Saturday, August 16, 2014

August 16, 1967 - Errors & Ejections Highlight Walk-Off Win Over Cubs

Wednesday, August 16, 1967 - At Busch Stadium II (Nelson Briles - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Joe Niekro - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  42,228

The Cardinals completed a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs with a frenetic 4-3 walk-off win - scoring a pair of unearned runs in a ninth-inning that featured three Cubs' ejections stemming from three separate controversial calls - from three separate umpires.  Ah, those were the good old days - before the technological advances enabled instant replay to settle disputes - because watching Leo Durocher go ballistic was generally quite entertaining.

Prior to the ninth-inning Chicago meltdown, the game began with a rare base running blunder featuring the game's premier stolen base artist - Lou Brock.  The Cards' lead-off hitter singled off Cubs starter Joe Niekro to open the first-inning for St Louis - then with Curt Flood batting - Brock stole second.  When Flood also lined a single to center, third base coach Joe Schultz gave Lou the "stop" sign as the throw from center fielder Adolfo Phillips was cut off by second baseman Glen Beckert - Brock, who had rounded third expecting to be waved home, looked back at Beckert, then decided to keep running for home.  Unfortunately, the brief pause at third was costly, as Beckert made a perfect throw to catcher John Stephenson just in time to nail Brock.

Meanwhile, Flood was able to advance to second while all this was going on - and later scored when Orlando Cepeda lined another single to center.  The Cardinals had a 1-0 lead, but may well have run themselves out of a big inning.

The Cubs tied it in the second-inning, although they also missed out on a big inning.  Ron Santo led-off with a single off Cards starter Nelson Briles - then after Ernie Banks struck out, Clarence Jones singled - putting runners on first and second for Stephenson - who doubled to score Santo, as Jones stopped at third.  Adolfo Phillips was intentionally walked to load the bases, hoping to induce a double play ground ball from the light-hitting pitcher - Joe Niekro.  Niekro complied, hitting it to third baseman Mike Shannon, who quickly threw to catcher Tim McCarver for the force out at home - who in turn, had plenty of time to retire Niekro lumbering down to first.

In the fourth-inning, McCarver broke the 1-1 tie with a lead-off home run.

With the score still 2-1 in favor of St Louis as the Cubs hit in the seventh-inning, Briles retired the first two batters, but Don Kessinger kept the inning alive with a single - for Glen Beckert - who established a career high with five home runs in 1967.  He got one of them here to suddenly give the Cubs a 3-2 lead - silencing the Cardinal fans - while the Cub fans became quite a bit more vociferous.  In the stands, a few isolated fisticuffs broke out - but the real action happened on the field, as the Cardinals hit in the bottom of the ninth, still down by a run.

Bill Hands, who was brought in to relieve Niekro to start the seventh-inning, was still on the mound for Chicago to work the bottom of the ninth.  He retired the first batter - Roger Maris - on a fly ball to right field - but Cepeda got a rare infield hit when his ground ball to shortstop Kessinger was too hot to handle.  Next up - McCarver hit a ground ball to Ernie Banks at first base - and in his haste to try to turn the double play - booted the ball instead.  McCarver was safe at first as Cepeda now occupied second.

As tensions rose, Shannon lined a bullet to Kessinger at short, who quickly threw to Beckert covering second to double up Cepeda - but Beckert dropped the ball.  Cepeda was safe on the error, but Beckert was livid, insisting he had possession long enough to be ruled a catch.  Second base umpire Augie Donatelli steadfastly disagreed, explaining the way it was - by this time - to the entire Cubs infield, along with their fiery manager - Leo Durocher.  After several minutes of jawing back and forth, Donatelli decided to give Leo the Lip the rest of the night off - which further incensed Durocher for a few extra minutes of profanity and dirt kicking.

Meanwhile, there was still a baseball game to be decided - and more controversy to unfold.  Next up - Julian Javier - grounded one in the hole at shortstop.  As Kessinger fielded the ball, his only play was to attempt a force out of Cepeda at third - but somehow, Cepeda was ruled safe at third by third base umpire Stan Landis.  It's not clear whether Landis ruled that Cepeda beat the throw, or whether Santo missed the bag or missed the tag.  But what is clear is Santo thought Landis should have his eyes examined, and discussed the issue - vehemently - for several minutes.  He too, was given the rest of the night off by Landis, as Paul Popovich was brought in to stand at third base for a few more minutes.

With the bases loaded - and the Cardinals down to their last out - Phil Gagliano managed to draw a game-tying base on balls - on four borderline pitches that drew the ire of Bill Hands - who vented his frustration with home plate umpire Al Barlick.  He too, was given the rest of the night off, as Cepeda performed his patented "Cha cha" dance moves all over home plate - much to the delight of the Cardinal fans and much to the chagrin of the downtrodden Cub fans.

Chuck Hartenstein was the new pitcher - taking over for the ejected and dejected Hands - as pinch hitter Alex Johnson finished 'em off with a ground ball up the middle.  Beckert managed to get a glove on the ball but had no play - everybody was safe - as McCarver raced home with the winning run.

Both runs the Cardinals scored - thanks to two errors - were unearned.  There have probably been other games in major league history that featured back-to-back-to-back ejections - but this was the only time I can remember seeing it.

After this devastating series sweep, the Cubs were now twelve games behind the Cardinals - but the good news for Chicago - they were only a game and a half out of second place - although they never quite made it there.

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