Monday, August 25, 2014

August 25, 1964 - Brock's 13th-Inning Walk-Off Home Run Vs Pirates

Tuesday, August 25, 1964 - At Busch Stadium I (Curt Simmons - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Bob Veale - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  8,664

In a game that almost got away from the Cardinals, Lou Brock's dramatic thirteenth-inning home run was a walk-off winner - giving the Redbirds a crucial 7-6 win over the Pirates.  Of course, at the time, this game seemed about as "crucial" as a spring training contest - nice to win, but nobody thought it could possibly affect the pennant race.  After all, St Louis (67-58) still trailed Philadelphia (76-49) by nine games with only 31 to play.  Why, it would take a 26-11 Cardinal finish - coupled with a 16-21 Phillie flop to give the Redbirds the pennant - assuming the two other teams in front of St Louis don't pull their own miracles.

Of course, that's precisely what happened.  But who knew?

Apparently, the St Louis fan base had little idea a miracle was about to happen.  Otherwise, more than just a few close friends and family members would have paid the price of admission to witness a small part of baseball history tonight.

The Cardinals actually looked like they were going to run away with this game - almost from the onset - when they scored four second-inning runs off Pirates starter Bob Veale.  Incredibly, backup catcher Bob Uecker was right in the middle of everything.  It's safe to say, without his contributions in this game, the Cardinals don't win - which means they don't win the pennant, either.  Imagine that.

The inning began with consecutive walks to Bill White and Carl Warwick.  Julian Javier then scored White with a single to right, as Warwick advanced to third.  Next up - the amazing Uecker - lined a double deep to center field - scoring both runners - and when the relay throw to home was booted by the catcher, Uecker streaked into third.  He later came in to score the fourth run of the inning on a Curt Flood single.

Staked to that 4-0 lead, Cardinal starter Curt Simmons was touched for one run in the Pirates' third-inning on a Bob Bailey RBI single.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh manager went to the bullpen early in this game - replacing Veale with the hard-throwing reliever - Tommie Sisk - to begin the third-inning.  Sisk walked three but didn't allow a hit or a run in his four-inning stint - striking out four along the way.

While Sisk silenced the St Louis bats, the Pirates lineup tied the game with a three-run seventh - knocking Simmons out of the game after pinch hitter Gene Freese led-off with a home run, followed by a double by Bob Bailey, then a two-base error by second baseman Javier made it a 4-3 game - with the tying run in scoring position.

Manager Johnny Keane brought in Barney Schultz to face Roberto Clemente - who immediately smacked a knuckle ball into left field for a game tying single.  Then, with Jerry Lynch batting, Clemente stole second.  With the go-ahead run in scoring position with still nobody out, Schultz was able to get Lynch on a fly ball to Flood in center - then struck out Donn Clendenon and Bill Mazeroski to end the threat.

The score remained knotted at four runs apiece through eleven innings.  Pirates reliever Vern Law worked his magic through the ninth - then Al McBean took over to start the tenth.  Barney Schultz stayed in the game until running into twelfth-inning trouble.

A lead-off walk to Clemente was followed by a one-out single off the bat of Clendenon to left field.  Clemente challenged Brock's arm - beating his throw to third - allowing Clendenon take the extra base, as well.  With first base open, Mazeroski was intentionally walked to set up a possible double play.  Pinch hitter Smokey Burgess foiled that strategy - lining a single to center field - scoring both Clemente and Clendenon.  After another single had runners on first and second, Bob Humphreys was summoned from the Cardinal bullpen - and the unsung hero struck out Freese - then retired Bailey on a ground ball to the shortstop.

With St Louis down by two runs, the situation looked bleak - especially since they hadn't scored a single run since the second-inning.  I guess they were due.  Brock started the inning with a single to left off McBean.  Dick Groat also singled, as Brock stopped at second.  Next up - Ken Boyer - grounded one to Mazeroski at second base, but barely beat the relay throw from the shortstop to avoid the double play.

With runners on first and third, Bill White delivered an RBI single to center, as Boyer advanced to third.  Next up - Mike Shannon - doubled into right field - scoring Boyer, as White held up at third - and that's where he remained, as pinch hitter Charlie James was retired on a foul popup to the third baseman - then after an intentional walk to Tim McCarver, Dal Maxvill stuck out to end the threat.  However, the game was now tied once again.  Unbelievable.

Reliever Ron Taylor set the Pirates down in order in the lucky thirteenth - setting the stage for Brock's heroics.  After Curt Flood was retired by McBean for the first out of the inning, the lefty hung a slider to Brock - which was deposited over the right field pavilion - onto Grand Avenue - for the walk-off winner.

The game was four minutes shy of being four hours in duration. Of the 8,664 paying fans who were seated at the beginning of this crazy marathon, it's safe to assume a few thousand had already vacated the premises by the time this one ended.  Those die-hard fans who stuck around for the comeback win would no doubt regularly remind their friends and family that they were there - and they just knew the Cardinals were going to win the pennant all along.

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