Friday, August 21, 1964 - At Candlestick Park (Curt Simmons - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: San Francisco Giants (Bob Hendley - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 19,644
Trailing by two runs with two outs and a runner on first in the top of the ninth-inning at Candlestick Park - the Cardinals managed to score three times for an improbable 6-5 win over the San Francisco Giants. With this unlikely victory, the fourth-place Redbirds managed to keep pace with first-place Philadephia - who had already beaten Pittsburgh. That's the good news. The bad news: The Cardinals were still ten games out of first place. No big deal.
The Cardinals got off to a flying start off Giants starter Bob Hendley - scoring two first-inning runs when Ken Boyer doubled home Curt Flood from second and Dick Groat from first - staking Curt Simmons to an early lead.
Unfortunately, Simmons quickly relinquished that lead in the bottom of the first. After lead-off hitter Harvey Kuenn doubled, Hal Lanier advanced him to third with a single. Simmons then managed to strike out Willie Mays, but Orlando Cepeda brought in Kuenn with a sacrifice fly to cut the lead in half. Next up - Jim Ray Hart - homered to give the Giants a 3-2 lead.
The situation worsened when San Francisco added another run in the second off the veteran St Louis southpaw. Jim Davenport tripled to start the Cardinals' bullpen stirring. This was going to be a very short outing for Simmons, who did manage to strike out Tom Haller - but he was unable to prevent Bob Hendley from bringing in the run with a well-executed squeeze bunt. Simmons retired Hendley as second baseman Julian Javier covered first for the putout. However, after Kuenn tripled, manager Johnny Keane had seen enough - bringing in Bob Humphreys to face Lanier - and he got him to retire the side.
After the Cardinals failed to score in the third-inning, the Giants added another run in the bottom half - when Cepeda got his second RBI of the game with a solo home run. San Francisco now had a 5-2 lead - but that would be the last run they'd score in this game.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals scored an unearned run in the fifth-inning. Curt Flood led-off with a single - but Lou Brock was called out on strikes. Then, with Flood running on the pitch - Dick Groat hit a routine ground ball to third baseman Hart - who made an errant throw to first which Cepeda was unable to dig out of the dirt. With runners on first and second, Boyer got his third RBI of the game with a base hit that scored Flood.
The Cardinals, trailing by a 5-3 score, started the sixth-inning in promising fashion with a triple by Mike Shannon. However, backup catcher Bob Uecker demonstrated why he was the backup catcher - by popping up to the second baseman for out number one. After pinch hitter Carl Warwick walked, manager Al Dark made a pitching change - bringing in Jim Duffalo to face Curt Flood - who struck out. Brock then grounded out to end the threat.
The Cardinals again threatened in the seventh-inning, with Dick Groat leading off with a triple. Ken Boyer then walked - but Duffalo got Bill White on a pop up to the second baseman. With Julian Javier due up next, Keane decided to pinch hit for him - with the veteran Bob Skinner - but he struck out. Shannon then grounded out to the second baseman, who forced Boyer at second - unassisted.
After the Cardinals went quietly in the eighth-inning, it was the Giants' turn to squander a golden scoring opportunity in the bottom half. With Ron Taylor now pitching for St Louis, Jesus Alou led-off with a single to right field. Next up - Jim Davenport - reached on an infield single which shortstop Dick Groat fielded, but couldn't make a play. But then Taylor induced Tom Haller to ground one to Dal Maxvill at second base - who entered the game as a replacement for Javier - who left the game when Skinner pinch hit for him in the seventh. Maxvill flipped the ball to Groat who turned the easy double play. Alou was on third with two out, but the next batter was the pitcher - Duffalo - who struck out to end the inning.
Duffalo returned to the mound to face the Cardinals in the ninth-inning - trying to protect a 5-3 lead. Brock led-off with a single - but the next two batters - Groat and Boyer - were both retired on ground balls to the second baseman, as Brock advanced to second. The next batter - Bill White - who represented the tying run - was intentionally walked - bringing the light-hitting Dal Maxvill to the dish. Javier's replacement in the lineup promptly lined a single to left field - scoring Brock - and putting the tying run - White, who was intentionally walked - in scoring position.
Mike Shannon then lined a single to center to score White - and when second baseman Hal Lanier inexplicably missed the throw from Mays - Maxvill came all the way around to score the go-ahead run - and Shannon advanced to third while the Giants were running around trying to stop that runaway ball.
A stunned Jim Duffalo was relieved of duty by this time - as the veteran lefty Billy Pierce finally stopped the bleeding by getting pinch hitter Jerry Bucheck on a fly ball to a bewildered Mays in center.
Out of the Cardinal bullpen to close out the game came their new secret weapon - knuckle ball specialist Barney Schultz - who retired Kuenn on a ground ball to the shortstop - then induced pinch hitter Duke Snider to ground out harmlessly to second. Schultz recorded his sixth save of the season by getting Willie Mays - who had a home run cut - to pop out to Groat at shortstop to end it.
The Cardinals had come back from the dead to win this game - but after dropping the final two games of this series, St Louis would slip to eleven games back of Philadelphia on August 23 - the low-water mark for the entire season. The most remarkable finish to any major league season was in store, although nobody could have possibly imagined what was about to transpire.
One thing Cardinal fans know for sure, fifty years later: It's a good thing they won this game.