Tuesday, July 19, 1983 - At Busch Stadium II (Neil Allen - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: San Diego Padres (Tim Lollar - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 31,395
On June 15, 1983, the St Louis Cardinals traded the popular, line-drive-hitting Gold Glove first baseman - Keith Hernandez - to the New York Mets, for pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey. While the acquisition of Hernandez was one of the key ingredients to the mid-'80's rise of the Mets - the Cardinals, on the other hand, became National League champions in '85 and '87, in spite of this trade.
To Allen's credit, he pitched well for St Louis, initially. In fact, his first starting assignment with the Cardinals came against the Mets, at Shea Stadium - pitching eight strong innings in a 6-0 St Louis win.
One month later, as the Cardinals desperately tried to cling to first place in the weak NL East, Allen had his finest outing in a Cardinal uniform - going the distance - blanking the San Diego Padres on three hits. He walked just one, while striking out just three.
Strangely enough, Padres starter - Tim Lollar - also allowed just three hits in his eight innings of work. But thanks to a home run from an unexpected power source and a bunch of walks, the Cardinals manufactured four runs - more than enough to win on this night.
After Allen induced Steve Garvey to ground into an inning-ending double play (following a one-out walk to Juan Bonilla), the Cardinals wasted little time in putting pressure on Padres starter - Tim Lollar. Lonnie Smith led-off with a single to right field - and with Willie McGee batting - stole second. When McGee grounded one right back to the pitcher, Lollar had the presence of mind to catch Lonnie straying too far away from the second base bag. Smith was retired in an unusual pitcher-to-second baseman-to-catcher putout at third base - and in the pursuit of Lonnie, Willie had time to scamper to second base. With David Green now batting, McGee stole third - then raced home when Green was retired on a ground ball to the shortstop.
Little did anyone know, that one run was going to be enough to win this game. The Padres would only have three more base runners for the rest of the game - a pair of singles by Rupert Jones, in the third and fifth-innings, and a one-out single by Alan Wiggins in the ninth. That was it. San Diego never even got a runner in scoring position all night long.
Meanwhile, still nursing that 1-0 lead in the fifth-inning, Ozzie Smith connected for his second home run of the season - a two-run shot (following a walk to Tommy Herr). He would go on to hit one more in '83 - a new career high. Ozzie had two home runs in '82 - his first season with St Louis - prior to that, in four seasons with San Diego, the Wizard had just one home run to his credit - in 2536 plate appearances.
The Cardinals added one more run in the sixth-inning - when seldom-use utility infielder Floyd Rayford doubled - scoring McGee from second base.
After this win, Neil Allen had improved to 4-1 with his new team, as the Cardinals maintained the illusion of competing for a second straight division title. At the time, their record of 46-44 was good enough for the top spot in the NL East - but only a game ahead of Pittsburgh, a game and a half ahead of Philadelphia, and two games ahead of Montreal. Two nights later - after losing the next two games with San Diego, the Cardinals had slipped to third place - and would never see first again in '83.
The season that began with high hopes had slowly faded into mediocrity, thanks to a 33-39 finish. Even the Mets - who were mired in last place at the time - finished the rest of the schedule just a game under .500. They now had their first baseman of the future - the Cardinals now had their excess baggage.