Thursday, July 6, 1967 - At Busch Stadium II (Dick Hughes - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Cincinnati Reds (Mel Queen - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 26,131
The Cardinals had to overcome a pair of fielding miscues along with some poor base running - to walk-off with a thrilling 6-5 win over the Cincinnati Reds - a game that was loaded with rarities.
Cincinnati struck first, in shocking fashion - with one out in the third-inning. Back-up catcher Jim Coker - playing in his ninth and final major league season - shocked everybody - including himself - with a triple - his first since 1960 - and the last one he'd ever hit.
With pitcher Mel Queen now batting, Reds manager Dave Bristol put the squeeze play on; however, Queen's bunt was so well-placed, by the time Tim McCarver retrieved it, not only had the runner from third scored, Queen was safe at first with a single.
Next, Bristol immediately put Queen in motion, stealing second - as a befuddled shortstop Dal Maxvill completely missed the throw from McCarver - allowing Queen to ramble all the way in to score the second run of the inning on the error. Queen would steal one more base in '67 - and that would be his grand total for eight major league seasons.
However, the Cardinals were a resilient bunch in 1967 - striking back with long-ball power in the fourth-inning. After Roger Maris drew a lead-off walk, Orlando Cepeda hit one deep to left to tie the game, 2-2. Tim McCarver followed with a home run of his own, giving the Cardinals a temporary 3-2 lead on the back-to-back long balls.
The Reds - also a resilient bunch - bounced back in the sixth-inning, after the first two batters were retired. Pete Rose tripled, then Tony Perez hit a mammoth home run over the wall in left-center to suddenly make it a 4-3 Cincinnati lead. After Maxvill committed his second error of the game, on a ground ball off the bat of Deron Johnson, he was given the rest of the night off. Luckily, that error didn't lead to further scoring.
Unfortunately, Maxvill's replacement had trouble fielding the position, as well.
After St Louis failed to score off Queen in the sixth and seventh, Cincinnai added another unearned run in the eighth-inning - off reliever Ron Willis. With one out, Rose singled, then took third as the defensive replacement at shortstop - Eddie Bressoud - booted a ground ball off the bat of Perez. Johnson then singled to center field, scoring Rose with another unearned run, as Perez held up at second.
With the Reds already up by two runs, Cardinal manager Red Schoendienst brought in lefty Joe Hoerner to restore order - and he did - getting Art Shamsky on a popup to short and Dick Simpson on a called strike three.
With the Cardinals now trailing, 5-3 - Cepeda led-off the eighth-inning with a single to left field - but was out at second - unwisely trying to stretch it into a double. When McCarver was retired on a lazy fly ball to center for the second out of the inning, some of the fans started heading for the exits.
But then a tiring Queen hit Mike Shannon with a pitch, bringing Julian Javier to the plate. Javier, who hit a career-high 14 home runs in 1967, hit one of them here to tie the game - and send the crowd into a state of delirium - as many of those vacated seats once again became occupied.
After Hoerner (4-2) set the Reds down in order in their half of the ninth-inning, the Redbirds finished them off in the bottom half, off reliever Bob Lee (1-2). With one out, lead-off hitter Bobby Tolan - playing in place of Lou Brock, who was given a rare night off - singled, then promptly stole second. With first base open, Curt Flood drew a base on balls. Maris tried to end it with a line drive to left, but Shamsky made a nice catch for the second out.
But then Cepeda - seeking redemption for unwisely testing the arm of left fielder Shamsky one inning earlier - delivered the game-winning single to center field - easily scoring the speedy Tolan from second base - as Cards' broadcaster Harry Caray spewed his patented "Cardinals win!" summation a half dozen times to a blissful Cardinal Nation listening over the air waves.
Tonight's win earned the first-place Cardinals a split of the four-game series with the Reds - sending them packing, still four games back. Meanwhile, the second-place Cubs also lost, moving them a game and a half off the pace. For the Cardinals, this was the biggest win of the year - but there would be many more "biggest win of the year" games to follow in the not-too-distant future.