Saturday, July 11, 1964 - At Shea Stadium (Ray Sadecki - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: New York Mets (Tracy Stallard - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 19,475
The Cardinals took advantage of a hapless, error-prone Mets team to cruise to an easy 11-4 win - and in the process, return to .500 again (41-41). So this is the team that would go on to win the National League pennant on the last day of the season and beat the New York Yankees in the World Series? Much can happen in three months...
Thanks to a mind-boggling six Mets' errors, five of the eleven runs St Louis scored were unearned. Most Little League teams play better defensively - especially in the mysterious ways the Mets executed their defensive prowess in the third-inning - when they actually had a 2-1 lead going into the frame.
Actually, New York started out like they were going to make Ray Sadecki's start a very brief one. After the Cardinals failed to score in the top half of the first-inning, the Mets quickly had Sadecki on the ropes in the bottom half of the inning. After lead-off hitter Ed Kranepool was retired, Ron Hunt lined a single to left field. Back-up catcher Hawk Taylor followed with a single of his own to left - then Joe Christopher scored Hunt with a single to center field - and when Curt Flood bobbled the ball, Taylor moved up to third, while Christopher took second. The fun continued when Jim Hickman lined a base hit to right field, scoring Taylor, as Christopher stopped at third.
Obviously rattled, Sadecki then walked Charley Smith to load the bases. On the bright side - at least the streak of consecutive singles stopped at four. The next hitter - George Altman - wasn't fooled either. He simply hit into some bad luck, when his line drive was flagged down by second baseman Julian Javier - who quickly flipped to Dal Maxvill to double Hickman off second base. Altman was shaking his head after that one - he would later hit a solo home run off Sadecki, in the sixth-inning - proving that timing is everything.
The Cardinals were fortunate to only be down two runs, the way the Mets teed off on Sadecki - almost like he was throwing batting practice. They came back and scored a run in the second-inning, when Mike Shannon singled home Ken Boyer - who led-off with a double.
The real fun for the Redbirds happened in a bizarre five-run third-inning that seemed more like a Twilight Zone episode than baseball game - at least for fans of the Amazin' Mets. Ray Sadecki - who likely would have been knocked out of the game in the first-inning had Altman's line drive been a couple of feet to the left or right of where it was hit - not only survived the bad start - he led-off the third with a double down the right field line. Playing conservatively, manager Johnny Keane had Flood lay down a sacrifice bunt, which put Sadecki on third with one out.
The Twilight Zone episode began with Lou Brock - who tied the game with a double of his own to center field - then Dick Groat untied the game with a single to center. Boyer also singled to center, putting runners on first and second. The inning should have ended when Bill White hit a double play grounder to shortstop Roy McMillan- instead, the first error of the game loaded the bases.
The second error of the game for the Mets was simply, amazing. Mike Shannon hit another double play grounder, to second baseman Ron Hunt, who got the force-out to McMillan covering the second base bag, as Groat scored the third run of the inning; however, the relay to first was off the mark, but catcher Hawk Taylor backed up the play - then got overly ambitious by trying to catch Boyer napping at third. His throw was so wild, it not only allowed Kenny to trot home with the fourth run of the inning, Shannon was also able to ramble all the way home while the ball was skipping merrily down the left field corner.
Tracy Stallard had yielded six runs in his three innings of work - featuring three unearned runs. The Mets bullpen would yield another five runs - two more unearned runs after four more errors.
The fifth-inning was hilarious. Three consecutive ground balls were kicked by three different Mets' infielders. Boyer reached on third baseman Charley Smith's error - then White reached on another McMillan error at shortstop - finally, Shannon loaded the bases when pitcher Darrell Sutherland (no relation to Donald) couldn't find the handle on his easy double play grounder. Strangely enough, the Cardinals only came away with one run out of that mess. After Javier's sacrifice fly plated Boyer, White was nailed at the plate trying to tag up on McCarver's fly ball to left field. The inning-ending double play put the crowd into a state of delirium. One run, no hits, three errors.
By the time the sixth and final, Mets error occurred - in the ninth-inning - the Cardinals were safely ahead, 8-4 - but they would add three more runs just for fun.
The defensive replacement at shortstop - Amado Samuel (no relation to Juan), botched a relay throw from right fielder Joe Christopher after Mike Shannon's RBI single scored Boyer from third - but White, who started from first base, also came around to score when the ball clanged off Samuel's glove into left field, meandering towards the foul line while a frustrated George Altman retrieved it too late to stop the eleventh, and final, run of the debacle to cross the plate. As a footnote to this play, Amado Samuel's three-year - 144-game major league career came to an abrupt end after this game. Such a shame. He was just trying to fit in with the rest of the squad.
In the end, Sadecki survived a potentially disastrous first inning to improve to 10-6, on his way to a 20-win season. Stallard would lose yet another to fall to 5-11, on his way to a 20-loss season (leading the NL in that dubious category).
Meanwhile, the fifth-place Cardinals were still 9.5 games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants. They were much closer to ninth-place than first - only 3.5 games separated them from being the second-worst team in the National League. The Mets had a lock on last-place, by a wide margin.
Unbelievably, St Louis would finish the season with a NL-best 52-28 record - good enough for 93 wins and a pennant.