Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Chet Laabs produced pipes to help win a war and home runs to help win a pennant.

Seventy-five years ago, on Oct. 1, 1944, Laabs hit a pair of two-run home runs, powering the St. Louis Browns to a 5-2 victory over the Yankees and clinching the club’s lone American League championship.

The Browns went on to play the Cardinals in the only all-St. Louis World Series.

Laabs was an unlikely hero, even for the Browns, who were described by the New York Daily News as “a ragbag ball team pieced together from remnants shed away by the rest of the circuit.”

A right-handed batter, Laabs, 32, had hit three home runs during the 1944 season before he slugged two in the pennant-clinching season finale.

His home run production was limited because when the season began he was working in a factory instead of in a ballpark.

Hard labor

Laabs began his major league career with the Tigers in 1937 and was traded to the Browns in 1939.

A 5-foot-8 outfielder, he hit 27 home runs for the Browns in 1942 and 17 the next season.

Laabs “derives tremendous power from muscular wrists and forearms,” the New York Daily News explained.

In February 1944, Laabs passed his Army induction physical, but his military service was deferred because he was older than 26. The Army put him to work in a fulltime defense job at a St. Louis plant, making pipes for construction of nuclear weapons used in World War II.

Because of the war work, Laabs missed spring training and wasn’t with the club when it won nine of its first 10 games to start the season.

In May, the Browns arranged for Laabs to play on weekends and in selected night games after his shift at the pipe plant, “but many times he was unable to even take part in batting practice” because the day job “kept him busy until a few moments before game time,” the St. Louis Star-Times reported.

Laabs appeared in his first game for the 1944 Browns on May 24. He returned fulltime to baseball in late June, but struggled. Laabs batted .133 in May, .154 in June, .239 in July and .172 in August. He hit a home run on May 30, didn’t hit another until July 18 and went two more months before hitting his third homer on Sept. 25.

The Star-Times called Laabs “the big bust of the Browns’ attack.”

Down to the wire

September was a good month for Laabs and the Browns. He batted .304 in September and the Browns went on a tear at the end of the month, winning 10 of their last 11 September games.

On the morning of Oct. 1, the last day of the 1944 regular season, the Browns and Tigers both had 88-65 records and were tied for first place. The Tigers were to finish at home against the Senators and the Browns had a game at home versus the Yankees.

At Detroit, the Senators’ knuckleball specialist, Dutch Leonard, was matched against the Tigers’ 27-game winner, Dizzy Trout.

At St. Louis, the largest home crowd in Browns history, 37,815, packed Sportsman’s Park for the Sunday afternoon game, looking for the hometown club to complete a four-game sweep of the defending champion Yankees.

The starting pitchers were the Yankees’ Mel Queen, a hard-throwing rookie, versus the Browns’ 35-year-old Sig Jakucki, a hard-drinking brawler.

In the minors, Jakucki beaned Cardinals prospect Johnny Keane, the future manager, and fractured his skull.

Jakucki made his big-league debut with the Browns in 1936 and didn’t return to the majors for eight years. The New York Daily News described him as “a tough solider who has rambled around the world, working his way by playing semi-pro baseball,” preferring “hoboing around the globe to playing in the big leagues.”

Jakucki was pitching for a shipyard team in Houston when the Browns rediscovered him and coaxed him back.

Going deep

Queen held the Browns hitless in the first three innings and the Yankees went ahead, 2-0. Browns batters treated Queen’s deliveries “as gently as if he were a lady,” the Star-Times noted.

Mike Kreevich got the Browns’ first hit, a line single to left, to lead off the fourth. Laabs came up next. According to the Star-Times, “There had even been a bit of booing when Laabs was announced as the starting left fielder.”

Undaunted, Laabs “cracked a fastball high into the left-field bleachers, the ball almost reaching the refreshment stand at the top,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Soon after Laabs’ longball tied the score at 2-2, the Sportsman’s Park scoreboard posted the final from Detroit, a 4-1 Senators victory. According to the Post-Dispatch, “the big crowd went wild, the cheering lasting for about five minutes.”

The Tigers’ loss meant the Browns would win the pennant if they beat the Yankees.

In the fifth, Kreevich singled with two outs and Laabs launched a slow curve from Queen 400 feet into the seats in left-center, giving the Browns a 4-2 lead.

Vern Stephens extended the lead to 5-2 with a solo home run against reliever Hank Borowy in the eighth.

Jakucki held the Yankees scoreless over the last six innings, completing the win. Boxscore

“His slider had plenty of sail and his curve was breaking fast and sharp,” Browns catcher Red Hayworth told United Press.

St. Louis showcase

In the victorious Browns clubhouse, “while his teammates sang, laughed, danced, kissed one another, Chet sat silently in front of his locker, wiping a towel across his brow,” the Star-Times observed. “He looked at the floor as if in a daze, as if he wondered if it were true.”

Asked about his home runs, Laabs said, “I think I hit the first one just a little bit harder. There was nothing to it.”

Billy Southworth, manager of the National League champion Cardinals, said he was “delighted” for the Browns and looked forward to the entire World Series being played in St. Louis.

“It’s going to be a nice family party,” Southworth said to the Post-Dispatch. “We won’t have to catch any trains or worry about hotel reservations or baggage. What’s more important, St. Louis can show the world that it can put on a World Series on its own.”

The Browns (89-65) were matched against a Cardinals club (105-49) which ran away with its third consecutive National League pennant, clinching the title on Sept. 21 and finishing 14.5 games ahead of the second-place Pirates.

The Browns won two of the first three World Series games before the Cardinals won the last three in a row. Jakucki started and lost Game 4, allowing four runs in three innings. Laabs had three hits in 15 World Series at-bats and no RBI.

With a chance to achieve an unprecedented feat, Garry Templeton did what was necessary to make it happen.

Forty years ago, on Sept. 28, 1979, Templeton became the first major-league player to get 100 hits from each side of the plate in one season.

The switch-hitting shortstop produced 211 hits _ 111 while batting from the left side and 100 while batting from the right side _ for the 1979 Cardinals.

Going all in

From Opening Day through Sept. 22, Templeton batted left-handed against right-handed pitching and right-handed versus left-handers.

With nine games left in the regular season, Templeton had 91 hits as a right-handed batter. He already had the 111 hits from the left side. To give himself the best shot at getting 100 from the right side, Templeton decided to bat exclusively right-handed the remainder of the season, regardless of whether he was facing a right-hander or a left-hander.

Some purists criticized the decision as selfish, saying Templeton would have a better chance of getting hits and helping his team by continuing to bat from the left side versus right-handers, but Templeton determined he likely would face more right-handers than left-handers and wanted to give himself a chance for the record.

“I wouldn’t be doing it if I wasn’t going for 100 hits,” Templeton said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Besides, Templeton was a natural right-hander and he hit for a higher average from that side of the plate. He became a switch-hitter at the Cardinals’ request when he was in the minors.

Of the nine hits Templeton produced after making the decision to bat exclusively right-handed, five came against right-handers and four versus left-handers.

“I thought I did all right,” Templeton said. “I hit a lot of breaking balls for hits.”

Making his move

After playing 18 innings in a doubleheader on Sept. 22, 1979, Templeton was kept out of the lineup by manager Ken Boyer in the next day’s game against the Mets at New York.

Templeton’s first game as an exclusively right-handed batter was Sept. 24, 1979, versus the Phillies at Philadelphia. He got a double and a single against left-handed starter Randy Lerch, giving him 93 hits for the season as a right-handed batter. Boxscore

The next night, Sept. 25, 1979, Templeton batted right-handed against a right-handed pitcher, starter Dan Larson, a former Cardinals prospect, and slugged a home run and a triple, moving his total to 95 hits as a right-handed batter. Boxscore

Templeton went 0-for-3 against the Phillies’ ace left-hander, Steve Carlton, in the series finale on Sept. 26, 1979.

The Cardinals went to Pittsburgh for their final road game on Sept. 27, 1979, and Templeton got a single off right-hander Don Robinson and a double against right-hander Kent Tekulve, bringing his total as a right-handed batter to 97. Boxscore

The Cardinals went from Pittsburgh to St. Louis to finish the season with four games against the Mets.

Getting it done

The Mets and Cardinals had a Friday night doubleheader on Sept. 28, 1979, at Busch Memorial Stadium.

In Game 1, Templeton singled against right-hander Juan Berenguer for his 98th hit as a right-handed batter. Boxscore

The Mets started left-hander Pete Falcone, Templeton’s former Cardinals teammate, in Game 2.

Templeton led off the first inning with a double to left, moving him within a hit of reaching his goal.

In his next at-bat, leading off the third, Templeton bunted down the third-base line and streaked to first for a single, his 100th hit of the season from the right side. His mission accomplished, Templeton was removed from the game for a pinch-runner, Mike Phillips. Boxscore

Asked about bunting for the record-setting hit, Templeton said, “I’d been wanting to bunt all the time.”

Templeton didn’t play the next day and he went 0-for-2 in the season finale on Sept. 30, 1979.

His 211 hits for the season led the National League and were one more than the 210 achieved by his teammate, left-handed batter Keith Hernandez. Templeton also led the league in triples (19) and his batting average was .314.

Elite group

Templeton, 23, joined Frankie Frisch and Pete Rose as switch-hitters who got 200 hits in a season two or more times. Templeton had 200 hits for the Cardinals in 1977. Rose did it 10 times (nine with the Reds and once with the Phillies) and Frisch did it three times (twice with the Giants and once with the Cardinals in 1927).

Templeton went on to play 16 years in the big leagues and produced 2,096 career hits, including 911 with the Cardinals.

In 1980, Willie Wilson of the Royals became the only other switch-hitter to get 100 hits from each side of the plate in one season. Wilson produced 230 total hits _ 130 from the left side and 100 from the right side _ for the 1980 Royals.

When the Cardinals acquired Wally Westlake from the Pirates, he seemed to be the ideal hitter to put pop into the cleanup spot, but it didn’t work out the way they expected.

Westlake, who played in the major leagues for 10 years, primarily with the Pirates, died Sept. 6, 2019, at 98.

In a stretch between 1949-51, he was one of the top hitters in the National League.

On June 15, 1951, the Cardinals traded five players _ pitchers Howie Pollet and Ted Wilks, catcher Joe Garagiola, outfielder Bill Howerton and infielder Dick Cole _ to the Pirates for Westlake and pitcher Cliff Chambers.

The surprise deal was big news because Westlake, 30, was among the National League leaders in home runs and RBI, and his departure upset many Pirates fans.

Westlake was acquired to be the Cardinals’ center fielder and to bat No. 4 in the order between future Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter.

“Baseball men believe the Cardinals got the best of the deal,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Said Pollet: “The Cards have been looking for a hard right-handed hitter and now they’ve got one.”

Position change

Westlake debuted in the majors with the Pirates in 1947. He had his first big season two years later when he hit .282 with 23 home runs and 104 RBI for the 1949 Pirates. In 1950, he had similar numbers: .285, 24 home runs, 95 RBI.

In 1951, Westlake began the season in left field. In the Pirates’ home opener, his home run was the decisive run in a 5-4 victory over the Cardinals. Boxscore

On May 8, 1951, Pirates manager Billy Meyer, acting on instructions from club executive Branch Rickey, moved Westlake to third base, a position he last played 10 years earlier in the minors. The move was made as part of an overall infield shift to add hitting to the lineup.

Westlake responded well, producing 34 RBI in 34 games as the third baseman.

Looking to deal

The 1951 Cardinals were struggling to score. Musial and Slaughter were productive left-handed hitters, but the club lacked a consistent power threat from the right side.

From June 1 through June 14, the Cardinals lost 10 of 14 games and scored two runs or less in eight of those defeats.

“Musial is the greatest player in the game today _ he’s always on base _ but he can’t do it all himself,” Cardinals manager Marty Marion said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Cardinals made an offer for Andy Pafko, a right-handed hitter who played center field for the Cubs, but he was dealt to the Dodgers.

“The strange thing is we offered the Cubs considerably more for Pafko than the Dodgers did, but the deal was turned down as not enough,” Cardinals owner Fred Saigh said.

According to The Sporting News, the Cubs wanted second baseman Red Schoendienst for Pafko, but the Cardinals refused.

Good fit

With Pafko out of the picture, the Cardinals went after Westlake. The Pirates were in last place in the National League and Rickey was looking for a package of players to upgrade several positions.

At the time of the trade, Westlake was second in the league to Gil Hodges in home runs and second to Duke Snider in RBI.

According to the Pittsburgh Press, the Cardinals demanded Westlake “or it was no deal.”

The inclusion of Chambers in the trade also was appealing to the Cardinals. Chambers, a left-hander, pitched a no-hitter against the Braves on May 6, 1951. Though he lost his next four decisions, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported he still was considered “a dandy southpaw when his arm is right.”

Loss of appetite

Westlake, teammate Ralph Kiner and Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince were having lunch at Dutch Henry’s restaurant on Diamond Street in downtown Pittsburgh when Prince took a call from a secretary informing him Westlake had been traded to the Cardinals.

When Prince returned to the table, he said, “Wally, you’re going to St. Louis.”

Westlake was “stunned” and took the news “very hard,” the Pittsburgh Press reported.

Westlake liked Pittsburgh. The reason he, Kiner and Prince were at the restaurant is they were negotiating to buy it, The Sporting News reported.

The Pittsburgh Press called the decision to deal Westlake “a shocking surprise.” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette added, “A shocker to say the least.”

“Next to Ralph Kiner, the most popular Pittsburgh player was Westlake,” the Pittsburgh Press reported.

Westlake was batting .282 with 16 home runs and 45 RBI in 50 games for the 1951 Pirates. Chambers was 3-6 with a 5.58 ERA.

“I won’t have to worry about pitching to Stan Musial anymore,” Chambers said.

Tough to adjust

Westlake arrived at the St. Louis airport on June 16, 1951, and went directly to Sportsman’s Park for the Saturday night game between the Phillies and Cardinals. Marion put him in the lineup as the center fielder, batting fourth.

In a storybook start to his Cardinals career, Westlake lined a three-run home run to left in the eighth inning against relief ace Jim Konstanty, breaking a 3-3 tie and carrying the Cardinals to a 6-5 victory. Boxscore

Westlake totaled five hits and five RBI in his first three Cardinals games, but his production faded as the season unfolded. Westlake hit .255 with six home runs and 39 RBI in 73 games for the 1951 Cardinals. He batted .180 against left-handers.

One factor in Westlake’s struggles could have been the dimensions of Sportsman’s Park. It was 351 feet from home plate to left field, 20 feet more than at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, where the fence had been moved in to create Greenberg Gardens, a cushy landing spot for the shots hit by right-handed sluggers Hank Greenberg, Kiner and Westlake.

For Westlake, drives which hit or cleared the left-field wall in Pittsburgh were outs in St. Louis.

Chambers gave the Cardinals the better value from the deal. He was 11-6 with a 3.83 ERA for them in 1951.

Westlake’s woes continued the next season. He batted .216 with no home runs in 21 games for the Cardinals. On May 13, 1952, the Cardinals traded Westlake and third baseman Eddie Kazak to the Reds for first baseman Dick Sisler and shortstop Virgil Stallcup.

Westlake played in the majors until 1956, including a stint with the Indians, whom he helped to an American League pennant in 1954, but he never replicated the power numbers he produced for the Pirates.

In a span of less than 24 hours, Lou Brock got the last stolen base of his career, established a major-league record and met with the president of the United States.

Forty years ago, on Sept. 23, 1979, Brock, 40, made his last steal in his final appearance in New York as a player. The swipe of second base came during a Cardinals game against the Mets at Shea Stadium.

The steal was the 938th for Brock as a big-leaguer and put him ahead of Billy Hamilton as the all-time leader. Hamilton played in the majors from 1888-1901, under different and easier scoring rules, and held the stolen base mark of 937.

Years after Brock set the record of 938, Hamilton’s total was revised. Some sources show it as 914 and others as 912.

Brock’s mark eventually was broken by Rickey Henderson.

The top six career leaders in stolen bases are Henderson (1,406), Brock (938), Hamilton (914 or 912), Ty Cobb (897 or 892), Tim Raines (808) and Vince Coleman (752).

Top thief

Brock had said 1979 would be his final season as a player and he made it a memorable one. He hit for average, got named to the National League all-star team and achieved his 3,000th career hit.

After breaking the stolen base mark which had been in place for nearly 80 years, Brock told The Sporting News, “That will be the final act of my career.”

Brock’s bravado theft occurred in the fifth inning. With one out and the bases empty, Brock drew a walk from Mets starter Juan Berenguer. On Berenguer’s first pitch to the next batter, Keith Hernandez, Brock broke for second and swiped the base.

The throw from catcher John Stearns was high and sailed into center field. Brock advanced to third on the error and continued to the plate, scoring easily, when center fielder Joel Youngblood bobbled the ball.

Brock was presented with the base he stole to set the record.

When he batted again in the seventh, the public-address announcer informed the crowd Brock was playing in New York for the last time and they responded with a standing ovation. Brock reached on an error by third baseman Richie Hebner, loading the bases, and was removed between innings by manager Ken Boyer. Boxscore

National treasure

Brock headed to Washington, D.C., where he had a personal meeting scheduled the next morning, Sept. 24, 1979, with President Jimmy Carter at the White House.

Carter invited Brock to the Oval Office in order to honor him for getting 3,000 hits. The stolen base record gave them more to celebrate.

“I think this is a unique achievement of his to be this kind of a baserunner and a clean sportsman at the same time,” Carter said.

Carter said Brock “represents the finest in American sports.”

Brock told Carter he was “deeply honored” and “very much impressed” by the visit. He presented Carter with an autographed bat and a pair of red cleats.

Fine finish

After meeting with Carter, Brock immediately headed to Philadelphia, where the Cardinals had a night game with the Phillies.

Boyer let him rest and didn’t play him in a game the Cardinals won, 7-2, but Brock was back in the lineup the next night, Sept. 25, 1979, for his final appearance in Philadelphia before closing out the season in St. Louis.

Brock finished the 1979 season with a .304 batting average, 21 stolen bases and 123 hits in 120 games played.

Tom Phoebus won a start versus Bob Gibson and got traded for Tony La Russa.

Phoebus died Sept. 5, 2019, at 77. A 5-foot-8 right-hander, he pitched for seven seasons in the major leagues, primarily with the Orioles.

Phoebus hurled a no-hitter against the Red Sox, won a World Series game and had double-digit win totals for the Orioles in three consecutive years _ 14 in 1967, 15 in 1968 and 14 in 1969.

His career record in the majors was 56-52 with a 3.33 ERA.

Phoebus spent his last two big-league seasons in the National League, with the Padres and Cubs. In six appearances versus the Cardinals, he was 2-2 with two saves and a 3.44 ERA.

Hometown heroics

Born and raised in Baltimore, Phoebus was 18 when he signed with the Orioles as an amateur free agent in June 1960.

In 1961, his second season as a pro, Phoebus struggled to a 1-12 record and 5.53 ERA for Leesburg of the Florida State League. The Orioles stuck with him, though, and he worked his way through their system.

Pitching in 1966 for a Rochester club managed by Earl Weaver, Phoebus was 13-9 with five shutouts and a 3.02 ERA.

The 1966 Orioles, on their way to an American League pennant, rewarded him with a promotion to the big leagues. The Orioles’ pitching coach was the former Cardinal, Harry Brecheen.

Phoebus, 24, made his major-league debut on Sept. 15, 1966, with a start against the Angels and pitched a four-hit shutout. Boxscore. In his next appearance, Sept. 20, 1966, Phoebus shut out the Athletics on a five-hitter, beating Catfish Hunter. Boxscore

Phoebus became the seventh major-league pitcher to craft a shutout in each of his first two starts, and the first to do so since Karl Spooner of the 1954 Dodgers.

“He’s a good boy with good stuff,” Brecheen told the Baltimore Sun. “All he has to do is get it over the plate.”

A year later, after he led the 1967 Orioles in wins (14), innings pitched (208) and strikeouts (179), Phoebus was named the top rookie pitcher in the American League in player balloting by The Sporting News.

“Ask hitters around the American League and they’re quick to admit Phoebus is one of the toughest pitchers to hit,” The Sporting News reported. “He’s got a good fastball, his slider breaks nearly as much as anyone else’s curve and his curve is ridiculous.”

On April 27, 1968, Phoebus pitched a no-hitter against the defending American League champion Red Sox. He walked two batters in the first inning and another in the sixth before retiring the last 12 in a row. Boxscore

In his final Orioles appearance, Phoebus was the winning pitcher in Game 2 of the 1970 World Series versus the Reds, pitching in relief of Mike Cuellar. Boxscore

Two months later, on Dec. 1, 1970, the Orioles traded Phoebus, pitchers Al Severinsen and Fred Beene, and shortstop Enzo Hernandez to the Padres for pitchers Pat Dobson and Tom Dukes.

Facing the best

The Padres projected Phoebus to join a starting rotation led by former Cardinals farmhand Clay Kirby. “Never in my 30 years of scouting have I seen a pitcher who can get two strikes on a hitter as quick as Tom Phoebus can,” Padres scout Leon Hamilton said.

Phoebus made two starts versus the Cardinals. The first was at San Diego on April 17, 1971, and it began badly for him. Matty Alou hit the first pitch of the game for a single and Joe Hague hit the next for a home run. Phoebus regrouped and pitched seven innings, allowing three total runs, but Steve Carlton tossed a four-hit shutout and the Cardinals won, 4-0. Boxscore

A month later, on May 24, 1971, at St. Louis, Phoebus was matched against Gibson. The Padres scored seven runs against the Cardinals’ ace and won, 12-3. The Sporting News noted Phoebus “celebrated the birth of his second son” by getting the win. Boxscore

It was the last win Phoebus would get for the Padres.

After beating Gibson, Phoebus lost his next seven decisions and was moved to the bullpen. He finished 3-11 for the 1971 Padres; Dobson was 20-8 for the 1971 Orioles.

Cubs helper

At spring training in 1972, Padres pitching coach Roger Craig said, “Phoebus is throwing better than he did all last year and he’s keeping the ball down.”

After making one regular-season start for the Padres, Phoebus was dealt to the Cubs for cash on April 20, 1972.

The Cubs made Phoebus a reliever and he earned his first two saves for them against the Cardinals at St. Louis on May 18, 1972, Boxscore and on May 21, 1972. Boxscore

In the latter game, Phoebus entered in the ninth with one out, Cardinals runners on second and third, and the Cubs ahead, 3-1. He got Ted Sizemore out on a deep sacrifice fly, making the score 3-2.

The next batter, Jerry McNertney, worked the count to 3-and-1. Phoebus saw Joe Torre in the on-deck circle and, according to the Chicago Tribune, “admitted he came in with a fastball over the middle of the plate, preferring a swing of any kind from McNertney than a confrontation with Torre.”

McNertney grounded out to short, ending the game.

New career

Phoebus was 3-3 with six saves and a 3.78 ERA for the 1972 Cubs. He told The Sporting News he had become a better craftsman.

“When you first get up here, you think the most important thing is to try to impress everybody with great velocity and a good curveball,” Phoebus said. “After you’ve been around, you realize what’s really important is throwing strikes and working on the hitter, keeping him off balance. I’m not strikeout happy like I used to be. Today I’d rather throw one pitch and hope for a double play than strike out two batters.”

The Braves were impressed by him and talked to the Cubs about a deal. On Oct. 20, 1972, Phoebus was traded to the Braves for La Russa.

“When I saw Phoebus last season, he looked like a workhorse,” said Braves manager Eddie Mathews. “He showed me a good arm and he wanted to pitch.”

The Cubs liked La Russa, 28, and projected him as a utility infielder. La Russa had spent the 1972 season with the Braves’ Richmond farm club and was named the International League all-star second baseman, batting .308 with 15 stolen bases. “Our scouting reports on him indicate he can make it,” said Cubs vice president John Holland. “We’re going to give him a chance.”

The deal, however, didn’t work out the way anyone envisioned.

La Russa appeared in one game for the 1973 Cubs as a pinch-runner for Ron Santo. It was La Russa’s last game as a big-league player. He spent the rest of the 1973 season with the Cubs’ Wichita farm club and batted .314 with a team-leading 75 RBI, six more than runner-up Pete LaCock. La Russa played four more seasons in the minors before embarking on a Hall of Fame career as a manager.

The Braves assigned Phoebus to Richmond, where he pitched on a staff with former Cardinal Larry Jaster. Phoebus was 7-11 with a 3.38 ERA for Richmond, but no big-league club showed interest.

Phoebus, 31, decided to quit baseball. He worked as a liquor salesman before enrolling at the University of South Florida, where he earned a degree in education when he was 43.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Phoebus “spent nearly two decades as a physical education instructor at a Port St. Lucie (Fla.) grade school before retiring” in Palm City, Fla.

Facing the Cardinals in the last week of the season during the heat of a pennant race, the Dodgers started Sandy Koufax, used a record number of pinch-hitters and rallied for three runs in the ninth on Frank Howard’s home run, but still lost.

Sixty years ago, on Sept. 22, 1959, the Cardinals knocked the Dodgers out of first place in the National League with an 11-10 victory at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

The game was wild and unusual for multiple reasons, including:

_ Neither starting pitcher, Koufax nor the Cardinals’ Larry Jackson, lasted an inning.

_ Dodgers manager Walter Alston used nine pinch-hitters, setting a major league record.

_ Cardinals catcher Hal Smith hit a grand slam, his only one in seven big-league seasons, against Koufax.

_ Cardinals manager Solly Hemus got ejected before the Dodgers made an out.

Explosive start

The Dodgers went into the Tuesday night game tied with the Braves for first place. Both were 83-66 and both had five games remaining in the regular season. The Cardinals were 68-81 and in seventh place in the eight-team league.

The matchup of Koufax and Jackson figured to be a pitcher’s duel.

Koufax struck out 18 batters against the Giants three weeks earlier, tying the major-league record set by Bob Feller of the Indians in 1938 and breaking the National League mark of 17 established by the Cardinals’ Dizzy Dean in 1933.

Jackson was 8-1 versus the Dodgers at Busch Stadium in his career and 12-5 against them overall.

From the start, though, the game defied expectations.

The first three Dodgers batters, Jim Gilliam, Charlie Neal and Wally Moon, each singled, loading the bases. After Duke Snider walked, scoring Gilliam, Hemus was ejected by plate umpire Al Barlick for arguing balls and strikes. Hemus created more commotion when he failed to leave the dugout immediately after the ejection. Coach Johnny Keane took over as Cardinals manager.

When play resumed, Norm Larker singled, driving in Neal and Moon and giving the Dodgers a 3-0 lead. Marshall Bridges relieved Jackson, threw one pitch to Gil Hodges and got him to hit into a double play, with Snider advancing to third. Maury Wills was walked intentionally and John Roseboro made an out at second, ending the inning.

“Bridges’ brilliant rescue act in the first inning cut short what promised to be an atomic blast,” the Los Angeles Times noted.

The line for Jackson: five batters faced, four hits, one walk, three runs.

Wild thing

Given a 3-0 lead, Koufax couldn’t protect it.

In the bottom half of the first, Don Blasingame walked and Joe Cunningham grounded to Koufax, who threw to second for the force. Gino Cimoli grounded out, moving Cunningham to second. After Ken Boyer walked, Gene Oliver got an infield single, loading the bases. Smith, known more for his defense than his slugging, came up next. He worked the count to 3-and-2 before belting a Koufax fastball for the grand slam and a 4-3 Cardinals lead.

Koufax yielded six grand slams in his Hall of Fame career with the Dodgers, including one to another Cardinal, Charlie James, in 1962.

After the next batter, Curt Flood, reached on an error by Gilliam at third, Chuck Churn relieved. Koufax faced seven batters and gave up two hits, two walks and four runs.

“He was just wild,” Alston said to the Los Angeles Times. “He’s the same man who struck out 18 batters the other day.”

Fastball hitter

In the ninth, Cardinals closer Lindy McDaniel, making his club-record 61st appearance of the season, was looking to protect an 11-7 lead. McDaniel hadn’t allowed a home run since May 30 when Hodges connected off him in Los Angeles.

McDaniel got the first batter, Carl Furillo, to ground out to third. Hodges singled and, after Wills lined out to second, the former Cardinal, Rip Repulski, singled.

The next batter was the 6-foot-7 rookie, Frank Howard. Smith gave McDaniel the sign for a fastball and Howard hit it into the bleachers in left-center for a three-run home run, getting the Dodgers within a run.

Howard’s homer was the second of 382 he would hit in the majors.

“Now I’m convinced he can hit a fastball,” Smith said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

McDaniel recovered by getting Gilliam to ground out to second, ending the game. Boxscore

Mix and match

When the Dodgers fell behind early, Alston went to pinch-hitters to try to get favorable matchups against Bridges, a left-hander, and McDaniel, a right-hander.

“Alston pushed every button and called on just about every available athlete to save the game,” the St. Louis Globe-Democrat observed.

The nine pinch-hitters used by the Dodgers:

_ Tommy Davis, making his major-league debut, struck out in the fourth.

_ Don Demeter flied out in the fifth and stayed in the game.

_ Carl Furillo flied out in the fifth and stayed in the game.

_ Joe Pignatano walked in the sixth and stayed in the game.

_ Chuck Essegian, a former Cardinal, hit a RBI-double in the sixth.

_ Ron Fairly grounded out in the eighth.

_ Sandy Amoros grounded out in the eighth.

_ Rip Repulski singled in the ninth.

_ Frank Howard hit a three-run home run in the ninth.

According to Baseball Almanac, two other teams tied the 1959 Dodgers’ record by using nine pinch-hitters in a nine-inning game. Those teams were the Expos on Sept. 5, 1975, versus the Pirates, and the Braves on Sept. 21, 1993, against the Expos. In addition, the Cardinals and manager Tony La Russa used nine pinch-hitters in a 14-inning game on Sept. 25, 1997, versus the Reds.

The loss to the Cardinals dropped the Dodgers a game behind the Braves with four remaining. The Dodgers won three of their last four and the Braves won two, putting the clubs in a first-place tie at the end of the regular season.

The Dodgers clinched the pennant in a best-of-three playoff against the Braves, winning the first two games, and advanced to the World Series, earning the championship by winning four of six against the White Sox.