Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 17, 1964 - Brock's First Cardinal RBI is Game Winner in Houston

When the Cardinals acquired 24-year old outfielder Lou Brock (who would turn 25 on June 18) from the Chicago Cubs on June 15, 1964 - in exchange for pitcher Ernie Broglio - several St Louis players - including the outspoken Bob Gibson - felt the trade was a bad one.  Broglio was proven starter - Brock an unproven outfielder with poor defensive skills, very little power - who strikes out too much.

Brock's arrival with his new club coincided with its low-water mark on the season - falling to three games under .500 after a brutal loss to the Colts in miserably humid Houston.  Manager Johnny Keane stuck his nervous new outfielder late in the game, as a pinch hitter - he struck out.

The following night would go much better for Brock - and the Redbirds.  In an easy 7-1 win over Houston, Brock tripled, scored a run and stole  base - all new milestones as a member of the Cardinals.

The following night, Brock would add another new milestone to the list.

Wednesday, June 17, 1964 - At Colt Stadium:  The Cardinals' Ray Washburn and the Colts' Ken Johnson engaged in a classic pitchers' duel while 10,777 Texans sweltered in the stands.

The first two batters Washburn faced in this game - Bob Lillis and Nellie Fox - both singled.  Lillis was able to advance to third on Nellie's base hit and scored on Al Spangler's sacrifice fly.  That would be the lone run for the Colts tonight.  In fact, those were the only hits allowed by Washburn in his 7.1 inning stint.

In the meantime, Johnson kept the Cardinals scoreless until Ken Boyer's one-out solo home run (11) in the fourth, tied the game - 1-1.  That's where the score remained until the Cardinals came to bat in the eighth-inning.

The first scheduled hitter for St Louis - pitcher Washburn - normally not much of a hitter (career .105 BA) - fooled everybody by whacking a lead-off double.  After Curt Flood grounded out to second, Washburn advanced to third on the play.  Brock, up next, delivered his first Cardinal RBI with a base hit to center, giving St Louis a 2-1 lead.

Washburn - perhaps a bit winded after his rare base running exercise - retired the first batter in the eighth, but a one out walk prompted Keane to make the call to the pen.  Roger Craig preserved the lead, working one inning - allowing only the third hit of the game for the Colts, before a young Mike Cuellar relieved Craig with one out in the ninth, to record the second out.  Dramatically, Ron Taylor came in for the one-out save - finishing the game in style - with a strikeout.

Winning pitcher Washburn's record improved to 3-4, while Houston starter Johnson pitched well enough to win on most nights - but not tonight, falling to 5-6 on the season.

The Cardinals were still one game under .500 (30-31), but on the rise - thanks in large part to the spark provided by the newest member of the team.  Lou Brock had arrived - and very quickly his new teammates felt this trade wasn't such a bad one for the Cardinals, after all.

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