Friday, August 23, 1968 - At Busch Stadium (Ray Washburn - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Pittsburgh Pirates (Bob Veale - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 34,845
Welcome to The Year of the Pitcher.
Phil Gagliano's eleventh-inning two-out triple scored Mike Shannon from first base to give the Cardinals a 3-2 walk-off win over the Pirates. Losing pitcher Ron Kline (10-3) hit Shannon with a pitch - enabling him to score the winning run when Gagliano's line drive happened to find the gap.
Meanwhile, in the second game of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees played to a 3-3 tie through nineteen innings - at which point, everybody had to go home on account of some curfew law. They'd have to try again with a much earlier starting time.
Runs were a rare commodity in 1968. The two runs the Pirates scored in this game came as a direct result of two separate errors by the usually reliable second baseman - Julian Javier. Otherwise, this game would have ended in regulation - with a 2-0 Cardinal win - and Ray Washburn would have had a complete game shutout. Instead, he toiled for ten innings just to be rewarded with a "no decision". Joe Hoerner (6-2) gets the win in relief with one inning of perfect work - striking out two - for style points.
Prior to Gagliano's game-winning three-bagger, the Cardinals got some offensive firepower from last year's NL MVP - Orlando Cepeda. His seventh-inning two-out two-run home run off Bob Veale tied the game at two runs apiece. It was only fitting that Javier would find some measure of redemption by drawing a base on balls prior to the two-run blast.
In the grand scheme of things, this game had little significance on the pennant race. After all, the Cardinals had already eliminated any doubt about the ultimate outcome of the National League championship. After tonight's game, St Louis (82-47) held a thirteen game advantage over second-place San Francisco. It would take a major Cardinals collapse coupled with an equally major Giants surge to make baseball history. Of course, that didn't happen.
Strangely enough, on this same date, back in 1964, the Cardinals were in fourth-place - eleven games behind the Philadelphia Phillies - and we all know what happened.
Of course, there was 2011. On this same date, just three years ago, the Cardinals trailed the Atlanta Braves by 10.5 games in the wild card race - and we all know what happened.
In 1968, the Cardinals advanced to the World Series with such ease, it may have given their fans a false sense of security that they were invincible. Reality usually lies somewhere between the perception of invincibility and hopeless ineptitude.
We just never know what's going to happen in major league baseball from one day to the next - so it's best to simply enjoy the ride.