Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Don Young began his professional baseball career in the Cardinals system, played for George Kissell, departed and was brought back by Stan Musial.

Though he had two stints in the Cardinals organization, Young never played for St. Louis.

Instead, he played for their rival, the Cubs; made his debut in a legendary game; and became a central character in one of their most notorious defeats.

Teen hopeful

Young was 17 when he signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent out of Aurora (Colo.) High School in June 1963.

An outfielder, he was assigned to the Brunswick (Ga.) Cardinals, a Class A club managed by Kissell, the respected instructor. Young batted .280 in 16 games and was sent to another Cardinals Class A team, the Billings (Mont.) Mustangs. He hit .257 in 58 games.

After spring training in 1963, Young was placed on waivers, claimed by the Cubs and began to re-establish himself. In 1965, Young batted .273 with 25 doubles and 16 home runs for the Class AA Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs.

At 19, he was rewarded with a promotion to the Cubs in September 1965.

Big-league welcome

Young made his major-league debut as the starting center fielder and leadoff batter for the Cubs in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on Sept. 9.

The Dodgers pitcher that night: Sandy Koufax.

The result: a perfect game.

Koufax retired all 27 batters in a row and struck out 14. Young popped out twice and struck out. The Dodgers, held to one hit by Cubs starter Bob Hendley, won, 1-0. Boxscore

The next night, in San Francisco, Young, described by the Chicago Tribune as “perhaps the Cubs’ top outfield farm prospect,” got his first big-league hit, a solo home run off the Giants’ Ron Herbel. Boxscore

Lou Klein, Cubs manager and former Cardinals infielder, started Young in five games versus the Dodgers and Giants, drawing criticism from Braves manager Bobby Bragan for using a rookie in the pennant stretch against contenders.

Overmatched, Young batted .057 (2-for-35) in his September stint with the Cubs.

Musial maneuvers

Young was back in the minor leagues in 1966 and 1967.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals were trying to figure out what to do with Ted Savage.

Savage, who had hit .266 with 16 stolen bases as a rookie outfielder with the 1962 Phillies, was acquired by the Cardinals after the 1964 season and spent most of the next two years in their minor-league system.

After Musial became Cardinals general manager in January 1967, he promised Savage he would try to keep him in the major leagues.

Savage earned a spot as a utility player on the Opening Day roster of the 1967 Cardinals, but seldom played. In May, Savage was ticketed for a return to the minors. Upset, he indicated he wouldn’t report, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote.

Determined to fulfill his vow, Musial looked for a big-league team that would take Savage.

Brief return

Fifty years ago, on May 13, 1967, the Cardinals traded Savage and minor-league outfielder John Kindl to the Cubs for Young and minor-league catcher Jim Procopio.

The Chicago Tribune noted that Young was “once rated a potential Cubs center fielder” but “still was struggling in the minors.”

The Cardinals assigned Young to their Class AAA Tulsa Oilers team. Young played in 12 games for manager Warren Spahn, batted .147 (5-for-34) and was sent back to the Cubs on Aug. 1. The Cubs told Young to report to their Arizona Instructional League team.

Young’s career appeared to be on the brink. He spent the 1968 season with the Lodi (Calif.) Crushers, a Class A club.

Though he wasn’t on their 40-man roster, the Cubs did invite Young, 23, to attend their 1969 spring training camp. It was there that he received an unexpected opportunity.

Rebuilding project

Adolfo Phillips, projected to be the starting center fielder for the 1969 Cubs, broke his hand at spring training. Cubs manager Leo Durocher considered giving the job to a prospect, Oscar Gamble, but the 19-year-old had only a year of minor-league experience.

With his options limited, Durocher turned to Young.

Young “conceivably could be ready for the big time,” Jerome Holtzman of The Sporting News wrote.

“He hasn’t been a strong hitter,” Holtzman opined. “He is, however, a beautiful center fielder … and could very well become a Gold Glove winner _ if he can hit enough to stay.”

Young worked with Klein, his former manager who had become a batting instructor, and Cubs coach Pete Reiser on his hitting. Durocher also wanted Young to become more aggressive.

“He could have a great future, but it’s up to him,” Durocher said. “I can’t do it for him. I don’t care what he hits. I want to see more enthusiasm from him.”

Blame game

With Phillips on the mend, Young was the Opening Day center fielder for the 1969 Cubs.

The Cubs won 11 of their first 12 games and Durocher stayed with Young. In June, Phillips, who clashed with Durocher, was traded to the Expos, solidifying Young’s hold on the job.

On July 8, the Cubs opened a key series with the Mets at New York. The second-place Mets were five games behind the Cubs and Chicago was looking to push them further back.

The Cubs led, 3-1, in the ninth, but the Mets rallied for a 4-3 victory when Young was unable to catch two fly balls that fell for doubles. Cubs third baseman Ron Santo blamed the loss on Young. Boxscore

“He was just thinking of himself,” Santo said. “He had a bad day at the bat, so he’s got his head down. He is worrying about his batting average and not the team … He can keep his head down and he can keep right on going, out of sight, for all I care.”

The next day, Santo apologized: “What I said about Donnie, I didn’t mean. I said it because I was upset.”

The damage, though, had been done. When the Cubs returned to Chicago, Santo was booed at Wrigley Field. The Mets surged ahead of the crumbling Cubs, clinched the division title and went on to win the National League pennant and World Series crown.

Young finished the 1969 season, his last in the big leagues, with a .239 batting average in 101 games.

Previously: 2nd career as Cardinal was long, fruitful for Ted Savage

Read Full Post »

A passed ball was the key to enabling the Cardinals to achieve one of their most amazing comebacks.

Trailing by nine runs, the Cardinals rallied to beat the defending National League champion Braves 25 years ago on May 9, 1992, at St. Louis.

The comeback represented the largest deficit overcome by the Cardinals since they rallied from being down 11-0 and beat the Giants, 14-12, on June 15, 1952, at New York.

The Cardinals totaled 15 hits and five walks against Braves pitchers John Smoltz, Juan Berenguer and Marvin Freeman, but still may have come up short if not for a mistake by catcher Damon Berryhill.

Makings of a blowout

Smoltz was matched against Cardinals starter Rheal Cormier in the Saturday night game at Busch Stadium.

It quickly became a mismatch.

Smoltz held the Cardinals hitless the first three innings.

The Braves scored eight runs off Cormier and another run off Juan Agosto and led 9-0 entering the bottom half of the fourth.

“You’d think with a 9-0 lead and a no-hitter going that we’re going to win,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Said Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi: “When we were down 9-0, I turned to (umpire Bruce) Froemming and said, ‘This is ugly.’ ”

Staying alive

The Cardinals scored three times in the fourth, but the Braves came back with two runs in the fifth off Bob McClure for an 11-3 lead.

With that kind of support, Smoltz, one of the Braves’ best pitchers, usually would take control of a game. However, he gave up two more runs to the Cardinals in the fifth, making the score 11-5.

“When it was 11-5, I thought there still was time,” Pagnozzi said.

Felix Jose led off the St. Louis half of the seventh with a double off Smoltz. After Pedro Guerrero grounded out and Brian Jordan popped out, Todd Zeile singled, driving in Jose and cutting the Braves’ lead to 11-6.

Cox replaced Smoltz with Berenguer.

Big break

An intimidating, hard thrower, Berenguer had pitched for two World Series championship clubs _ 1984 Tigers and 1987 Twins _ and had earned 17 saves for the 1991 NL champion Braves.

He struck out the first batter he faced, Pagnozzi, but the third strike eluded Berryhill for a passed ball, allowing Pagnozzi to reach first and Zeile to move to second.

Instead of being out of the inning and heading to the eighth with an 11-6 lead, the Braves still needed a third out.

“I just blew it,” said Berryhill. “It’s something that should never happen. I kept it alive for them.”

The next batter, Luis Alicea, walked, loading the bases.

Cardinals manager Joe Torre sent Gerald Perry to pinch-hit for pitcher Cris Carpenter. Perry, a former Brave, ripped a bases-clearing double, making the score 11-9.

Ray Lankford popped out, ending the inning, but momentum had swung toward the Cardinals.

“When we got those three runs, we thought we had a chance,” Perry said.

Awesome Alicea

In the eighth, Berenguer walked Ozzie Smith. Jose followed with a home run, tying the score at 11-11.

Cox replaced Berenguer with Freeman.

Guerrero grounded out, Jordan doubled and Zeile struck out.

With two outs and Jordan at second, the Braves opted to intentionally walk Pagnozzi and pitch to Alicea, the St. Louis second baseman who was batting .115. Since the season began, Alicea was 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Alicea thwarted the strategy with a single to left. Jordan, racing for the plate, stepped on Berryhill’s foot and fell to the ground. Froemming called him safe, giving the Cardinals a 12-11 lead.

Some thought Jordan’s foot never touched the plate, but Berryhill said, “I don’t know if I tagged him.”

Jordan told the Associated Press, “I was looking to run over him, but he stepped back. He had his foot on the plate, but I kicked it or stepped on it. I scored.”

Defying the odds

Cardinals closer Lee Smith retired the Braves in order in the ninth, sealing the win.

The Braves scored all of their runs against left-handers: Cormier, Agosto and McClure. They were held scoreless by right-handers Carpenter, Mike Perez and Smith.

“This is the best (comeback) I’ve ever witnessed,” Perry said.

Said Cox: “You’re disappointed in every loss, but the odds on you losing a nine-run lead are about 500-to-1.” Boxscore

Previously: How Braves rallied from 9 down to beat Cardinals

Read Full Post »

Predictably, a brawl involving two of the most temperamental characters in the major leagues, “The Mad Hungarian” and “One Tough Dominican,” was both intense and cartoonish.

Forty years ago, on May 6, 1977, a melee among the Astros and Cardinals occurred in the ninth inning of a game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Astros batter Cesar Cedeno took issue with being drilled by a pitch from Cardinals reliever Al Hrabosky, the self-psyching showman known as “The Mad Hungarian.”

When Cedeno charged the mound, both dugouts emptied and fights erupted across the field, lasting 10 minutes before the game could resume.

Besides Hrabosky and Cedeno, the most prominent combatants included:

_ Joaquin Andujar, the Astros pitcher and self-proclaimed “One Tough Dominican,” who, like Cedeno, would play for the Cardinals in the 1980s.

_ Ted Simmons, the strong-willed Cardinals catcher and on-field leader.

_ Roger Freed, the burly and popular Cardinals pinch-hitter.

_ Dave Rader, a Cardinals backup catcher and former all-league high school football linebacker.

_ Cliff Johnson, a strapping 6-foot-4 Astros power hitter.

Asked by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to summarize the histrionics, Astros player Enos Cabell aptly declared: “It was a goodie.”

Slap happy

Tensions began to build in the seventh inning. With the Cardinals ahead, 2-0, Johnson was grazed by a pitch from starter Pete Falcone.

Simmons, crouched behind the plate, and Johnson exchanged words.

“He didn’t think I got hit,” Johnson told the Post-Dispatch.

In what he said was a playful gesture, Johnson slapped Simmons in the head.

“I told him, ‘Clifford, relax,’ ” Simmons said. “He told me, ‘Take it easy.’ ”

Said Johnson: “I was just trying to get his attention.”

In the eighth, Hrabosky relieved Falcone and retired the Astros in order. The Cardinals scored twice in the bottom half of the inning and took a 4-0 lead into the ninth.

Mind games

As Cedeno approached the plate to lead off the ninth, Hrabosky went behind the mound, turned his back on the batter and went into his self-motivating meditation act.

Miffed, Cedeno left the batter’s box, went to the on-deck circle, used a rag to apply pine tar to his bat handle and waited for Hrabosky to get onto the mound.

Bob Engel, home plate umpire, “waved in disgust” for Hrabosky to pitch, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Hrabosky “threw up his hands in seeming protest,” wrote Rick Hummel.

The first pitch, a fastball, plunked Cedeno in the left arm.

Cedeno dropped his bat and advanced toward the mound. Hrabosky dropped his glove and waited.

As they neared, Cedeno threw a punch. Hrabosky ducked, avoiding the blow.

“If I get knocked down, I’m in a world of trouble,” Hrabosky said.

Simmons stormed toward Cedeno and jumped on his back.

Bedlam reigns

Battles broke out all over.

Andujar, at the center of a fight near the third-base line, swung wildly in every direction. One of his swipes nearly clipped umpire Bill Williams in the jaw.

After Williams ejected Andujar, the pitcher desperately tried to get at the umpire and had to be restrained by coach Deacon Jones and teammate Bob Watson. Colleague John McSherry prevented Williams from going after Andujar, according to United Press International.

Cedeno was involved in multiple skirmishes, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Simmons, after rescuing Hrabosky, dived “into a pileup in an attempt at peacemaking” and then shed “his catching equipment, with the exception of one shin guard, and motioned the Astros to come after him if they wished,” Hummel reported.

Though some Astros moved toward him, none dared take on Simmons.

“They were doing a lot of woofing,” Simmons said.

Johnson, the Astros outfielder, tried to lighten the mood by shadow boxing some of the Cardinals, comically tugging at an umpire’s jacket and pretending to kick another umpire in the rear.

As the field began to clear, Cedeno and Freed got into a fight near the first-base line. While the two threw punches, Rader bolted toward Cedeno, tackled him around the midsection and drove him back 15 yards, Hummel wrote. Video

Show goes on

Andujar and Freed were the only players ejected.

When the game resumed, Hrabosky and Simmons still were the St. Louis battery and Cedeno was the base runner at first.

Cedeno swiped second and Watson drew a walk.

Hrabosky got Joe Ferguson to hit into a third-to-first double play, with Watson advancing to second. Johnson doubled, driving in Watson and making the score 4-1.

Art Howe walked, bringing the potential tying run to the plate. Hrabosky finally ended the drama by getting Cabell to line out to shortstop Garry Templeton. Boxscore

Lighten up

Hrabosky claimed the pitch that struck Cedeno wasn’t intentional. “I just thought it was an inside pitch,” he told the Associated Press. “I’ve been told there are certain people I’m supposed to pitch up and in. I know there’s a certain way I have to pitch him and I’m going to do it.”

Said Simmons: “I didn’t call for it (a brushback pitch). I think you have to assume it was an accident.”

The Astros weren’t buying that explanation. “There should have been more punches thrown,” said Watson. “You don’t hit a man and get away with it. It was flagrant. The umpire should have kicked Hrabosky out.”

In the clubhouse, after tempers cooled, Johnson, the prankster, waited for Cedeno to head to the showers, then placed an autographed photo of Hrabosky on his teammate’s chair. The picture was inscribed, “Next time, it’ll be two.”

When Cedeno returned to his locker and saw the photo, he looked around the clubhouse, yelled, “Damn you, Johnson,” and laughed.

Previously: Cesar Cedeno and his amazing month with Cardinals

Read Full Post »

Proving he was recovered from major surgery and still possessed the ability to alter the outcome of a game, Ray Lankford dazzled the Dodgers in an epic ninth-inning performance that delivered a victory for the Cardinals against one of their former standouts.

In his first game since undergoing an off-season rotator cuff operation on his left shoulder, Lankford sparked a Cardinals comeback against the Dodgers and their closer, Todd Worrell, 20 years ago on April 22, 1997.

The Cardinals trailed by a run with two outs and none on in the ninth when Lankford performed his magic.

Help wanted

The Cardinals went to Los Angeles to complete a road trip that began with three games in Miami against the Marlins and continued with three versus the Padres in Honolulu.

Lankford, working his way back to form on an injury rehabilitation assignment with the Class A minor-league affiliate at Prince William, Va., initially wasn’t expected to rejoin the Cardinals until May 1.

However, when the Cardinals struggled to score five total runs over four games _ a pair of 2-1 losses to the Marlins and wins of 1-0 and 2-1 over the Padres _ general manager Walt Jocketty sent Jerry Walker, vice president for player personnel, to watch Lankford at Prince William.

When Jocketty received a glowing report _ “Jerry said he was swinging the bat well and throwing well,” Jocketty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch _ the Cardinals brought Lankford to Los Angeles for the series opener against the Dodgers.

Call the closer

La Russa put Lankford in center field and batted him third in the order, behind Ron Gant and ahead of Brian Jordan, against Dodgers starter Pedro Astacio. Lankford drew a walk in the first inning, grounded out in the third, doubled in the fifth and flied out in the seventh.

In the ninth, Dodgers manager Bill Russell brought in Worrell to protect a 4-3 lead.

Worrell, 37, had pitched six seasons (1985-89 and 1992) for the Cardinals, amassing 129 saves and a 2.56 ERA. He was a key member of their 1985 and 1987 pennant-winning clubs.

The former Cardinal had gotten off to a good start for the 1997 Dodgers, with five saves and a 1.12 ERA.

Speed burns

Worrell appeared on his way to a routine save against the Cardinals. He retired Delino DeShields on a groundout and struck out Gant.

Lankford came up next and reached first safely on an infield single.

With Jordan at the plate, Lankford swiped second. Then he stole third.

“When we let catchers know that we’re running, that can kind of mess them up a little,” Lankford said.

A rattled Worrell walked Jordan.

“The prevailing theory is that when Lankford got to third with the tying run Worrell was reluctant to throw his slider for fear he would bounce it in the dirt,” wrote Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

The next batter, Gary Gaetti, was 2-for-19 on the season with runners in scoring position. With Jordan running on the pitch, Worrell grooved a fastball that Gaetti pulled into the left-field corner, scoring Lankford and Jordan and giving the Cardinals a 5-4 lead.

John Mabry followed with a double to right-center, scoring Gaetti.

“You don’t see that happen very often when Todd can’t hold the lead,” Russell told the Los Angeles Times.

Said Worrell: “Some nights you have it, some nights you don’t. I can’t get the third out. It makes it hard to swallow.”

Cardinals closer Dennis Eckersley set down the Dodgers in order in the bottom of the ninth, sealing the 6-4 St. Louis victory. Boxscore

Pressure points

“I figured (Lankford) would provide a spark,” said Jocketty. “I think he put some life into the team.”

Said La Russa: “Could it be any better than that? It was just the way he did it. He got base hits, he walked, he stole bases, he played good defense. Wow.”

The next night, April 23, the Dodgers led the Cardinals, 2-1, with one out and the bases empty in the ninth when Russell brought in Worrell. Gaetti greeted him with an infield single and was lifted for a pinch-runner, Steve Scarsone.

Mabry struck out and Scarsone swiped second.

Up next was Gant. He hit a towering fly into a 25-mph wind to left that was caught for the final out. “If the wind hadn’t been blowing in,” said Worrell, “that ball might have gone out.” Boxscore

Worrell, in the last year of an 11-season major-league career, posted 35 saves for the 1997 Dodgers, but had a 2-6 record and 5.28 ERA.

Lankford had one of his best Cardinals seasons in 1997. He batted .295 with 36 doubles, 31 home runs, 98 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 133 games. His on-base percentage of .411 was his single-season career high.

Previously: Ray Lankford found redemption in 5-strikeout game

Read Full Post »

Embracing the aloha spirit, the Cardinals accepted an opportunity for a Hawaiian adventure and avoided trouble in paradise.

Agreeing to a request by the Padres, the Cardinals participated in the first regular-season major-league games played in Hawaii 20 years ago in April 1997.

The three games against the Padres in Honolulu were part of a 10,200-mile Cardinals road trip that included stops in Miami and Los Angeles.

“There is a special challenge every season. This will be one of them,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The risk was worth the reward. The Cardinals won two of the three games played in Hawaii, drew large crowds to Aloha Stadium and enjoyed the visit.

“If this isn’t heaven, it’s close to it,” Cardinals outfielder Ron Gant said.

Player approval

The Padres, who in 1996 played the Mets in Monterrey, Mexico, in the first big-league regular-season series outside the United States or Canada, were seeking to expand their fan base and marketing reach by scheduling a 1997 series in Hawaii.

Initially, the Padres asked the Astros to move a series from San Diego to Honolulu, but the Houston club declined.

The Padres then turned to the Cardinals.

Cardinals management approached catcher Tom Pagnozzi, the club’s players union representative, and asked him to put the idea to a vote of his teammates. Pagnozzi said Cardinals players voted almost unanimously to play the Padres in Honolulu rather than San Diego.

“It was not a close vote,” Pagnozzi told the Post-Dispatch. “It was completely one-sided. That surprised me a lot.”

Said Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty: “We gave the players the right to say yes or no. We wouldn’t have done it if the players hadn’t agreed to it.”

Jocketty said the Padres “are paying our expenses over what they would have been if we had played in San Diego.”

While in Hawaii, Cardinals players were to get double the usual amount of meal money _ $125 per day.

“Another 100 beans and I’m going to be styling in Hawaii,” Cardinals reliever Dennis Eckersley said.

Cross country trip

After finishing a homestand in St. Louis on Monday, April 14, the Cardinals went to Miami to play three games with the Marlins. After losing the series finale on Thursday afternoon, April 17, the Cardinals boarded a plane in Fort Lauderdale for a 12-hour trip to Honolulu.

The Padres, who finished a road trip in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, April 16, got to Hawaii on Thursday, April 17, a day ahead of the Cardinals.

“Maybe they’re already drinking Mai Tais,” Cardinals pitcher Todd Stottlemyre said.

The Cardinals arrived in Honolulu at 2 a.m. on Friday, April 18. The Padres scheduled a workout at Aloha Stadium for their players that day. The Cardinals told their players to take the day off.

La Russa told the Post-Dispatch he probably would use the off day to visit the U.S.S. Arizona. Players John Mabry, Mark Sweeney and T.J. Mathews went surfing. Third baseman Gary Gaetti tried snorkeling.

Pitching prowess

The Cardinals and Padres were scheduled to play a doubleheader on Saturday, April 19, starting at 4:05 pm on the artificial surface of Aloha Stadium.

In the opener, Cardinals starting pitcher Matt Morris was struck on his right hand by a Tony Gwynn line drive in the first inning.

Morris completed a scoreless first and batted in the second, then departed when he couldn’t grip the ball.

Mark Petkovsek relieved and pitched six scoreless innings. Mathews and Eckersley finished with a scoreless inning apiece and the Cardinals won, 1-0. The run was scored in the sixth when, with two outs, Brian Jordan doubled, swiped third and went home on catcher John Flaherty’s wild throw. Boxscore

“I had a good fastball down in the zone,” Petkovsek told the Honolulu Advertiser. “As we progressed into the game, I used my changeup and curve a little more.”

The Cardinals won the second game, 2-1, behind the three-hit pitching of Alan Benes and a RBI apiece by Sweeney and Mabry. Boxscore

Attendance for the doubleheader was 37,382.

The Cardinals became the first team to sweep a doubleheader with three total runs since the Indians beat the Blue Jays by the same scores on May 17, 1981.

Second bananas

In the 2:05 pm series finale on Sunday, April 20, the Padres won, 8-2, before a crowd of 40,050. The Cardinals’ highlight was Gant’s inside-the-park home run.

Gant circled the bases and belly-flopped across home plate after center fielder Rickey Henderson crashed into the wall while pursuing the drive. “I thought I had a pretty good jump on it, but when you get out toward the wall it seems like you’re going downhill _ and then I stumbled a little bit,” Henderson told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Boxscore

Reaction from the Cardinals to the Hawaii experience largely was positive.

“The trip wasn’t really a problem,” La Russa said. “We had plenty of time with the day off. The toughest part of this was playing a doubleheader and then coming back the next day to play when it’s really warm.”

La Russa was surprised the Padres organized the Hawaii weekend, not Major League Baseball (which did endorse it). Thus, the Padres were promoted more heavily and more favorably than the Cardinals.

In his column for the Star-Bulletin, Dave Reardon wrote, “La Russa didn’t like his team being billed as the Washington Capitals to the Padres’ Harlem Globetrotters. Can’t blame him.”

After the finale, the Cardinals went to Los Angeles, had an off day on Monday, April 21, and opened a series against the Dodgers with a 6-4 victory on Tuesday, April 22.

Previously: Before Kolten Wong, Joe DeSa gave Cards Hawaiian punch

Read Full Post »

In a pivotal Easter weekend showdown with the Mets, the Cardinals proved to the reigning World Series champions they wouldn’t be intimidated, even when the Redbirds _ and their best pitcher _ got a bad break.

Looking to re-establish themselves as contenders, the Cardinals swept a three-game series from the Mets 30 years ago in April 1987.

The glory of that achievement was marred, however, when Cardinals ace John Tudor broke a bone below his right knee in a freak dugout collision with Mets catcher Barry Lyons on Easter Sunday.

“We got a sweep, but the broom broke,” Cardinals trainer Gene Gieselmann said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

With Tudor projected to be sidelined for three months, it appeared the Cardinals’ chances of dethroning the Mets had been damaged.

Instead, the Cardinals pulled together and, with Tudor’s help down the stretch, won their third National League pennant in six years.

Message delivered

In 1986, the Mets had a 108-54 record, finishing 28.5 games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL East, and went on to win the pennant and World Series championship. The Mets won eight of nine games in St. Louis against the Cardinals that season.

The April 17-19 series was the Mets’ first visit to St. Louis in 1987 and the Cardinals wanted to send an early message that they wouldn’t be pushovers.

Tudor started the series opener on April 17 and got the win in a 4-3 Cardinals victory. In the fifth inning, with the Mets ahead, 3-2, Tudor started the comeback with a single off Bob Ojeda. Tommy Herr put the Cardinals in front, 4-3, with a two-run single. Ricky Horton pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Tudor for the save. Boxscore

Herr delivered another key blow in the second game of the series on April 18. After the Cardinals got a run in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score at 8-8, Herr hit a grand slam off Jesse Orosco with two outs in the 10th, lifting St. Louis to a 12-8 triumph. Boxscore

Fateful foul

The Easter Sunday pitching matchup on April 19 in the series finale was Greg Mathews for the Cardinals against Sid Fernandez.

In the third, with the Cardinals ahead, 1-0, St. Louis slugger Jack Clark lofted a pop fly that carried toward the home team dugout.

Lyons, making his first start of the season in place of Gary Carter, who was getting a day off, gave chase, barreling full steam in pursuit of the ball.

Looking skyward, Lyons kept running hard as he neared the Cardinals’ dugout.

“I thought I had a play on it, but the ball was right in the sun and I couldn’t judge where I was,” Lyons told the Post-Dispatch.

Reckless chase

Tudor and teammates were standing on the first step of the dugout. As his teammates scattered, Tudor reached out to try to prevent Lyons from tumbling down the steps and onto the dugout floor.

“I tried to catch him,” Tudor said. “I don’t know what the hell he was thinking about. He never even broke stride. If I wasn’t there, I don’t know what would have happened to him.

“I got up on the first step, expecting him to slide. Most catchers come in and slide and you can stop them … He never stopped. When I tried to sidestep him, he took me that way. He kind of pinned me. He caught my foot _ and hip _ against the bench. The bottom of my foot was against the bench.”

The collision snapped Tudor’s right tibia bone. Lyons was unhurt. Video

The ball, uncatchable, landed several rows into the stands.

Said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog: “Nobody thought Barry was coming in. There wasn’t any play. The Easter Bunny couldn’t have caught that ball _ and he can jump.”

Costly win

Tudor was taken to a hospital and his right leg was placed in a cast.

The Cardinals went on to win the game, 4-2, completing the sweep. Boxscore

“You look at the three games they won and I think the deciding factor in all of them was defense,” said Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson. “… They’re probably the best defensive ball club in baseball. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

A force that would be without Tudor until August.

“Now we’ll see how good I can manage,” Herzog said.

Happy ending

When Tudor returned to the lineup Aug. 1 for a start against the Pirates, the resilient Cardinals were in first place in the NL East at 62-39, four games in front of the Expos and 6.5 ahead of the Mets.

Tudor won eight of nine decisions after he returned, finishing with a 10-2 record for the season.

The last of those wins came on Oct. 2 when Tudor faced Lyons for the first time since Easter. Lyons singled twice in two at-bats against Tudor _ “He hit two changeups that I hung. Bad pitches,” Tudor said _ but the Cardinals won, 3-2. Boxscore

St. Louis finished the regular season atop the NL East at 95-67, three ahead of the runner-up Mets, and clinched the pennant by winning four of seven in the NL Championship Series against the Giants.

Previously: How Cardinals held off Mets in October 1985 drama

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »