Thursday, June 5, 2014

June 5, 1979 - A Unique Walk-Off Winner for the Cardinals

Tuesday, June 5, 1979 - At Busch Stadium II:  Heading into this game with the San Francisco Giants, the Cardinals had been hot - winning five straight - on their way to a brief visit atop the NL East.  A ninth-inning 5-4 walk-off win tonight extended their winning streak to six - but the manner in which the winning run crossed the plate - much to the delight of  25,561 fans - wouldn't happen again for St Louis until September 13, 2013.

Silvio Martinez started this one for the Cardinals - Vida Blue for the Giants - neither figured in the decision, as both would be removed after allowing four runs - Blue after six innings, Martinez after seven.

Ted Simmons got the Redbirds on the board first, leading-off the second-inning with a rising line-drive home run down the left field line that barely had enough altitude to clear the wall; although it had plenty of velocity.  Simmons, whose previous high-water mark for home runs was 22 in 152 games in '78, announced before the '79 season that he would hit over 30 home runs - and he was well on his way until a broken hand ended his season after 123 games - with 26 home runs and 87 RBI.

Meanwhile, the Giants quickly took the lead in the third-inning.  With two out, the speedy Bill North singled, and with Larry Herndon batting, stole second, then third.  Martinez, probably a bit rattled, walked the equally speedy Herndon.  With Jack Clark batting, Herndon stole second - and on an errant throw from Simmons - North was able to score the tying run.  Clark promptly doubled in Herndon, giving San Francisco its first lead of the night - 2-1.

The Giants tacked on another run in the fourth-inning with a Bill Madlock solo home run - 3-1.

The Cardinals got that run back in their half of the fourth, with a little help from the Giants' defense.  Simmons  led-off with a single, then George Hendrick's potential double-play grounder was booted by Madlock - playing second base tonight.  When the next batter - Tony Scott - actually did hit into a 6-4-3 double play, Simmons took third, then scored an unearned run when Ken Reitz doubled him home.

The Giants immediately responded in the the fifth, as Vida Blue - a terrible hitter even for a pitcher - grounded one up the middle, which glanced off the glove of Martinez for a rare hit.  North's single put runners on first and second, then Herndon's bunt single loaded the bases.  Just like that.  Clark scored Blue from third on a force out at second.

San Francisco was up by two - with runners on the corners - and the ever-dangerous Willie McCovey now batting.  His fly ball to right field wasn't particularly deep, but North decided to test Hendrick's arm, which was strong enough to nail him at the plate - for an inning-ending double play.

Blue managed to keep the Cardinals scoreless in the fifth and sixth innings, but ran into trouble in the seventh, when  Roger Freed - pinch hitting for Martinez - walked.  Lou Brock, originally given the night off, was pinch running now.  He stopped at third after Garry Templeton poked a double down the right field line.  With that, Blue's night was over, as Gary LaVelle was brought in to face Jerry Mumphrey - who delivered a game-tying two-run double down the left field line.  That was all, for now.

After Buddy Schultz pitched a scoreless eighth-inning for St Louis, LaVelle matched him in the bottom half.

The ninth-inning was fascinating.  Mark Littell was now pitching for the Cardinals, and immediately found himself in a first-and-third-nobody-out situation, following a walk to Terry Whitfield and his own botched fielding play on a Mike Sadek sacrifice bunt.

Former-Cardinal cast-off Hector Cruz then grounded one to Templeton who got the force out to Mike Tyson at second - but Tyson saw the runner at third had strayed too far away from the bag, so quickly fired a strike to Oberkfell (who replaced Reitz as a pinch runner in the eighth-inning).  Meanwhile, the panicked Whitfield decided to head towards home plate.  Oberkfell quickly tossed the ball to Simmons, who applied the tag - completing an unorthodox 6-4-5-2 double play.  Cruz reached second on the play, but it didn't matter as Littell retired Herndon to end the threat.  Still all tied up, 4-4.

Randy Moffitt was the new pitcher for the Giants - Mike Sadek the new catcher - as Mumphrey began the bottom of the ninth with a slicing triple into the right field corner.  It would be the only time swinging the bat was necessary to walk this one off.  Hernandez and Simmons were intentionally walked to load the bases, bringing George Hendrick to the plate.  Sadek - not much of a defensive catcher - missed connecting on a Moffitt slider, as Hendrick calmly took one step back to get out of the way of the hard-charging Jerrry Mumphrey.

 Sadek had no chance of flagging that one down in time.  The game was over - a walk-off winner compliments of a simple passed ball.  A unique walk-off win like that wouldn't happen again for the Redbirds until a game against Seattle, on September 13, 2013.  That was Friday the 13th, by the way.

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