Saturday, June 7, 2014

This Day in St Louis Cardinals History - June 7, 1970 - Gibson Catches a Break - Simmons Hits 1st Career HR

Sunday, June 7, 1970 - At Busch Stadium II:  It's safe to say Bob Gibson didn't catch many breaks in '68 when he won only 22 games with a ridiculous 1.12 ERA.  Two years later, he managed to win 23 games with an ERA of 3.12.  Go figure.

One of those 23 wins happened in this game against the not-so-talented San Diego Padres, who had Gibson on the ropes early - but let him get off the hook late - resulting in an ugly 10-7 win for the man who was still the best pitcher in the National League.

In this game, a young catcher by the name of Ted Simmons - who would hit just .243 in 82 games - had a big day today in helping his battery mate snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  Or something like that.

The Padres quickly jumped out in front in this game, scoring three second-inning runs - two of which were unearned runs, thanks to an error by Joe Torre, who was trying to handle the hot corner today.  Later, in the dugout, Gibson and Torre exchanged pleasantries regarding such things as the weather, where they would be having dinner tonight, and how to field ground balls, etc.

Torre, trying to atone for his error, drove in a third-inning run with a single, as Gibson sneered in the Cardinals' dugout, "You needed to hit that one out!"

The Padres then jumped on Gibson for three hits and a pair of walks in the fourth-inning to score four earned runs, to take a commanding 7-1 lead.  In the dugout afterwards, Torre was overheard saying, "Don't blame me this time!"  Gibson replied, "You still owe me one!"

An irritated Gibson kept San Diego scoreless over the next two innings, when Torre led off the St Louis sixth with a ringing double down the left field line.  The next batter - a 20-year old Ted Simmons - trying to get on the good side of the surly Gibby - blasted his first major league home run to cut the deficit to 7-3.  With bravado, the excited kid from Michigan told his seasoned battery mate, "Don't worry man; we're gonna pull this one out!"  Torre and Lou Brock - lurking right behind Gibson - were doing their best to keep a straight face as Gibson sneered, "That would be oh-so-lovely!"

After Gibson worked a scoreless seventh against the suddenly quiet San Diego lineup, he was due to lead-off the bottom half.  Without hesitation, he worked his way towards the bat rack but was intercepted by manager Red Schoendienst, who told him, "Gibby, I'm gonna have Vic bat for you."

Ironically, Gibson was having one of his best years at the plate in '70 - on his way to hitting .303 with a couple of home runs and 19 RBI.  He was even used to pinch hit six times that season.  But the decision by Schoendienst is probably the reason Gibson would wind up winning - not losing - today's game.

Gibson - now a spectator - glared at pinch hitter Vic Davalillo - the diminutive Venezuelan who would lead the National League with 24 pinch hits in '70.  Davalillo just smiled and said, "Don't worry, man; I'm gonna get a hit for you!"  Brock chimed in, "Me too!"

As it turned out, Vic and Lou both had two hits in the seven-run seventh - as San Diego manager Preston Gomez used four different pitchers to try to stop the onslaught.  But the damage had been done - Jose Cardenal drove in one run, Torre two, Simmons yet another, Leron Lee drove in two more, and Davalillo's second hit drove in the seventh, and final run in the lucky seventh-inning for Bob Gibson - whose expression brightened considerably by the time it was over.

Torre and Brock couldn't help themselves - tormenting Gibson mercilessly between innings; and Gibson was enjoying every minute of it.  The 18,474 fans in attendance were definitely enjoying every minute of the game now, after that miraculous seven-run outburst.

Relievers Frank Linzy and Ted Abernathy (S-2) preserved the Gibson win - one of a league-leading 23 wins for the 34-year old Cardinal ace - who would win his second NL Cy Young Award that year; ironically, pitching for a team that finished 10 games under .500 that year.  Go figure.

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