Thursday, September 25, 2014

September 25, 1974 - One For The Ages: Come-From-Behind 13-Inning Walk-Off Win Over Pirates

Wednesday, September 25, 1974 - At Busch Stadium II (Bob Forsch - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Ken Brett - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  41,345

The Cardinals had dropped the first two games of a three-game series with the Pirates - to fall into second-place in the NL East race - now one-half game behind Pittsburgh.  Fighting for their postseason lives, they pulled off this amazing double-comeback to regain a slim one-half game advantage over a superior Pirates team - with six games left to play.  Had the Cardinals managed to win the division title that season, this game would have gained prominence in its historic significance.  As it stands, a whole generation of Cardinal fans have grown up unaware of one of the wildest games ever played.  And the good guys even won.

              1   2   3    4   5   6    7   8   9   10  11     R    H   E
Pirates  5   0   0    0   1   2    0   0   1    0    3      12   16   3     LP:  Jim Minshall (0-1)
Cards    0   0   6    0   3   0    0   0   0    0   4       13   17   1    WP:  Mike Garman (7-2)

The Cardinals pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat tonight, with a one-of-kind come-from-behind extra-inning walk-off win over the Pirates.  In thirteen-innings, the final score:  St Louis 13 - Pittsburgh 12.  What made this game especially unique was the fact that the Pirates had taken a 12-9 lead after their turn at bat in the top half of the thirteenth, only to have the Cardinals score four runs in the bottom half.  The walk-off blow was a simple little sacrifice fly off the bat of pinch hitter Jim Dwyer that scored pinch runner Larry Herndon from third base.

What made this game even more unique is the fact that the Pirates immediately broke on top with a five-run first-inning - knocking starting pitcher Bob Forsch out of the game after retiring just one batter:  0.1 IP - 3 H - 5 R - 2 BB - 0 SO - 1 HR (That home run was a three-run bomb by Manny Sanguillen, after the Pirates had already pushed two runs across the board.)

With Forsch making an untimely early exit, manager Red Schoendienst brought Rich Folkers in from the bullpen to escape the first-inning with no further damage.  Folkers then pitched a scoreless second-inning before being removed for a pinch hitter - as the Cards tried to get something going in the bottom of the second - to no avail.

However, the top of the order would be getting something started as the Cardinals took their hacks in the third-inning - still trailing, 5-0.

Lou Brock started the rally off Pirates starter Ken Brett (George's older brother) with an infield single in the shortstop - third base hole.  Ted Sizemore advanced Brock to third with a single to left field - then Reggie Smith drove in the first run of the game for St Louis with a single to center.

Ted Simmons and Joe Torre followed with run-scoring singles - to make it a 5-3 game - before Bake McBride's grounder right back to Brett resulted in a force out at third base.  With that, manager Danny Murtaugh brought in the first of six relievers he would use - Larry Demery - who inherited runners on first and second - as Ken Reitz stepped into the batter's box.

Reitz tied the game with a double down the left field line - then came in to score when pinch hitter Jose Cruz (batting for Mike Tyson) put the Cardinals in front, 6-5 - with a base hit to right field.

As the crowd was going wild, Schoendienst decided this would be a good time to execute the hit and run play.  With Cruz bolting off first base, Claude Osteen - a pretty good hitting pitcher - hit a soft line drive to the shortstop which was quickly turned into an inning-ending double play.

Still, not a bad inning:  Six runs on seven hits.  The Cardinals had a 6-5 lead - but that lead was short-lived.

Osteen, who had temporarily restored order in the third and fourth innings, couldn't get anybody out in the fifth.  Richie Hebner led-off with a single - followed by Al Oliver's run-scoring double to tie the game, 6-6.  After intentionally walking Willie Stargell, Osteen's night was over (2 IP - 2 H - 1 R - 2 BB - 1 SO) - Al Hrabosky's weird night was just beginning.

The Mad Hungarian came into this tie game to face Dave Parker with two on and nobody out.  Force out at second.  With runners on first and third and one out, Hrabosky retired Sanguillen on a short fly ball to right - not deep enough to score the runner from third.  He then got Ed Kirkpatrick on a called third strike - as the crowd went wild.  Pittsburgh had tied the game, but Hrabosky had stolen the momentum.

Ted Simmons greeted Pirates reliever John Morlan with a base hit to right to start the bottom of the fifth for the Redbirds.  Morlan then plunked Joe Torre with a pitch - putting runners on first and second.  With Bake McBride batting, Morlan uncorked a wild pitch - advancing the runners to second and third.  McBride's sacrifice fly to left field scored Simmons - to restore the one-run lead for the Cardinals.  The next batter - Ken Reitz - gave the Cardinals a three-run lead with a bomb deep to left.

The Pirates countered with two runs in the sixth, as the Bad Mad Hungarian reared its ugly head for the first time.  After striking out Frank Taveras, Hrabosky immediately gave up a base hit to pinch hitter Ken Macha - followed by a double to Rennie Stennett.

With runners on second and third, Hrabosky retired Richie Hebner on a short fly ball to right field, for the second out - but Al Oliver brought in both runners with a single to left field.  Hrabosky avoided further damage by retiring Stargell - but the Cardinal lead was down to one run:  9-8.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh relievers Ramon Hernandez and Dave Guisti were throwing zeroes at the Redbirds, while Hrabosky regrouped to pitch a scoreless seventh and a scoreless eighth, as the crowd kept their fingers crossed heading into the ninth-inning.

The crowd roared when The Hungarian struck out Stargell to open the ninth.  But things went bad again when Parker was hit by a pitch.  Next up - Sanguillen - lined a single to center field, which McBride misplayed - allowing Parker to score all the way from first, as Sanguillen cruised into second.  Hrabosky avoided any further damage - but the game would be heading into extra innings - tied, 9-9.

Incredibly, Hrabosky was still hanging in there, to start work in eleventh-inning.  Pinch hitter Art Howe reached on an infield single down the third base line.  Pinch running for Howe - Miguel Dilone - advanced to third on Stargell's single to right field.  Hrabosky dramatically struck out Parker for the first out - but Sanguillen gave Pittsburgh the lead with a base hit to left - then Kirkpatrick added a pair of insurance runs with a ringing double to right field.

By this time, Schoendienst finally decided to bring in a fresh arm out of the bullpen - Mike Garman - who retired the two batters he faced - Popovich and Zisk - to avoid further disaster.

Hrabosky - at times brilliant, at times brutal - had this pitching line:  6.1 IP - 10 H - 6 R - 5 ER - 0 BB - 9 SO -  Obviously, he was throwing strikes - at times, quite successfully.  Obviously, the Pirates were a free-swinging bunch - refusing to take a base on balls, getting lots of hits while striking out like major league ballplayers of the future - lots of times.

Little did anyone suspect that Mike Garman's brief 0.2 IP stint would earn him a win - but it did.

On the mound for Pittsburgh to start the bottom of the thirteenth - Juan Jimenez - would face three batters and all three batters reached base.  Sizemore singled, Smith walked and Simmons stirred the crowd into a frenzy with an RBI double.

Rookie reliever Jim Minshall entered this game with the Pirates clinging to a two-run lead, with the tying runs in scoring position and nobody out.  Good luck, kid.

The first batter - Joe Torre - grounded one to second baseman Rennie Stennett - who booted it - badly - allowing both runners to score as the slow-footed Torre rambled into second - representing the winning run.  Pinch runner Larry Herndon replaced the future managerial Hall of Famer at second base - waiting for someone to drive him in.

Next up - Bake McBride - laid down a perfect bunt - advancing Herndon to third as he beat the throw to first.  Reitz - who had a big night - tried to end it in dramatic fashion, but chased a high fastball - striking out instead.

That gave pinch hitter Jim Dwyer a chance to become a hero - and he did - with a fly ball deep enough to left field to easily score Herndon from third.  This wild three hour and forty-one minute walk-off win put the Cards back on top in the NL East race - one half game in front of the Pirates.

Unfortunately, Hollywood endings weren't written for the Redbirds in 1974.  With six games to be played, they won three of them - but one of the games on the schedule - a rain-out - was unnecessary - as Pittsburgh had already clinched the division title in their final game.

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