Sunday, April 28, 2013

April 28, 1982: This Date in St Louis Cardinals Championship History

April 28, 1982:  In a game that epitomized "Whitey Ball", the Cardinals (14-6) were somehow able to scratch out a win over the Houston Astros (8-13) at Busch Stadium, by a score of 5-4.  Bob Forsch (4-0) pitched seven innings, allowed eight hits and six walks - but only four of those baserunners came around to score.

While the Astros were frustrated by their missed opportunities to break the game open, the Cardinals were able to turn a two run deficit into a two run lead in the sixth-inning, by scoring four runs on four walks, three hits and a wild pitch - a typical Redbird rally of the early '80s.  David Green delivered a key two-run single in the inning and for good measure, threw Tony Scott out at second base trying to stretch a single into a double earlier in the game.

Bruce Sutter relieved Forsch with a runner on second base and nobody out in the eighth-inning, with the Cardinals clinging to the same two-run lead they manufactured two innings prior.  Although the Astros were able to bring that run home, Sutter was able to prevent further damage, recording his seventh save of the young season en route to a NL leading 36 saves - the fourth consecutive year he topped the Senior Circuit in that category. 

Forsch would go on to win 15 games for the Redbirds in '82, helping them win their first division title and reach the postseason for the first time since 1968.  He also pitched brilliantly in Game One of the NLCS vs the Atlanta Braves, as the Cards swept that series to meet the Milwaukee Brewers in a classic 1982 Fall Classic.

This late April victory was pivitol for the Redbirds, who came into this game on a three-game losing streak.  As it turned out, they would lose the next three games after this one, so their ability to steal a win from Houston essentially prevented a seven-game losing sreak.

A few days after David Green's game-winning hit, he went on the DL with a severe hamstring injury.  This paved the way for rookie Willie McGee to be called up from the minors.  It didn't take long for McGee to take over the regular duties in centerfield for the Redbirds, relegating Green - who never quite lived-up to the expectations the Cardinals had for him - to part-time status.  Eventually, he would be packaged with a few other marginal players in exchange for Giants slugger Jack Clark prior to the '85 season.  Clark would prove to be the perfect fit for St Louis during his three seasons as a Cardinal, helping the Redbirds win National League championships in '85 and '87.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Jack Clark became a free agent after the '87 season.  His departure to the New York Yankees signaled the end of the Whitey Herzog Era.  By 1990, the team was in a state of disaray; Herog resigned prior to the All-Star break and St Louis finished last in the standings for the first time since 1918. 

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