Thursday, September 24, 1964 - At Forbes Field (Bob Gibson - Game One Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Pittsburgh Pirates (Wilbur Wood - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 2,842
The Cardinals began this five-game series with the Pirates by doing exactly what they needed to do - win both ends of this doubleheader. Bob Gibson went the distance in the first game - scattering nine hits while striking out eleven in a 4-2 Cardinal win. The only mistake that cost him was a seventh-inning two-run home run off the bat of Donn Clendenon, after the Redbirds had already scored the first four runs of the ballgame.
The Cardinals started the game with back-to-back singles by Curt Flood and Lou Brock. After Dick Groat was retired on grounder to the first baseman - unassisted - both runners moved up a base.
Cleanup hitter Ken Boyer was intentionally walked to load the bases - with Bill White up next - hoping to get a big hit. Instead, Wood balked in a run (Flood), as Boyer and Brock were now perched on second and third - then White stuck out.
Then, with Julian Javier batting, Brock wandered a bit too far off the third base bag, was picked off by catcher Orlando McFarlane, and was subsequently tagged out after a brief rundown (C - 3B - C - SS) - to end the inning.
Naturally, Javier led-off the second-inning with a single that probably would have scored two runs an inning earlier. Mike Shannon followed with a ground out to the third baseman, as Javier advanced to second. Then with Bob Uecker batting, Wood uncorked a wild pitch, enabling Javier to take third.
With first base open, and the pitcher due up, Uecker walked. Of course, this particular pitcher was a pretty good hitter (.206 career vs Uecker's .200) - and Gibson helped his own cause with a run-scoring sacrifice fly to center field, to give himself a 2-0 lead.
The Cardinals tacked on two more runs in the fifth. Flood opened with a single to center field, but was forced out at second on Brock's grounder to the shortstop. Groat then came up with the big hit - a double down the left field line - advancing Brock to third.
Boyer received his second intentional walk of the game to load the bases for Bill White - who drove in Brock and Groat with a single to right field, as Boyer advanced to third. After Javier walked to once again load the bases, manager Danny Murtaugh brought in reliever Don Schwall to pitch to Mike Shannon - ending Wilbur Wood's shaky outing (4.1 IP - 6 H - 4 R - 6 BB - 1 SO). Who would have thought - seven years later, pitching for the Chicago White Sox he would begin a string of five straight seasons of starting over 40 games each year? You never know...
Who would have thought - the Cardinals would have two runners picked off third base in the same game? But that's what happened as Shannon was at bat. This time, it was Boyer wandering a bit too far off third, as McFarlane bagged another victim. Shannon was then retired on a fly ball to center - which may have scored the run from third - but 50 years later, we just don't know these things.
What we do know is Clendenon's two-run home run off Gibson would conclude the scoring in game one - good enough for a much-needed win.
Game Two Starting Pitchers: Ray Sadecki vs Tom Butters
Sadecki pitched one of the finest games of his career - a complete game five hit shutout. He walked just one batter while striking out ten - that's 21 strikeouts in one day, folks.
The first two runs the Cardinals put on the board came via the long ball. Brock hit a solo home run in the third-inning, then Shannon smacked one in the fifth-inning. Those were the only runs Butters allowed in his eight innings of work. The Cards then tacked on a couple of ninth-inning insurance runs - both charged to Don Schwall, who gave up a lead-off single to Shannon, then struck out Sadecki before Flood singled to right - advancing Shannon to second.
With that, reliever Frank Bork entered the game to pitch to Brock - who forced Flood at second on a grounder to second baseman Bill Mazeroski, as Shannon advanced to third. At that point, Pirates' pitching achieved the rare "daily double" - two run-scoring balks. This one - with White batting - scored Shannon, as Brock moved into scoring position - and White took advantage of the opportunity with a run-scoring double, to make it a 4-0 game.
The third pitcher in the inning - Tommie Sisk - then struck out Boyer to end the inning.
Sadecki finished 'em off in style - striking out Clendenon, Freese and Stargell to nail this one down.
At the end of the day, the Cardinals were now 3.5 games behind the first-place Phillies - who were beaten at home by the Milwaukee Braves, by a final score of 5-3. The Reds were a half game in front of St Louis - just three games behind Philadelphia.
St Louis had just nine more games to play - Cincinnati had ten more - and Philadelphia still had the ordeal of playing eight more games.
The way the season played out was truly mind-boggling.