Monday, May 12, 2014

This Day in St Louis Cardinals History: May 2, 1971 - May 3, 1967 - May 4, 1964 - 2 Shutouts & Why Gibson Didn't Win 20 in '64

May 2, 1971 - Imagine a game with the two teams combining for 17 hits, two walks and four errors.  That's what the St Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos produced on this beautiful Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium II, with a modest crowd of 10,320 to witness the action.  The starting pitchers - Carl Morton for the Expos and Steve Carlton for the Redbirds - seemed to thrive on surviving peril; both pitched complete games and the only run scored in the game was of the "unearned" variety.

The offensive outburst happened in the bottom of the third-inning, as Lou Brock (who was 3 for 4 with a stolen base) singled to center, advanced to second on a Luis Melendez tapper back to the pitcher (Brock was trying to steal), then moved up to third (he was trying to steal again) when Ted Simmons just got a piece of the pitch to roll it into fair territory; the catcher made the putout.  In case you were wondering, Brock had never successfully stolen home in his entire career.  In this particular situation, it wasn't necessary.

Joe Torre then hit a routine grounder to the shortstop which was kicked for a costly error; no RBI for Torre (who led the league with 137 in '71), but a run nonetheless for the Redbirds, who now led 1-0.  Curiously, Torre would be 0 for 4 in this game as his batting average dipped to .350; he'd end up at .363 to win the batting title as well as becoming the National League's MVP.

This single run would prove to be the lone tally for the entire game.  The pitching lines for both starters were strikingly similar:

Morton - 8 IP - 8 H - 1 R - 0 ER - 1 BB - 3 SO
Carlton - 9 IP - 9 H - 0 R - 0 ER - 1 BB - 2 SO

Carlton allowed at least one hit in every inning, except the ninth, when he set the Expos down in order to secure the win; improving to 5-1 (1.82 ERA) on the young season.  He would go on to win 20 games for the Cardinals that season, and at the age of 26, seemed destined to become the ace of the Cardinals staff, with the current ace, Bob Gibson already in his mid-thirties; Gibby would call it quits after the '75 season, shortly before his 40th birthday.

However, when Carlton had the audacity to ask for a $10,000 raise prior to the 1972 season, an outraged team owner, Gussie Busch ordered general manager Bing Devine to trade "the sob"; thus ensuring the Cardinals would be also-rans for the next ten years; until Busch had the good fortune to bring Whitey Herzog on board to run things in the early eighties.  Before accepting the job, Whitey made it clear to the cantankerous Busch he alone would be running the show - no mandated trades or other such nonsense (like the Steve Carlton fiasco, for example).

May 3, 1967 - If Steve Carlton's 9-hit shutout of the Expos was somewhat nerve-wracking, the one spun by Cardinals starter Ray Washburn seemed like a walk in the park, by comparison.  The first-place Cincinnati Reds were in town to take on the Cardinals at Busch Stadium II, with 14,879 on hand to witness a game that would be over in a snappy one hour and forty minutes.

The Cardinals only mustered six hits and one walk in this game, but half of the hits and the lone base on balls occurred in the fourth-inning, off Reds starter, Milt Pappas.  The Redbird rally began with a one-out bunt single by Roger Maris - a guy previously known for hitting the long ball during his New York Yankees playing days.  Orlando Cepeda then banged a double down the left-field line to move Maris to third base.  After Tim McCarver was intentionally walked, Mike Shannon foiled the strategy by singling in Maris and Cepeda, to put the Cardinals up 2-0.  That was all the scoring in this one.

For Cardinals starter Ray Washburn, two runs was more than enough; his complete game two-hit shutout of Cincinnati gave him his first win of the season (he had two losses) and improved the second-place Cardinals' record to 11-7 - two games behind the Reds (15-7).  This would prove to be the only shutout Washburn would bag in '67, but it came at a time when the Cardinals were looking to stay close to a team that seemed poised to run away with things in the National League.  As it turned out, it would be St Louis running away with things this year.  But who knew?

May 4, 1964 - With 7,437 in attendance at Busch Stadium I, the Cardinals played host to the Philadelphia Phillies.  Neither starting pitcher - Philadelphia's Dennis Bennett nor the Cardinals' Bob Gibson - lasted very long in this game; Bennett was knocked out after just 2.1 innings, allowing five hits (including one home run) and five runs; Gibson only pitched four innings, allowing three hits and just one run.  His early exit from the game had nothing to do with his pitching performance.  It had everything to do with getting drilled by a Jack Baldschun fastball as he was leading off the fourth-inning.  As a precaution, manager Johnny Keane removed an irritated Gibson from the game, just one inning shy of qualifying for the win.  The fact that the very next hitter, Carl Warwick, homered to give St Louis a 7-1 lead, made the fuming Gibson even more indignant about this early exit.

The Cardinals would go on to score nine runs in this contest, while reliever Roger Craig (5 IP - 5 H - 1 R - 1 BB - 2 SO) was the beneficiary of this easy win, improving to 2-0 on the young season.  Curt Flood and Tim McCarver also homered in this game, while Ken Boyer had three hits good for four RBI, en route to a league leading 119 RBI for the year; while bagging the NL MVP Award to go with his World Series championship ring.

For Gibson, the '64 season was certainly a memorable one, capped off by a World Series MVP honor, featuring a brand spanking new Chevrolet Corvette as part of the package.  However, his quest for attaining a 20-win season would have to wait another year.  Thanks in large part to his early exit in this game, Gibby won just 19 games in '64.

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