Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18, 1983: Andy Van Slyke Ends It With a Big Fly In The 10th

   On August 18, 1983, rookie outfielder Andy Van Slyke treated the crowd of more than 27,000 at Busch to a 3 for 4 performance that was capped off with the first walk off blast of his career. Van Slyke singled, tripled, received a walk, and stole a base in the contest before connecting with the tenth inning blast off of Houston's Bill Dawley to give the Cardinals a 5-4 win.

     Joaquin Andujar started the game for the Birds, and struggled early, as he surrendered two runs right out of the gate. The same could be said for the Houston starter Joe Niekro who returned the favor by giving up two runs of his own to knot things right back up. The first of those two runs came with an RBI single by Van Slyke who was just getting started. The rookie drew his walk with one out in the third, and followed it up by stealing second , before Darrell Porter knocked him in with a single. The Birds were up 3-2, but they still had work to do. The 3-2 lead turned to a 4-3 deficit in the seventh, as former Cardinal Jose Cruz knocked in two runs with a two out single. While the wind had been taken out of the sails momentarily, there would be a mighty gust in the bottom of the eighth when Van Slyke opened up the inning a triple.

      There Van Slyke stood 90 feet away from tying things up, while Whitey Herzog was pulling out all of the stops as he called on George Hendrick, and Floyd Rayford to pinch hit in hopes of knocking in the equalizer. Both moves failed to produce the run, but Willie McGee did not let the triple go to waste. The Redbirds centerfielder rapped out a single, and just like that it was a whole new ballgame. The two teams sailed through the ninth, and Dave Rucker made quick work of the Astros in the tenth before Van Slyke stepped to the plate with one out on the bottom of the inning and belted the seventh home run of his career. It was the first walk off shot for the man who hit 164 career homers. He only hit one more walk off big fly in his career, which came in 1990 when he donned the uniform of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

     Van Slyke spent four seasons with the Birds on the Bat across his chest, and during that time he hit .259 with 41 home runs. He was a member of the 1985 pennant winning club, but was traded to Pittsburgh in the Spring of '87. He enjoyed his best years in the Steel City, as he snagged 5 Gold Glove awards, 2 Silver Slugger's, and made three trips to the All Star game.

     While Van Slyke's days in the Gateway City were limited he will forever be remembered as a part of Cardinal Nation. His four years in St. Louis were development years. He was just 22 when he put that one over the wall in 1983. It took him time to come into his own as a player. When he did he was wearing another uniform. Something to think about when we see one of the youngsters trying to find his way today. Baseball is a game of patience. Some might take a little longer than others to develop, and in reality some might develop at all, but in the end fans and management alike have to learn to be patient. Had that patience been exercised,Van Slyke would have had many more thrilling moments in a Redbirds uniform. Don't get me wrong, I do understand that his numbers were not Hall of Fame worthy, but he was a solid player for many years. Just a little food for thought.

Check out the box score here:

Andy Van Slyke's career numbers:

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