Game 6, but had “a change of heart” after learning Brecheen was starting.

In defense of Cronin, Ed McAuley of the Cleveland News wrote, “Ferriss’ performance in the (seventh) game confirmed the manager’s suspicion that (Ferriss) needed more than three days’ rest.”

The 1946 season was the pinnacle of Ferriss’ pitching career. He pitched six seasons, all with the Red Sox, and had a 65-30 record.

Previously: The story of Joe DiFabio, original No. 1 pick of Cards

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Ralph Branca came close to pitching two no-hitters against the Cardinals within a span of a month. Instead, he earned a one-hit shutout in one of those games and he had another one-hitter when he departed with two outs in the ninth inning of the other game.

ralph_brancaOn July 18, 1947, Branca delivered the best performance of his career, retiring the first 21 Cardinals batters in a row and finishing with a one-hitter in the Dodgers’ 7-0 victory at Brooklyn.

A month later, on Aug. 20, 1947, Branca again held the Cardinals to one hit before he was lifted after pitching 8.2 innings. The Cardinals rallied against reliever Hugh Casey, tying the score in the ninth and winning, 3-2, with a run in the 12th at Brooklyn.

Those were among the most memorable games the Cardinals played against Branca, who died at 90 on Nov. 23, 2016.

Best known as the pitcher who yielded the ninth-inning home run to Bobby Thomson that gave the Giants a pennant-clinching victory over the Dodgers in 1951, Branca was a key figure in the National League rivalry between the Dodgers and Cardinals in the 1940s.

Branca started for the Dodgers in pivotal games against the Cardinals during the 1946 pennant stretch.

On Sept, 14, 1946, Branca pitched a three-hit shutout in a 5-0 victory against the Cardinals at Brooklyn, moving the Dodgers within a half-game of the first-place Redbirds. Boxscore

Three weeks later, on Oct. 1, 1946, after the Dodgers and Cardinals had finished the regular season tied for first place, Branca started the opener of a best-of-three series to determine the NL champion. He gave up three runs in 2.2 innings and took the loss in a 4-2 Cardinals victory at St. Louis. Boxscore The Cardinals won the next game, clinching the pennant, and then four of seven against the Red Sox in the World Series.

A year later, the Dodgers and Cardinals were battling for the 1947 pennant.

Nearly perfect

Branca lost each of his first three decisions against the Cardinals in 1947. Still, he had a 14-7 record entering his July 18 start against them at Ebbets Field.

The game matched Branca against Red Munger of the Cardinals. While Branca handcuffed the Cardinals, the Dodgers scored five runs off Munger in the first four innings.

After pitching seven perfect innings, Branca faced Enos Slaughter leading off the eighth. Slaughter hit Branca’s first pitch for a single to right field.

“I couldn’t help but know I was pitching a no-hitter the way they went down, one, two, three, in every inning,” Branca said to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “Naturally, I was disappointed when Slaughter got hold of that one in the eighth. It was my fault. I was pressing a little, being too careful. I didn’t get that high fastball … inside quite far enough.”

In its account of the game, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opined, “The Cardinals looked at the best pitching they’ve seen all season.” Boxscore

Walks haunt

The Cardinals returned to Brooklyn in August for a four-game series with the league leaders. The Dodgers won two of the first three, opening a 5.5-game lead over second-place St. Louis.

Branca started the finale and responded with another gem, holding the Cardinals hitless again for seven innings.

Like Slaughter a month earlier, Whitey Kurowski ended the no-hit bid with a leadoff single in the eighth.

Still, Branca entered the ninth with a 2-0 lead.

Though he issued a walk to the first batter, Red Schoendienst, Branca retired Terry Moore and Stan Musial on groundouts, with Schoendienst advancing to third.

Slaughter was up next.

Branca got ahead in the count, 1-and-2. Needing a strike to complete another one-hit shutout, Branca walked Slaughter.

After Branca’s first two pitches to the next batter, Ron Northey, missed the strike zone, manager Burt Shotton yanked his ace and replaced him with Casey.

Northey greeted Casey with a single, scoring Schoendienst, moving Slaughter to third and cutting the Dodgers’ lead to 2-1.

Kurowski followed with a grounder to Spider Jorgensen. The third baseman booted the ball for an error as Slaughter streaked to the plate with the tying run.

Spike ball

In the 11th, the game took another controversial twist.

Slaughter hit a ground ball to first baseman Jackie Robinson, who that season had broken baseball’s color barrier.

Robinson fielded the ball and raced to the bag. As Slaughter arrived _ “head down in a dash for first,” according to the Post-Dispatch _ he stepped on Robinson’s right foot, spiking him.

Robinson “limped and dropped to the ground,” the Post-Dispatch reported, “but apparently, because of the thickness of his shoe and the mud on Slaughter’s spikes, Robinson suffered no cut.”

To the Dodgers and the Brooklyn crowd, it appeared Slaughter intentionally tried to injure Robinson.

“No one can read Slaughter’s North Carolina mind, but the crowd unanimously decided to believe that he was curious to see how Robinson would look with one leg,” wrote Tommy Holmes of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Robinson told The Sporting News, “All I know is that I had my foot on the inside of the bag. I gave Slaughter plenty of room.”

Said Slaughter: “I’ve never deliberately spiked anyone in my life.”

Comeback complete

More drama unfolded in the 12th.

Kurowski hit Casey’s first pitch of the inning into the left-field seats for a home run, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

In the bottom half of the inning, Robinson led off with a single against Howie Pollet and moved to second on Pete Reiser’s sacrifice bunt.

Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer lifted Pollet, who was working his fifth inning of relief, and replaced him with Munger.

Before delivering a pitch, Munger whirled and snapped a throw to shortstop Marty Marion, who tagged a startled Robinson for the second out.

The next batter, Arky Vaughan, grounded out, ending the saga. Boxscore

Despite the setback, the Dodgers went on to win the 1947 pennant, finishing five games ahead of the runner-up Cardinals. Branca posted a 21-12 record and 2.67 ERA.

For his 12-year career in the big leagues, Branca had an 88-68 record, including 8-10 against the Cardinals.

Previously: Jackie Robinson propelled Dodgers over 1947 Cards

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Before he became a premier reliever coveted by the Cardinals, Brett Cecil was a promising starting pitcher for the Blue Jays. In 2010, he earned 15 wins as a starter, but his path to a successful season hit a rough spot against the Cardinals.

brett_cecilOn June 22, 2010, the Cardinals unleashed an extra-hit barrage against Cecil at Toronto. Matt Holliday had a home run and RBI-double, Yadier Molina hit a home run and Ryan Ludwick contributed a RBI-double, leading the Cardinals to a 9-4 victory and handing Cecil just his fourth loss in 11 decisions.

Six years later, on Nov. 21, 2016, Cecil, a free agent, signed a four-year contract with the Cardinals worth $30.5 million. He was expected to team with Kevin Siegrist as one of St. Louis’ top two left-handers in the bullpen.

Cecil joined a 2017 Cardinals roster that had just three players left from the St. Louis club he faced in 2010: Molina and pitchers Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright.

Cards with clout

Cecil entered that 2010 encounter against the Cardinals having won five of his previous six starts.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa stacked his batting order with two switch-hitters and seven right-handed batters, including designated hitter Nick Stavinoha. Holliday was the only Cardinals batter in the lineup who had faced Cecil.

In the second inning, Molina broke an 0-for-19 skid with a solo home run off Cecil. Holliday followed with a solo home run in the fourth.

With two outs and the score tied 2-2 in the fifth, the Cardinals had Randy Winn on second base. Holliday drove in Winn with a double, giving St. Louis a 3-2 lead.

Cecil issued an intentional pass to Albert Pujols, choosing instead to face Ludwick with two runners on base. Ludwick responded with a double, scoring Holliday and advancing Pujols to third.

David Freese followed with a two-run single, capping a four-run inning and giving the Cardinals a 6-2 lead.

Cecil was lifted after the inning. His totals: 5 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts.

“I’ve got to get back to work on keeping the ball down,” Cecil said to the Associated Press. “The whole game I was missing up.” Boxscore

Relief role

Cecil finished the 2010 season with a 15-7 record and 4.22 ERA in 28 starts.

By 2014, when he next faced the Cardinals, Cecil had been converted into a relief pitcher.

Cecil pitched against the Cardinals twice in 2014, both times in Toronto, and yielded no runs in 1.1 total innings.

On June 6, 2014, Cecil, in relief of starter Marcus Stroman, faced two Cardinals batters in the seventh inning. He walked Matt Carpenter and induced Oscar Taveras to fly out to left. The Blue Jays won, 3-1. Boxscore

Two days later, on June 8, 2014, Cecil worked a scoreless ninth in a game the Cardinals won, 5-0. Cecil struck out Tony Cruz, gave up a single to Carpenter and got Randal Grichuk to ground into a double play. Boxscore

In 66 relief appearances in 2014, Cecil posted a 2.70 ERA and struck out 76 in 53.1 innings.

Previously: How Chris Carpenter got revenge against Blue Jays

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Three of the most memorable Cardinals World Series home runs were hit by third basemen: Ken Boyer, David Freese and Tom Lawless.

tom_lawlessIn 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).

Fat pitch

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.”

Flipping out

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.”

Divine intervention

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.”

Previously: Les Bell to David Freese: Cardinals 3rd base champions

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In a span of about 24 hours, Grover Cleveland Alexander twice held the fate of the 1926 Cardinals in his right hand. With a loss meaning elimination of the Cardinals from the World Series, Alexander delivered a win and a save against the Yankees of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at New York.

grover_alexander2Alexander’s save, one of the top five iconic moments in Cardinals lore, was accomplished on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 10, in Game 7 with 2.1 innings of hitless relief, including the storied strikeout of Tony Lazzeri with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning, in a 3-2 Cardinals victory.

Alexander’s win, accomplished a day earlier on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 9, in Game 6, was just as impressive, but often overshadowed by the Game 7 drama.

Ninety years ago, with the Yankees in position to clinch the championship with a victory, Alexander, 39, got a complete-game win for the Cardinals in Game 6. He remains the oldest player to pitch a complete game in the World Series.

Displaying remarkable command of his pitches, Alexander kept Ruth from hitting a ball out of the infield and limited Gehrig to a single in the 10-2 Cardinals victory.

In a report by the Associated Press, Cardinals player-manager Rogers Hornsby said of Alexander, “(He) has left a mark for the next generation to aim at.”

Wrote The Sporting News: “(Alexander) has been pitching a long, long time, but it is doubtful if he ever rose to the heights he ascended in this Series.”

Duel of veterans

On Oct. 3 at Yankee Stadium, Alexander started and won Game 2 of the 1926 World Series, pitching a complete-game four-hitter and striking out 10 in the Cardinals’ 6-2 triumph. That win evened the best-of-seven Series at 1-1.

The Yankees won two of the next three at St. Louis.

With Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, Alexander was matched against Bob Shawkey, 35, who had pitched primarily in relief during the regular season. Shawkey was making just his third start since Aug. 1. During the regular season, Shawkey was 4-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 19 relief appearances and 4-4 with a 4.30 ERA in 10 starts.

Yankees manager Miller Huggins was confident Shawkey could deliver a strong start against the Cardinals. Shawkey had pitched in relief in Game 2 and Game 3 and hadn’t allowed the Cardinals a baserunner over 3.2 total innings. Huggins also believed Alexander wouldn’t be as sharp in Game 6 as he had been in Game 2.

Under control

As Shawkey took the mound for the start of Game 6, “the sun was shining but there was an October chill in the air,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It was no contest.

The Cardinals scored three in the first, led 4-1 through six and secured their grip with a five-run seventh.

“While my pitching helped, it was great hitting that won the game for us,” Alexander said in an article that appeared under his byline in the Sunday Post-Dispatch.

Alexander never gave the Yankees a chance to rally. He threw 104 pitches, including 75 for strikes. In four of the nine innings, Alexander threw only one pitch out of the strike zone.

“It was remarkable to watch the old master put the ball almost where he wanted to,” wrote the Post-Dispatch. “It was the finest exhibition of control seen in many a day.”

Said Alexander: “The day was cold and at times I had trouble in cutting loose with my fastball, but my control was exceptionally good with men on the bases and that was what helped me.”

Besting The Babe

Alexander especially was effective against Ruth, who had hit 47 home runs during the regular season and three against the Cardinals in Game 4 of the World Series at St. Louis.

Ruth was 0-for-3 with a walk against Alexander in Game 6. Twice, Ruth batted with two runners on base. Both times, Alexander got Ruth to ground out.

In the third inning, Ruth batted with runners on first and second, two outs, and grounded out to first baseman Jim Bottomley. In the seventh, with runners on second and third, two outs, Alexander pitched to Ruth and induced him to ground out to shortstop Tommy Thevenow.

“It was my control that kept Ruth from hitting,” Alexander said. “Every ball that Babe hit broke on the inside of the plate, close enough so that the big fellow could do no damage.”

Said Huggins: “Alexander had a better game left in his system than we thought.”

Alexander was supported by the hitting of Les Bell (four RBI, three hits, including a two-run home run), Hornsby (three RBI) and Billy Southworth (double, triple, three runs). Boxscore

“I want to thank the fans of New York for the way they have treated the Cardinals at the Stadium,” Alexander said. “They have been fair and square, ever ready to applaud when a good play was made.”

Previously: How Cardinals got Grover Cleveland Alexander

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