Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June 29, 1966: Cepeda Hits The First Ever Upper Deck Shot At Busch

     On June 29, 1966, Orlando Cepeda's sixth inning home run off of Juan Marichal proved to be the game winner, as it led the way to a 2-1 victory over the visiting San Francisco Giants. The big blast was a towering drive, making it the first big fly to reached the upper deck of the newly opened ballpark. The Birds were up 1-0 at the time, but needed the power surge from Cepeda, as Willie McCovey took Nelson Briles deep to lead off the seventh, before the Birds held onto the lead.

     The day before this contest was played Cepeda had Marichal over to his house for dinner. The two future hall of famers and former teammates spent the day together, and joked with each other about taking it easy on one another. They both had a great respect for one another, as Cepeda called Juan number 1 in his book. With that said, on that day in late June it was Cepeda who proved to get the best of his old pal. The Amadee cartoon appeared in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on June 30, 1966. The headline that appeared with the story called Cepeda's big blast dessert.

     Another interesting turn of events in this contest was the repeated turn of the double play by the hometown Redbirds. They turned five of the twin killings, as the Cardinal infield took care of business with ease. Briles gave the the club seven and a third before handing the ball off to Joe Hoerner who earned the save, allowing just one hit along the way to victory.

      The story of that day will forever be the shot by Cepeda. That stadium that had thousands of memories packed within its walls throughout its history only had a number of firsts, and to think about being a part of the 29,000+ that witnessed the first upper deck shot had to be something to remember. Therefore, we do exactly that today.

In closing, when you go to the ballpark, and you cheer when something great happens, take a moment and realize that you are part of something great. You are a part of the great history of St. Louis Cardinals baseball. Decades from now when someone sits downs and writes about a game account they will mention the roar of the crowd. You will have been a part of the roar. It is pretty neat when you think about it.

Check out the box score here:

The article that I have featured with the Amadee illustration appeared in the  Beaver County Times  out of Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

June 22, 1926: Ole Pete Joins The Birds

     On June 22, 1926, the Cardinals claimed Grover Cleveland Alexander off of waivers from the Cubs. The Reds and the Pirates attempted to lay claim to the embattled hurler who was at odds with the skipper of the Chicago club. However, the Cardinals were behind both of those clubs in the standings at the time, so the Redbirds were able to snatch him up for the waiver price of $4000.

     The 39-year-old hurler would go onto help the Cardinals win the pennant, going 9-7 during the regular season. What made the waiver grab so noteworthy was what "Ole Pete" did in the postseason, pitching two complete game wins in Game 2 and 6, then he came into Game 7 with the score 3-2 and the bases loaded in the seventh and struck out the Tony Lazzeri. Alexander held the Yankees in check the rest of the way, earning what may be the most important save in franchise history.

     10 days before Alexander put on a Redbirds uniform the fans in Chicago game him a car. He was an adored player who had racked up double digits in wins every single full season that he played in The Windy City.With that said, an article that appeared in the Chicago Journal claimed that Ole Pete refused to listen to his skipper, who he considered to a be nothing more than a minor league manager. That led McCarthy to suspending Alexander, then subsequently releasing him.  . With that said, the Cubs skipper, Joe McCarthy, had not been getting along with the former star who had developed a drinking problem that he believed was hurting the Cubs.

     While fan and sportswriters in Chicago were stunned by the turn of events, the writers in St. Louis were praising the move as a good investment. Rogers Hornsby was excited to bring him on board, as there were dreams of a pennant spinning through his head. Alexander had won more than 300 games at that point in his career, and despite being bothered by a sore arm, and a drinking problem, the Cardinals player/manager believed he would be able to overcome the issues,  and would help the dream of a pennant become a reality. Ole Pete did exactly that.

I urge you to read Pete's SABR bio. He won 27 or more games six times, which included a 27 win season for the Cubs in 1920. He won 30 or more three times as a member of the Phillies early in his career, before being traded with the war looming in 1918. His best season as a Cardinal came in 1927 when he won 21 games.  55 of his 373 career wins came as a member of the Cards. His life had the highest and the lowest of lows. With that said, when you think of Ole Pete, think of  one of the greatest hurlers to ever step on a diamond that helped bring a title to St. Louis. You can read his bio here:

You can also look over Alexander's career numbers here:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

June 12, 1922: Hub Fans The Babe Three Times In St. Louis

     On June 12, 1922, St. Louis Browns rookie pitcher Hub Pruett led the way to a 7-1 Browns victory over the Yankees at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis. The hurler went the distance in the contest striking out six. What makes this game so significant is three of those strikeouts came against "The Great Bambino" himself, the one and only Babe Ruth.

     As the story goes, Pruett owned Ruth like no pitcher in the game ever had, striking him out 11 times in the first thirteen times he had faced him during that '22 season. "The Sultan of Swat" hit just .190 against Pruett. He did hit two home runs against him, with the first of the two coming in September of that '22 season. Pruett went just 29-48 over seven seasons in the big leagues, and 14-18 with the Browns over three years. His career was not one that ended in Cooperstown, however, he would earn a place in baseball history as the man who could fan the mighty Babe.

     Primarily a reliever later in his career, Hub struck Babe out a total of 15 times. When his days on the diamond ended, he went back to school and finished up a degree in medicine. He had used the money from his playing days to get that degree, and when he got a chance to talk to Ruth later in life he thanked him for helping put him through medical school. Ruth looked over at him and said "If there had been more like you, no one would have ever heard of me." That is some compliment from a man of his stature.

Here is a link to an ESPN article, which is an interview with Hub's son:

Note: through the years the numbers were skewed a bit. I do believe some of the numbers in the ESPN story may be slightly different than the numbers I used here. However, I looked though multiple newspapers and went with the most widely reported numbers from those days. With that said, the ESPN article is a great one with a family member, and that family has called St. Louis home for life, so I thought it was a good one to share.

Also, I may sprinkle in some Browns facts like this one into the mix. I view them as a lost part of St. Louis history, so I would like to find some interesting things to share. As always, I hope you enjoy all the facts that I come up with. P.S. Go Cards!!!

Check out the box score here:

Thursday, June 9, 2016

June 9, 1980: Herzog's First Win As The Redbird's Skipper

     On June 9, 1980, Whitey Herzog secured his first win as the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals thanks to a tenth inning three run blast by George Hendrick in Atlanta.

     The Cardinals had led 5-0 in the contest, but the Braves scored a run in the sixth, three more in the seventh, then tied the ballgame in the ninth. It all just set the table for Hendrick's heroics, which came with Keith Hernandez and Ted Simmons aboard in that fateful tenth. Gene Garber had just taken over on the mound for the Braves, and Hendricks was the first batter he faced. Hendrick's got a hold of a changeup that ended up a souvenir as it sailed over the wall at Fulton County Stadium.

     In the bottom of the tenth Herzog called on lefty Kim Seaman to get left handed hitting first baseman Chris Chambliss out, but the move did not work as Chambliss got on with a single. The White Rat then called on George Frazier to get the job done, and after allowing a walk Frazier did exactly that. He induced Bob Horner into a double play, then struck Jeff Burroughs out looking to end it. It was the first of 822 wins for Herzog, while sitting at the end of the Cardinals bench. Only Tony LaRussa (1,408 and Red Schoendienst 1,021) have more.

     While Whitey had immediate success that day, the club was still in a transitional period. Ken Boyer had started the season as the manager. He was fired the day before that contest in between a doubleheader in Montreal. Jack Krol managed the second of the two games before it was announced that Herzog would be the skipper.  It is safe to say that many of the players were not happy with the change right when it happened. Under Boyer they had posted and 18-33 record, which led to the decision to make the move.

     Herzog went 38-35 as skipper before handing the reins to Red Schoendienst on August 29th. He had taken over as General Manager and realized that he needed to focus on that role. After briefly considering hiring another field manager, Herzog made the decision that he would do both  jobs after the season ended. He did one helluva job too, building the club that won the World Series in 1982, as well as the club's that won the National League Pennant in 1985 and 1987. His accomplishments will always be held in high regard in St. Louis, and he will forever be known by baseball fans everywhere as one of the immortal bunch who has a plaque in Cooperstown, New York. That honor was bestowed upon him in 2010.

Check out the box score here:

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

June 7, 1985: The Birds Breakout In Extras In New York

     On June 7, 1985, the Cardinals scored six runs in the thirteenth en route to a 7-2 victory over the Mets in New York.

The game was a pitchers duel with Kurt Kepshire on the bump for the Birds, while Ron Darling toed the rubber for the Mets. Kepshire ripped a one out double in the third, then scored when Willie McGee singled with two outs in the inning. The hurler allowed just three hits through seven and a third, striking out six along the way. Kepshire's biggest hiccup came in the fifth when outfielder Danny Heep belted a game tying solo shot to lead off the inning.

     Kepshire shook off the misfortune and went back to work picking up two strikeouts in that inning.  After handing the ball over to the bullpen, Kepshire watched Rick Horton, Jeff Lahti, Ken Dayley, and Bill Campbell hold the Mets at bay. The Mets pen did the same to the Birds with Randy McDowell and Jesse Orosco getting the job done through the twelfth. McDowell even worked his way around a bases loaded with no outs in the ninth situation, however, the Mets could not build off the momentum builder.

     The Cardinals had stranded eight runners coming into the fateful thirteenth frame, but that would soon be forgotten, as they became accustomed to crossing the dish quite often. Doug Sisk took over mound duties for the Mets and was snake-bitten from the start, as his shortstop committed an error, helping Terry Pendleton get on base to lead off the inning.  Ozzie Smith moved Pendleton over on a groundout, before catcher Tom Nieto removed an 0 for 4 collar with a single to center to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. Tom Lawless pinch ran for Nieto, then scored after Sisk allowed a single to the Cardinals reliever Bill Campbell, and the line was starting to move. Vince Coleman got on with an infield single, Willie McGee walked to load the bases, Tommy Herr knocked in two runs, then moments late Jack Clark did the same. The six run outburst buried locals. Although, they attempted to a comeback of their own in the bottom off the inning by scoring a run off of Campbell. However, it was all they could muster, and the Cards trotted off the field with smiles on their faces.

     That was the first of a four game set in New York for the Cardinals, with the Birds taking three of the four. The heat was on and it would only get hotter down the stretch, as the Cardinals flew towards a pennant. That '85 club will forever be remembered in St. Louis as a high flying bunch that refused to lose.

Check out the box score here: