Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 1

April Fool's Day has not been kind to the St Louis Cardinals; rather, it has been a cruel joke three out of the four times the Redbirds have been scheduled to play on this practical joker's holiday.  Last year, for example, Adam Wainwright's opening day assignment in Arizona versus the Diamondbacks was a far cry from the gem he hurled last night in Cincinnati (no runs on three hits in seven innings, with nine strikeouts).  On April 1, 2013 Waino surrendered four runs (all earned) on eleven hits in just six innings of work.  Arizona tacked on a couple more runs en route to an easy 6-2 win.


Back in 2008, the Cardinals hosted the Colorado Rockies, as Kyle Lohse started for St Louis, worked five scoreless innings, and was in line to get the win when Yadier Molina broke a scoreless tie with a fifth-inning solo home run (sound familiar?).  Colorado was held in check until the eighth-inning, when our old friend Ryan Franklin retired nary a single batter, loading the bases on two singles and a base on balls.  By the time the mess was over, the Rockies had a 2-1 lead which they never relinquished, as Franklin chalked up another blown save and a loss in one fell swoop.


In Cincinnati last night, the bullpen held on to that precarious 1-0 lead, despite a rocky eighth-inning when poor defense had the Reds in a position to at least tie the game; perhaps even go ahead. 


Going back to April 1, 2007, the defending World Champion Cardinals opened the season at home versus the New York Mets - the team they eliminated in a classic seven game NLCS just a few short months prior - and this time, the New Yorkers exacted some measure of revenge, as an ineffective and injured Chris Carpenter struggled through six innings, allowing six runs (five earned) on nine hits.  Future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine sailed through six innings to capture a 6-1 win.  Not only was 2007 a disaster for Carpenter, who was essentially shelved for the entire year with a bad shoulder - it was a disaster for the Redbirds as a whole.  Nothing seemed to go right all season, as the Redbirds finished below .500 for the only time since the beginning of the millennium.


We have to go all the way back to 2002 to experience the thrill of April Fool's Day victory for the Cardinals.  St Louis scored early and often en route to an easy 10-2 win over the visiting Colorado Rockies, as ace Matt Morris breezed through seven innings, allowing just a single run on five hits.  The 2001 Rookie of the Year - Albert Pujols - got off to a flying start to the new season with a pair of doubles in four trips to the plate, good for three runs batted in.  Cardinal fans would be treated to eleven Hall of Fame-caliber seasons to the player manager Tony LaRussa said was the best he ever managed.  No argument here.


The 2014 Cards seem to have a stacked deck; perhaps even the best team in baseball.  But with the way things have gone in the past on April Fool's Day, it's probably a good thing they had the night off this time around.

March 31

Prior to yesterday, the Cardinals have only played March baseball when it counted on three other occasions - in 1998, 2003, and the World Championship season of 2011.  Strangely enough, the Cardinals were winners in '98 and '03 - when they failed to make the playoffs - but came up short three years ago, losing an excruciating 11-inning home opener against the San Diego Padres - 5-3; clearly a game that should've been won.




Chris Carpenter started the game for St Louis, and pitched admirably, allowing just two runs in seven innings of work; good for a "no decision".  After Matt Holliday's one out solo home run in the bottom of the eighth-inning gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead, closer Ryan Franklin promptly relinquished that lead with two outs in the top of the ninth-inning, serving up a home run ball of his own to Padres catcher Nick Hundley to dead centerfield. 


The inspired Padres then pushed two more runs across the plate in the 11th-inning off somebody named Bryan Augenstein; then All-Star San Diego closer Heath Bell pitched a perfect bottom half to hand St Louis one of their most galling defeats in recent memory.




What made the day seem more like a Twilight Zone episode than ballgame was the 0 for 5 performance from future free agent Albert Pujols, who not only was hitless, he managed to ground into three double plays in front of the astonished Redbird faithful.  Despite the bad day at the plate by the distracted Cardinal first baseman, this defeat was a classic example of the team's Achilles Heal - an unreliable bullpen which frequently used gasoline to put out fires - a recipe for disaster.


What a difference three years makes.  In yesterday's exciting 1-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark, Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright pitched seven scoreless innings while battery mate Yadier Molina's seventh-inning home run off Reds starter Johnny Cueto was all the offense needed for Waino; then the bullpen - Neshek, Siegrist, Martinez, and Rosenthal - kept the Reds at bay, despite an adventurous eighth-inning, highlighted by sloppy defense.  In other years, this game may very easily have slipped away from the Redbirds. 


Not this year; at least, not in Game One.  In 2011, the Cardinals would sneak into the postseason on the last day of the regular season, en route to an improbable World Championship.  This 2014
 edition may or may not make it all the way to the top of the baseball world, but one thing is clear:  This team is better; especially in the bullpen.









Monday, March 24, 2014

St Louis Cardinals: Commemorating 50th Anniversary of '64 World Championship Season

The 2014 season marks the fiftieth anniversary of the improbable 1964 World Championship Cardinals team that made a miracle run to overtake the Philadelphia Phillies on the last day of the regular season, before dispatching the vaunted New York Yankees in a classic Seven Game World Series.  It was the seventh title in franchise history.


Since then, St Louis has made nine trips to the Fall Classic, winning four times, to bring their championship tally up to eleven.  Last year, the Redbirds fell two games short of capturing number twelve; falling to the Boston Red Sox in Six Games.  Heading into the 2014 season, the team could very well be even better than last year, after signing free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta to add much needed offensive clout to that position; acquiring defensive whiz Peter Bourjos to patrol centerfield (parting with fan-favorite David Freese after a lackluster 2013 season); which frees up Matt Carpenter to take over third base, as rookie Kolten Wong is slated to be the starting second baseman for the Redbirds this season.


While it's unlikely the Cardinals will be able to hit an unfathomable .330 with RISP again this year, they are still a very good offensive team, and with much better defensive metrics this time around, they should still post a very favorable run differential; and that translates to a lot more wins than losses once again. 


What I suspect will be the biggest improvement over last year is the quality of the entire pitching staff, which ranked fifth best in the NL last year (not bad), and could well be in the top two or three in the league in 2014.  The blown saves which plagued the Cardinals last year should not be such a problem this year, with a bevy of young power arms coming out of the bullpen to close games out with more reliability.  Closer Trevor Rosenthal will have a full season to rack up the saves, and if all goes as expected, should be at or near the top of the NL saves leader board in 2014.


Yes, this should be another great season of Cardinals baseball.  To commemorate all the great moments over the past 50 years, I'm going to highlight a noteworthy game from the last half century for each calendar day of the season.  We'll relive some of the extraordinary moments in Cardinals baseball, compliments of all-time greats like Gibson, Brock, Simmons, Hernandez, Smith, Lankford, McGee, McGwire, and of course, Pujols.


This trip down memory lane will be a fun-filled ride, from the end of March, well into October.  I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I'm going to enjoy writing about it!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

2014 St Louis Cardinals Preview























Last season, the St Louis Cardinals posted the best record in the National League (97-65), then cruised through the NLDS and NLCS before eventually losing a six game World Series to the Boston Red Sox.  To better understand what may be in store for St Louis in 2014, here's a brief overview of last season's hitting, pitching, and fielding statistics (NL rank in parenthesis):








RUN DIFFERNTIAL +187 (1)








BA .269 (2) - OBP .332 (1) - SLG .401 (3)








RUNS 783 (1) - 2B 322 (1) - 3B 20 (12) - HR 125 (13) - SB 45 (15)








ERA 3.43 (5) - SO 1254 (5) - SV 44 (5)








FLD % .988 (1) - ERRORS 75 (1) - DP 177 (1) - DEF EFFICIENCY .691 (14) - RUNS SV -37 (14)










This is a very good team that in all likelihood, got even better during the offseason by addressing four areas of weakness:






















(1) Offensive production at shortstop - featuring a .222 BA (second lowest in NL) and .307 OBP (third lowest in NL).  The fiscally responsible John Mozeliak signed free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a four-year $53 million deal, just a couple of months after Peralta served a 50 game PED suspension as a member of the Detroit Tigers.  After doing his time, the well rested and clean Jhonny was welcomed back by his teammates just in time for the postseason, which didn't end the way Detroit would have liked; although the future Redbird hit well for his former mates; something that didn't go unnoticed by either the Cardinals' front office or JP's agent (presumably).  Peralta's track record has been good the last three seasons, averaging .278 BA and .438 SLG.  He should reach double digits in home runs for his new team and play above average defense.




















(2) Speaking of defense, despite the high fielding percentage, the Cardinals were one of the worst teams in the NL in defensive efficiency - basic run prevention.  With rookie Kolton Wong projected to be the new starting second baseman, Matt Carpenter will move over to third base (his natural position).  Incumbent third baseman David Freese became the odd man out after an injury hampered season which produced just 9 home runs, .381 SLG, no speed on the bases, and limited range on defense.  He and reliever Fernando Salas were shipped to the LA Angels of Anaheim in exchange for Peter Bourjos and 22-year old outfield prospect Randal Grichuk.  When healthy, Bourjos is one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game, and will more than likely get the bulk of the playing time over Jon Jay, who had numerous misadventures on defense last season.  Thus, in one fell swoop, the Cardinals will be heading into the 2014 season significantly better defensively at three positions.  The extra bonus in the deal is Grichuk, who may develop into a bona-fide power hitter in the not-too-distant future.
















(3) Aside from Clayton Kershaw (go figure), the Cardinals had great difficulty winning against left handed pitching last season.  They signed former Dodger free agent second baseman Mark Ellis - a right handed batter who hits well against lefties - to a one year $5.25 million deal.  Ellis will be a solid defensive insurance policy in case Wong has trouble making the adjustment to major league pitching.  The previously mentioned additions of Jhonny Peralta and Peter Bourjos - both right handed hitters - should help the team fare better against southpaws this season.














(4) Team speed - or lack thereof - resulted in the Cardinals swiping a NL low 45 bases last season; plus a less than desirable defensive efficiency (previously mentioned).  The Cardinals proved that they can win despite these shortcomings.  However, with two new additions to the lineup - Bourjos and Wong - the stolen base will become a legitimate offensive weapon; and it's a good bet the team's defensive efficiency will be vastly improved as well.











PITCHING - Heading into the new season, the Cardinals pitching seems to be significantly stronger than the staff that posted the fifth lowest ERA (3.43) in the NL in 2013.  With Chris Carpenter permanently out of action, Kyle Lohse gone via free agency, and Jaime Garcia sidelined for most of the year (only 55 IP) with recurring shoulder problems, St Louis had to heavily rely on rookies or second year pitchers to eat up innings, along with veteran Jake Westbrook who was effective early in the season but had shoulder issues of his own as the season wore on.  The bullpen was especially shaky for much of the season, with a host of underperforming relievers not getting the job done on a consistent basis.  Edward Mujica became the closer by default, and to his credit, pitched admirably until the last month or so of the season when he either ran out of gas or simply lost his skills.  He became a free agent and somehow convinced the Red Sox to sign him.












This season, the Cardinals are loaded with young power arms that will either win spots in the five-man starting rotation or provide manager Mike Matheny with significantly better options out of the bullpen than he had for most of last year.  In fact, between the now departed Mitchell Boggs and the previously mentioned Fernando Salas (to Halos in Freese - Bourjos trade), six games that could easily have been won last year, were blown by this pair. 






Barring injury, the St Louis bullpen will be a major strength - not a liability - this season.  In all likelihood, the left-handers coming out of the pen will include Randy Choate, Tyler Lyons, and Kevin Siegrist (50 SO in 39.2 IP to go with a ridiculous 0.45 ERA).








Two pitchers trying to return from injury - Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte - are still questionable for a healthy return to duty; any contributions from either of them will be a luxury. 






Right-handed options out of the bullpen include Seth Maness and the young power-arms of setup man Carlos Martinez and closer Trevor Rosenthal (108 regular season SO in 75.1 IP).  The blown saves that plagued the Cardinals last year should be a thing of the past in 2014.







HITTING - Last season, the Cardinals led the National League with 783 runs scored despite hitting fewer home runs than all but two other NL teams.  They did it by hitting a MLB-record .330 with RISP, by grinding out a league high .332 OBP and by hitting more doubles than any other NL team - 322 (the sixth highest total in franchise history).  Matt Carpenter's 55 doubles not only led MLB, it was the most by a left-handed hitter in franchise history (breaking Stan Musial's record).  Yadier Molina's 44 two-base hits were the most by a catcher since Pudge Rodriguez hit 47 in 1996.










The type of relentless offensive attack the Cardinals put together last season may be unsustainable in 2014.  However, the team should be significantly better defensively and more consistent with their pitching; overall, a more balanced team, still able to maintain a favorable run differential over the course of the regular season.










The Opening Day lineup should look something like this:










Matt Carpenter - third base (led MLB with 126 runs scored last season)


Peter Bourjos - centerfield (led AL with 11 triples in 2012)


Matt Holliday - leftfield (22 home runs last season)


Allen Craig - rightfield (97 RBIs despite missing most of Sept last season)


Matt Adams - first base (17 home runs and team-leading .503 SLG last season)


Yadier Molina - catcher (career high 80 RBIs last season)


Jhonny Peralta - shortstop (significant offensive upgrade)


Kolten Wong - second base (must prove he can hit like he did in minors)










Waiting in the wings is the highly rated prospect, Oscar Taveras - a left-handed power hitting outfielder.  He may well slug his way into the lineup, forcing manager Mike Matheny to juggle Matt Adams and Allen Craig around to make room for the rookie.










The projected starting rotation:










Adam Wainwright (NL-leading 241.2 IP last season)


Michael Wacha (NLCS MVP as a rookie last season)


Shelby Miller (3.06 ERA as a rookie last season)


Lance Lynn (198 SO in 201.2 IP last season)


Joe Kelly (2.69 ERA in 124 IP last season)










Jaime Garcia may prove healthy enough to slide into the rotation, but any sustained work from him seems unlikely, given his history of shoulder trouble.  Tyler Lyons, a promising 24-year old lefty may earn a spot in the rotation, if any of the above have performance or injury issues over the course of the season.






PROGNOSIS - The Cardinals should be able to repeat as NL Central champions.  In fact, barring injury, they may prove to be even better than they were last year.  Many baseball analysts now rate them as the number one team in MLB, based on how much they improved their roster this off season.  If all goes as expected, St Louis will be playing postseason baseball once again in 2014 - for the fourth straight year - a feat they have never accomplished in franchise history.  Of course, there's a first time for everything.
 






Saturday, September 7, 2013

September 7, 2011: Carpenter Blanks Brewers; T-Plush Goes Ballistic

September 7, 2011:  Ordinarily, winning the rubber game of a three-game late season series against a first-place division rival that is still eight and a half games ahead, wouldn't create much excitement.  However, thanks to the mysterious antics of one of the players on the losing team (Nyjer Morgan/Brewers), this victory for the St Louis Cardinals seemed to be the major catalyst Tony LaRussa's team needed to jump-start its incredible postseason run.  So yes, on behalf of Cardinal Nation, I'd like to say "thank you" to Nyjer and his alter egos - T-Plush and T-Gumbo - just for being "you".  It may take a while for Gumbo to receive this message since he now performs his comedy routine in Japan, after refusing a minor league assignment from his original employer - the Brew Crew.  I wonder if the Japanese are digging "Plushdamentals" as much as Brewer Nation did just two short years ago?

The game itself was a matchup between a couple former Cy Young Award winners - Zack Greinke and Chris Carpenter - and on this night, it was Carp outdueling Milwaukee's ace with a complete game four-hit shutout, 2-0.  Strangely enough, Carp had been only so-so up to this point in the season, and had been roughed up by the Reds in his last start.  That would be the last game he'd lose in 2011.

As this particular game moved into the top of the fourth-inning, in a scoreless tie, the strange behavior of Nyjer Morgan manifested itself, for no apparent reason.  With one out, Plush grounded a double down the right field line, which he celebrated while standing on second base with a barrage of expletives directed towards the Cardinals' hurler and anyone else wearing a St Louis uniform, for that matter.  This tirade was just a warm-up for what would follow after his final AB in the ninth.

Meanwhile, after the Brewers failed to bring the Gumbo home to conclude their half of the fourth, Lance Berkman promptly whacked a leadoff double in the home half of the frame, and eventually came around to score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Yadier Molina.  Cards shortstop Rafael Furcal added an insurance run in the fifth-inning when he lined a leadoff homerun deep to right field, to put St Louis up, 2-0. 

However, the 38,891 fans in attendance were quickly in nail-biting mode in the top of the sixth-inning when, with two outs and two runners on, Prince Fielder's long fly ball to the wall in right center field was flagged down by Jon Jay.  Everybody exhale now.

With the score unchanged as the ninth-inning began, Nyjer Morgan faced Carpenter for the last time in the regular season, and came up empty this time, flailing at a third strike for out number one.  As T-Gumbo began stalking in the direction of the visitor's dugout, he decided to take the chaw of tobacco out of his mouth and hurl it in the direction of the Cardinal pitcher, who by this time had his back to the plate, as well as the slimy projectile that was heading in his general direction.  Of course, Albert Pujols caught Morgan's unsportsmanlike behavior and jogged towards the irascible Gumbo to exchange a few choice words.  Now, a bemused Carp has finally realized how upset he made the Brewers' nutcase by fanning him, as more expletives (but no punches) are exchanged.  The final two outs of the inning are quickly recorded, the shutout in the books; and more importantly, what would turn out to be a key win for the playoff-bound Cardinals.

The following day, Morgan (@TheRealTPlush) posts a grammatically-challenged 140 or less characters statement on Twitter, which went something like this:  "Where (sic) still in 1st & I hope those cryin' (sic) birds injoy (sic) watchin' (sic) tha (sic) Crew in tha (sic) playoffs. Aaaarrrrhhhh (sic)!"  This was beautiful.  Gumbo has now pronounced the Cardinals to be completely out of the playoff picture; something the Baseball Gods never like.  But I'm pretty sure the Cardinals got a big kick out of it, as they rolled through the remainder of the season, winning 14 of 19 - featuring an improbable three-game sweep of the now reeling Atlanta Braves at Busch Stadium (September 9 - 11).

Of course, for the Redbirds, the sweetest revenge was getting the opportunity to play T-Plush & Company in the six game NLCS; and winning the Game Six clincher right there in front of Gumbo's faithful Brew Crew minions at Miller Park.  For Nyjer Morgan, who had a pretty good season for the Brewers in 2011 (.300+ BA), his major league career was rapidly coming to an end.  His act had quickly gotten stale, on and off the field.  The one-time folk hero had become zero; no longer able to perform his act in major league baseball.  It's really a shame; he had talent, but fell in love with his colorful persona, which really had nothing to do with playing major league baseball.

The moral of the story:  The game is bigger than any player who thinks otherwise.  Eventually, they either get the message or get out.  Some are lucky enough to still find work in Japan.

Friday, August 23, 2013

August 23, 1982: This Date in St Louis Cardinals Championship History

August 23, 1982:  In the first game of a three-game series between the host St Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Redbirds used timely hitting and capitalized on four Dodgers errors to cruise to an easy 11-3 victory.  Every St Louis position player had at least one hit in the game, and with the exception of Tommy Herr and Ken Oberkfell, drove in at least one run.  Reserve catcher Gene Tenace led the attack with four RBIs, while his battery mate, Bob Forsch (13-7) pitched 7.1 innings - was charged with three runs on seven hits; didn't walk any batters, and struck out two.  In other words, a typical Bob Forsch game.

After the Cardinals jumped on Dodgers starter Jerry Reuss (12-10) for four runs in the third-inning, Forsch kept LA at bay through seven innings, holding a 5-1 lead entering the eighth.  After yielding a run on two hits while retiring one batter, manager Whitey Herzog brought in relief specialist Bruce Sutter to nail the win down.  Although an inherited runner scored on a two-base hit, making the score 5-3, Sutter was able to retire the next two batters to end the threat.  The Cardinals made things easy for Bruce by plating six runs of their own in the bottom half of the eighth-inning, aided by more sloppy Dodgers defense. 

Preserving an 11-3 win for the Cards may have been the easiest save (27) of Sutter's career.  Still, by today's standards, a five-out save is considered almost heroic; perhaps even a bit desperate.  Nowadays, most teams have specialists to nail down the final three innings.  Herzog used Sutter in the highest leverage situations, and more often than not, the National League's premier closer and his remarkable split-fingered fastball delivered the save.  In this particular outing, the future Hall of Fame relief ace struck out four batters in 1.2 innings of work.  He allowed two hits (both doubles), walked none, and was charged with no runs.  The Dodgers managed nine hits in the game, but with no free passes and no fielding miscues to capitalize on, they were unable to muster enough offense to threaten the future World Series champions.

The Redbirds dropped the final two games of the series at Busch Stadium to the Dodgers; the season series went LA's way as well in 1982, with the Cards winning five games, while losing seven.  As it played out, the Atlanta Braves barely slipped past the Dodgers by a single game in the NL West that year, so it would be Atlanta - not LA - advancing to the NLCS to face the Cardinals.  The Braves had to feel confident squaring off against the Redbirds, as they also held the edge in the season series - winning seven of the eleven games; however, the postseason is a different animal, and the Cards became beasts in sweeping Atlanta out of the postseason in three exciting NLCS games.

Whether or not the Cardinals would have whipped the Dodgers in a postseason showdown, as well, is anybody's guess.  The showdown between the two iconic franchises would have to wait three years to become a reality.  That one went decisively in favor of the Cards, four games to two.  Many considered the 1985 edition of the Cardinals to be even better than the World Champions of 1982.  Maybe Herzog's '82 squad got a bit lucky in the postseason; maybe not so lucky in '85. 

Thanks to this shellacking administered by St Louis to Los Angeles on this date in 1982, the possibility of a Cardinals - Dodgers NLCS ultimately never materialized.  That one may or may not have turned out so well for the Redbirds. 

We'll never know, but it's always fun to consider the possibilities.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 21, 1964: This Date in St Louis Cardinals Championship History

August 21, 1964:  In an improbable season that seemed destined for disappointment by late August, the St Louis Cardinals pulled one out of the fire against the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park - scoring three runs in the top of the ninth-inning en route to an improbable 6-5 comeback win.  Thanks to a couple of errors by the host Giants, the Redbirds were the beneficiaries of two unearned runs in the game; including the go-ahead run in the fateful ninth, which proved to be the margin of victory.

The Cardinals survived a disastrous starting pitching performance by the normally reliable veteran Curt Simmons, who coughed up four runs on five hits in just 1.2 innings pitched.  They also survived a game that unreliable back-up catcher/comedian Bob Uecker started in place of the reliable Tim McCarver - and true to form, Uecks was hitless in two official at bats (he did manage a base on balls, however), and just for good measure, had a passed ball to add to his leger.  Just another day in the office for Bob.

In a game that was dominated early by the Giants, as they forged a 5-2 lead after three-innings, featuring home runs by Jim Hart and Orlando Cepeda; notably absent from the offensive effort was a rare 0 for 4 day at the plate from the great Willie Mays.  Unfortunately for San Francisco, the Cardinals' bullpen held them in check during the final six-innings, as the Redbirds' defense played errorless ball (passed balls aren't errors, for some reason).  The fourth Cardinals' pitcher - Ron Taylor - entered the game in the eighth-inning, inheriting runners on first and second with no outs.  After quickly inducing a double play grounder and retiring the next batter to prevent any San Francisco scoring, the stage was set for the dramatic comeback that would give Taylor (6-3) his well-deserved and highly improbable win.

The big run-producer for the game was future '64 NL MVP Ken Boyer, who drove in three runs; but the unlikeliest of heroes for St Louis was the light-hitting Dal Maxvill, who delivered a key two-out ninth-inning single, which plated a run; but most importantly, kept the game alive for the next batter - Mike Shannon - to deliver another clutch hit that drove in the game-tying run; and when the relay from the outfield was mishandled by second baseman Hal Lanier, Maxvill also crossed the plate with the deciding unearned run.

Strangely enough, the Redbirds appeared to be Dead Birds after Boyer grounded out in that big ninth-inning, with Lou Brock on second base; but there were now two outs and the Cardinals trailed 5-3.  The "win expectancy" at that moment was a scant three percent for the good guys.  San Francisco elected to intentionally walk Bill White, which put the potential tying run on base, but that's when Maxie shocked the faithful gathering at Candlestick Park by stroking a run-scoring single to left field.

With the ancient knuckleball specialist Barney Schultz on the mound to face the heart of the Giants' order in the bottom of the ninth - Harvey Kuenn, Duke Snider and Willie Mays - the game appeared to be in jeopardy; however, two quick ground outs and a pop up by Mays to our hero Maxvill at shortstop ended the contest.

At the end of the day, St Louis (65-56) sat in 4th-place in the National League - a distant ten games behind the first-place Phillies, two and a half games behind the second-place Reds, and now just one and a half games behind the shell-shocked Giants.  At the time, the significance of this game seemed on par with a typical Spring Training contest.  The race for the National League pennant was "over" - or so they all thought.  Wrong.

St Louis finished off the remaining 41 games of the regular season with a NL-best 28-13 (.683) record.  In contrast, Philadelphia stumbled in with a dismal 17-24 (.415) finish - highlighted by a bizarre ten-game losing streak - which conveniently left them exactly one game behind the Redbirds after Game 162.  Cardinal baseball historians may conclude that the unlikely outcome of Game 121 - this wildly bizarre one-run victory over the Giants - may have been the biggest win of the year.