On August 22, 1977, Roger Freed capped off a seven run ninth inning with a pinch hit three run walk off home run that propelled the Cardinals to an improbable 8-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Busch. As the headline states, the big fly by Freed was more than a gift to the fans in the stand in St. Louis, it was also a gift to his mother who was at her home in Baldwin Park California knowing that her kid would deliver, and deliver he did.
The Birds scored the first run of the game in the second, but that lead disappeared in the third, as John Denny allowed back-to-back singles to begin the inning, then watched Ron Cey tie it up with a single. Denny got the next two men out, then hit Dusty Baker with a pitch to load them up. Los Angeles' catcher Steve Yeager made him pay for the hit batsman by launching a grand slam that opened up the lead to 5-1. From there L.A.'s Burt Hooton settled in and looked like he was going to sail to victory, as he watched his club tack on another run in the ninth. While they held a comfortable 6-1 lead, those Dodgers had one little problem, which was they needed three more outs to grab the victory.
The inning began with Hooton giving up a leadoff single by Jerry Mumphrey. Up 6-1 it might have looked harmless, as many of the fans were surely headed to their cars as the hands of defeat were wrapped around the throat of the hometown Birds. Those hands loosened a bit, when Garry Templeton came to the plate and rapped out a triple that brought Mumphrey into score, and it quickly ended Hooton's day. Tommy Lasorda called on Lance Rautzhan put the Birds to bed, but the reliever could not get a man out. Ted Simmons knocked in Templeton with a single, and Keith Hernandez doubled which scored Simmons after shortstop Bill Russell mishandled a relay. The Birds were in business. There were still no outs, the score was 6-4, and Lasorda was making yet another call to the bullpen.
The number that was called was the number 49, which was worn by Charlie Hough, who had a knuckleball in his arsenal. That knuckleball killed him as it got away from Yeager who had been a hero in the Dodger dugout not too long ago. The passed ball brought Hernandez trotting in now that comfortable 6-1 lead had become a slim 6-5 lead. Hough struck out the next man, but gave up a single to Kenny Reitz, which was followed by a single by Mike Tyson. The stage was set. Vern Rapp yelled over to Freed to pick up a bat, and he let the Mad Hungarian that his day was done. Freed walked to the dish knowing that his Mom would not turn off the television until the last man had took his at bat, and he was determined to be that last man. Freed fell behind 1-2, then connected on a scorching liner that cleared the fence in left. The walk off shot was the first of Freed's career. The man who had just 22 career home runs under his belt would hit another walk off in 1979, but we'll save that tale for another day...
This win in 1977 came one day after I was born. The Cardinals had lost the day before to the Padres 7-0, then pulled off the ridiculous comeback the next day. I like to joke that it was my first baseball lesson in life. I came out of the womb wanting to know the score, and was madder than hell when I heard we were getting trounced by the Friars. 24 hours later I was celebrating my first win. I often refer to the baseball season as a rollercoaster, and the first 24 hours of my life is a great example of the rollercoaster that I have learned to love so much. Go Cards!!!
Check out the box score here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN197708220.shtml