On May 29, 1971, Joe Torre's bases loaded walk off triple capped off a classic comeback that saw the Cardinals take down the Braves 8-7 at Busch. The triple for Torre was one of eight that the he posted in the stat columns during that MVP campaign. Torre's eight triples were good for fifth best in the National League. His .363 average led the league, and he also led the league in hits with 230, and in RBIs 137. Torre started off that '71 season with a 22 game hitting streak, and he played in 161 of the 162 games on the schedule. Torre only failed to get a hit in 28 of those contests, while never going more than 10 at bats without a hit.
The game looked to be a disaster early, as Bob Gibson got rocked for five runs in the top of the third, then left the game in the bottom of the frame with a thigh injury after legging out a single. The squad led by Red Schoendienst refused to lose, and began to mount a comeback within moments of the injury, by scoring their first run of the ballgame on an RBI by Matty Alou.
The Birds continued to peck away in the fourth when Dick Schofield knocked in Joe Hague who had doubled with one out in the inning, and in the seventh the club tied it up on RBIs by Alou, Ted Simmons, and Joe Torre. Reliever Frank Linzy, took over in the eighth, and with help of a double play that erased Hank Aaron posted a zero on the board. With one out, a man on second, in the ninth, Schoendienst went to lefty Don Shaw who watched the tied ballgame go up in smoke by committing an error that led to two runs, and gave the Braves a 7-5 edge.
The ole Redhead called on Moe Drabowsky to put the fire out for Shaw, and Drabowsky got the job done quickly. The Braves skipper, Lum Harris called on his closer Cecil Shaw to shutdown the Birds in the bottom of the inning. However, it was not going to be an easy task since the Cardinals had the top of the order coming at him, which began with Lou Brock, then was followed by the bats of Alou, and Simmons. Brock and Alou both singled, and Simmons reached on an error by Upshaw who failed to field a sac bunt cleanly, that set the table for the Torre to win the ballgame with his walk off triple.
The injury by Gibson sidelined the ace for three weeks. He had already been off to a rough start before the injury, and it took a couple starts to get himself back on track when he returned in late June. Despite his struggles with the injury bug Gibby still notched 16 wins for the club. With that said, the achilles heel of that Cardinals club was the pitching staff who posted a 3.85 E.R.A., which was the second worst in the National League. However, they did win 90 games and were in the hunt until September. There were bright spots on that staff as well, which included Reggie Cleveland, who was named best rookie pitcher after winning 12 games, and most notably Steve Carlton put together a complete turnaround by winning 20 games. Carlton had led the league with 19 losses in 1970.
One of the lessons that I have taken from looking into the history of club is a team does not have to win the World Series every season, for all seasons to be appreciated. It seems like some fans expect that out of a ballclub, which it is impossible. That '71 season in St. Louis is a great example of season to be appreciated, although there was no parade at the end. It was truly a great year of baseball in St. Louis, as Torre put together a historic season that will not be forgotten. I do understand disappointment when a team falls short, but I will never be the one who berates a team when they gave it all they had. I look at the baseball seasons like I look at the years in my life. Some years will stand above the rest, but when I look back I hope that I can say I enjoyed them all.
Check out the box score here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN197105290.shtml