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In the home of the Big Red Machine, it was a Cardinal, Ray Lankford, who put on an unprecedented display of jaw-dropping power.

Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium was the venue for Reds teams that won four National League pennants and two World Series championships from 1970 to 1976. Those teams had sluggers such as Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and George Foster.

Yet, it was Lankford who became the first to hit two home runs in one game into the upper-level red seats in the fourth deck of the Cincinnati stadium.

Lankford achieved the feat 20 years ago, on July 15, 1997. By then, the stadium had been renamed Cinergy Field.

Sonic boom

Lankford was in the cleanup spot in the St. Louis batting order against Reds starter Brett Tomko, a rookie right-hander.

In the first inning, with Danny Sheaffer on base, Lankford got a fastball on a 2-and-1 count and drove it 448 feet into the empty red seats in right field, becoming the first Cardinals batter to reach the upper deck since the stadium opened in 1970.

“When you hit a ball like that, it’s just a different feel and a different sound,” Lankford said to The Cincinnati Post. “The ball just jumps, like you’re hitting a golf ball with a bat.”

Reds catcher Joe Oliver told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The crack of the bat was deafening.”

When Lankford came up again in the third inning, three fans scurried into the red seats in right. Batting with the bases empty, Lankford again got a fastball on a 2-and-1 count and propelled it 439 feet into the upper deck.

“Fastballs. Both belt-high. Right down the middle,” Tomko said to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa: “You’ve got a pitcher with good stuff and a hitter with full extension. That makes for some serious distance.”

Exclusive group

Until Lankford, only one player, Foster, had hit two upper-deck home runs at the stadium in one year, but no one, not even the Cardinals’ Mark Whiten, had hit two in one game. Whiten hit four home runs in a game at Riverfront Stadium on Sept. 7, 1993, but none reached the red seats.

Foster hit the most career upper-deck home runs (six) at the stadium.

Lankford became the sixth visiting player to hit a home run into the red seats. The others: the Expos’ Bob Bailey, the Pirates’ Dave Parker, the Phillies’ Greg Luzinski, the Mets’ Darryl Strawberry and the Rockies’ Dante Bichette.

“I don’t know how to pitch to Lankford,” Reds manager Ray Knight said. “I know one thing, you don’t pitch him anywhere he can get the fat part of the bat on it.”

When Lankford came to bat for the third time, in the fifth inning, Oliver turned to him and said, “I knew you were strong, but this is ridiculous.”

About 30 fans went into the red seats in right, hoping Lankford would launch another up there, but reliever Felix Rodriguez issued an intentional walk to him.

In his last two plate appearances that night, Lankford struck out and walked. Boxscore

At the time of Lankford’s feat, bopper Mark McGwire still was with the Athletics. (McGwire would be traded to the Cardinals two weeks later, on July 31, 1997.)

Asked by the Post-Dispatch whether Lankford’s clouts reminded him of McGwire, whom he had managed in Oakland, La Russa replied, “He reminds me of Ray Lankford.”

Previously: Mark Whiten, Josh Hamilton: Same feat, different path

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To avoid setting a major-league record for futility, Anthony Young needed to beat the Cardinals. He couldn’t do it.

On June 27, 1993, Young was the losing pitcher in a 5-3 Cardinals victory over the Mets at New York.

That gave Young losses in 24 consecutive decisions over two seasons, surpassing the big-league mark of 23 straight defeats by Cliff Curtis of the 1910-11 Braves.

Young would lose 27 decisions in a row before earning a win.

He died at 51 on June 27, 2017 _ 24 years to the day after setting his unwanted record.

On the skids

Young, a defensive back, had been a University of Houston football teammate of Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware, but baseball was Young’s preferred sport and he believed it offered him his best chance for a professional career.

A right-hander, Young made his big-league debut with the 1991 Mets and was 2-5 with a 3.10 ERA that season. One of those losses came against the Cardinals.

In 1992, Young won his first two decisions, including an April 9 start against the Cardinals. He then lost 14 decisions in a row, including two to the Cardinals, and finished with a 2-14 record and 4.17 ERA for the 1992 Mets.

Young was 0-9 in 1993 _ giving him a record-tying 23 consecutive losses over two seasons _ when he entered the June 27 game against the Cardinals at Shea Stadium

Playing with fire

The Mets scored twice in the first, but the Cardinals rallied against Young with three runs in the fourth and two in the sixth. Rod Brewer contributed a two-run double for St. Louis and Brian Jordan, Tom Pagnozzi and starting pitcher Joe Magrane each had a RBI-single.

Each starter pitched seven innings: Magrane allowed 10 hits, no walks and three runs. Young yielded eight hits, two walks and five runs.

Magrane, who earned his fifth consecutive win, was relieved Young didn’t break his losing streak against him.

“I would have rather faced Doc Gooden or Bret Saberhagen,” Magrane said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I certainly didn’t want to be the answer to a trivia question. I was really scared of the game. It was like dancing on the rim of Vesuvius, waiting for it to explode. I was hoping that I wasn’t going to be the one to be torched.” Boxscore

Said Young: “It was the same old thing. I thought I pitched a pretty good game except for a couple of hits.”

Dallas Green, who was evaluating all the Mets after replacing Jeff Torborg as manager a month earlier, said of Young, “He has a great arm … but the important things to scout are the head and the heart.”

Cardinals closer Lee Smith, expressing empathy for Young, said to the Associated Press, “I’d tell him to hang in there. I know what he’s going through. I was with the Cubs.”

Season to forget

After that loss to the Cardinals, Young lost three more in a row, stretching the streak to 27, before he earned a win on July 28 against the Marlins.

Young finished the 1993 season with a 1-16 record and a 3.77 ERA.

He spent the 1994 and 1995 seasons with the Cubs, posting an overall mark of 7-10, before completing his major-league career with a 3-3 record for the 1996 Astros.

His overall record in the majors is 15-48 with a 3.89 ERA.

Young’s career record against the Cardinals is 1-6 with a 2.86 ERA in 16 appearances, including six starts. Three of his losses during his streak of 27 were to St. Louis.

Previously: Why 22-game loser Roger Craig appealed to Cardinals

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Johnny Rizzo, once a top hitting prospect in the St. Louis system, had his best big-league game against the Cardinals, setting a record that lasted more than 75 years.

Playing for the Pirates, Rizzo produced nine RBI versus the Cardinals in the second game of a Memorial Day doubleheader on May 30, 1939. That was the single-game record by a Cardinals opponent until Scooter Gennett of the Reds had 10 RBI against St. Louis on June 6, 2017.

Rizzo, a left fielder, achieved his feat with two home runs, two doubles and a single at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. He had gone hitless in four at-bats in the opener.

No vacancy

Rizzo, a right-handed batter, played five seasons (1933-37) in the Cardinals organization. He batted better than .300 each year, but never got called up to St. Louis.

In 1937, the Columbus (Ohio) Red Birds, a Cardinals farm club in the American Association, had two outstanding outfielders: Rizzo and Enos Slaughter.

Rizzo batted .358 with 209 hits in 150 games for Columbus. He had 38 doubles, 18 triples and 21 home runs.

Slaughter batted a league-leading .382 with 245 hits in 154 games for Columbus. He had 42 doubles, 13 triples and 26 home runs.

Both clearly were ready to play in the big leagues in 1938.

The Cardinals had two outfield mainstays: Joe Medwick in left and Terry Moore in center. That left one spot, right field, for either Slaughter or Rizzo. Cardinals executive Branch Rickey opted for Slaughter, rating him a better all-around player than Rizzo.

In October 1937, the Cardinals traded Rizzo to the Pirates for catcher Tom Padden, outfielder Bud Hafey and minor-league first baseman Bernard Cobb. Rizzo “was sought by several other clubs, notably the Cubs, but Rickey saw something in the Pittsburgh (offer) that appealed to him,” The Sporting News reported.

Rizzo had a better rookie season than Slaughter in 1938. Rizzo batted .301 with 23 home runs and 111 RBI for the Pirates. Slaughter batted .276 with eight home runs and 58 RBI for the Cardinals.

Pirates power

A year later, Rizzo was in a slump and his batting average was at .239 heading into the second game of the Memorial Day doubleheader against the Cardinals. A day earlier, Rizzo had hit into a triple play.

Still, manager Pie Traynor kept him in the No. 3 spot in the batting order.

Facing starter Clyde Shoun, Rizzo had a RBI-single in the first, popped out to shortstop in the third and hit a three-run home run in the fifth. Rizzo added a single off Mort Cooper in the fifth.

With the score tied at 7-7 in the eighth, the Pirates had runners on second and third, none out, and Arky Vaughan at the plate. The Cardinals opted to give an intentional walk to Vaughan, loading the bases, and pitch to Rizzo.

Rizzo ripped a double off Curt Davis, clearing the bases and giving the Pirates a 10-7 lead. “The ball was hit with such force that it bounded off the wall, away from Joe Medwick and Pepper Martin,” The Pittsburgh Press reported.

In the ninth, Rizzo hit a two-run home run off Bob Bowman, capping a 5-for-6 performance in a 14-8 Pirates victory. Boxscore

Rizzo finished the 1939 season with a .261 batting average, six home runs and 55 RBI. He spent three more seasons (1940-42) in the big leagues with four teams: Pirates, Reds, Phillies and Dodgers.

Previously: Cards rookie Enos Slaughter set torrid extra-hit pace

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Among the most proficient teammate combinations in professional sports in St. Louis in the 1960s were Tim McCarver catching Bob Gibson with the baseball Cardinals, Lenny Wilkens passing to Bob Pettit with the NBA Hawks and Charley Johnson throwing to Sonny Randle with the NFL Cardinals.

Randle, who died May 24, 2017, at 81, was one of the NFL’s best receivers when he played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1960-66 after entering the league with the 1959 Chicago Cardinals.

On Nov. 4, 1962, Randle had what the St Louis Post-Dispatch aptly described as “one of the most exceptional pass-catching days” in NFL lore.

Randle had 16 catches for 256 yards and a touchdown that day for the Cardinals against the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium.

At that time, the only NFL player to have more catches in a game was Tom Fears of the Los Angeles Rams with 18 against the Green Bay Packers in 1950.

(In 2017, the NFL record is held by Brandon Marshall, who had 21 catches for the Denver Broncos against the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 13, 2009.)

The 16 catches and 256 receiving yards by Randle remain the Cardinals’ single-game franchise records in 2017.

Johnson, in his fourth NFL start, completed 26 of 41 passes for 365 yards that day. He broke the franchise single-game record of 320 passing yards achieved by Paul Christman of the 1947 Chicago Cardinals against the Detroit Lions. (In 2017, the franchise mark is held by Boomer Esiason, who threw for 522 yards for the Arizona Cardinals against the Washington Redskins on Nov. 10, 1996.)

Position shift

Randle usually lined up at split end on the left side, but against the Giants that day Cardinals head coach Wally Lemm had him set up mostly from a flanker position on the right side, according to the Post-Dispatch. Randle was matched against Giants defensive back Dick Lynch, who the season before had led the NFL in interceptions (with nine).

In the book “Giants in Their Own Words,” Lynch recalled how Randle tormented him that game: “He didn’t catch all 16 off me, but it was a rough day _ what I like to call an astigmatism day.”

Randle credited Johnson, who in that season’s fifth game had succeeded Sam Etcheverry as St. Louis’ starting quarterback, for getting the ball to him. The Post-Dispatch called Johnson a “slingshot thrower.”

“He has the poise of a five- or six-year veteran,” Randle said. “He’s going to be a great one. If he didn’t panic against New York in this game, what team can get to him?”

Falling short

The record performances by Randle and Johnson couldn’t lift the Cardinals to victory, though. The Giants won, 31-28, taking advantage of five turnovers by the Cardinals.

With St. Louis ahead 14-10, the lead changed five times in the fourth quarter when the Giants outscored the Cardinals 21-14.

Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle, who completed just eight of 31 passes in the game, had touchdown throws of 33 yards to Frank Gifford and 20 yards to Alex Webster in that last quarter and Webster also ran three yards for a touchdown.

The Cardinals scored two touchdowns in the second quarter (an eight-yard pass from Johnson to tight end Taz Anderson and a four-yard run by John David Crow) and two more in the fourth quarter (a 55-yard peg from Johnson to Randle and a one-yard plunge by Johnson).

On their final drive, the Cardinals were nearing field goal range but Lynch intercepted a pass intended for Randle at the Giants 27-yard line.

In 97 games over eight seasons with the Chicago and St. Louis Cardinals, Randle had 60 touchdown catches among his 328 receptions. In 2017, he ranks third all-time in touchdown receptions among Cardinals. Only Larry Fitzgerald (104) and Roy Green (66) have more.

Randle in 2017 also remains the Cardinals franchise leader in touchdown catches in a season (with 15 in 1960).

Previously: How Sonny Randle helped Cardinals base runners

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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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After a season in which he ranked among the National League leaders, no one would have figured Cardinals ace Mort Cooper would do better as a hitter than as a pitcher in the 1942 World Series.

mort_cooper5Cooper, who led the NL in wins (22), shutouts (10) and ERA (1.78) and placed among the top two in strikeouts (152), starts (35) and innings pitched (278.2), started Games 1 and 4 of the 1942 World Series against the Yankees.

To the surprise of most, the right-hander posted an 0-1 record and 5.54 ERA in those two games.

However, in Game 4, Cooper delivered a two-run single off starter Hank Borowy and scored a run, contributing to a 9-6 Cardinals triumph and putting the Yankees on the brink of elimination.

In the ninth inning, Cardinals reliever Max Lanier, who got the win, produced a RBI-single off Tiny Bonham, the Yankees’ 6-foot-2, 215-pound pitcher.

Pitchers with pop

With the run-scoring hits from Cooper and Lanier, the 1942 Cardinals are one of five teams that have had two pitchers produce RBI in a postseason game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The others:

_ Jack Bentley and Hugh McQuillan for the Giants versus the Senators in Game 5 of the 1924 World Series.

_ Lefty Gomez and Johnny Murphy for the Yankees versus the Giants in Game 6 of the 1936 World Series.

_ Steve Avery and Mike Stanton for the Braves versus the Pirates in Game 2 of the 1992 NL Championship Series.

_ Kyle Hendricks and Travis Wood for the Cubs versus the Giants in Game 2 of the 2016 NL Division Series.

Cooper contributes

Cooper was the losing pitcher in the 1942 World Series opener on Sept. 30. He yielded 10 hits, three walks and five runs in 7.2 innings.

After the Cardinals won Games 2 and 3, manager Billy Southworth opted to start Cooper in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium on three days’ rest on Oct. 4 rather than Lanier, a 13-game winner who hadn’t yet appeared in the 1942 World Series.

Lanier, a left-hander, had made 20 starts for the 1942 Cardinals, but he was 5-0 with a 1.25 ERA in 14 relief appearances that season.

The Yankees led, 1-0, in Game 4 before the Cardinals scored six runs in the fourth. Stan Musial opened the inning with a bunt single. The Cardinals took the lead on Whitey Kurowski’s two-run single and Cooper, who batted .184 with seven RBI during the regular season, increased the advantage to 4-1 with his two-run hit.

“Cooper found an outside pitch to his liking and blooped a single to right that sent (Johnny) Hopp and Kurowski home and moved (Marty) Marion to third,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Run-scoring hits by Terry Moore and Musial capped the inning and gave the Cardinals a 6-1 advantage.

Manager misjudgment

Cooper, though, couldn’t shut down the Yankees. He surrendered five runs in 5.1 innings.

Cooper “went into the classic too tired to show at his best,” wrote columnist Dan Daniel in The Sporting News. “After he had been batted out of the first game, he decided that his troubles traced to his fastball. When again he encountered the Bombers (in Game 4), he tried to get by on his curve and it was nothing much. He just didn’t have it.”

Fortunately for the Cardinals, Lanier, who followed Cooper and relievers Harry Gumbert and Howie Pollet, pitched three scoreless innings for the win.

The Cardinals clinched the title with their fourth consecutive victory in Game 5.

“About my only regret was that the Yankees did not see the real Mort Cooper,” Southworth said. “In Mort’s first game, he just wasn’t sharp. He was too careful. In his second start, he should have had another day’s rest. I was to blame. But Mort wanted to go and I admit I wanted him to. I should have waited another day.” Boxscore

Previously: Big-game losses haunt Mort Cooper, Justin Verlander

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