Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 26, 1981: Garry Templeton Flips His Lid at Busch

      On August 26, 1981, Cardinals shortstop Garry Templeton was fined $5,000, and suspended indefinitely by Whitey Herzog for making obscene gestures toward the fans at Busch. The incident proved to be a precursor to an offseason trade that put Ozzie Smith in a Cardinals uniform. 

     There was trouble on the horizon before a pitch was even delivered, as Templeton told Herzog he was too tired to play. The skipper was not hearing it, and penciled him into the lineup anyway, which in turn led to a halfhearted effort by the Cardinals leadoff man. His trouble began during his first at bat, after he failed to run out a called third strike that got past San Fran's catcher Milt May. The crowd quickly showed their displeasure, as they poured boos upon him. As he walked off the field he reacted with an offensive gesture that looked as if  he was flipping off the crowd. The action earned him a warning from home plate umpire Bruce Froemming, but in the end the warning meant nothing as this pot was just beginning to boil.

     The fans continued to jeer the embattled Templeton when he took his place in the field, and into the bottom of the third inning when he was left standing on deck at the end of the inning. He had reached his breaking point, and once again he made the gesture toward the crowd. Froemming immediately tossed him from the game, and Whitey pulled him into the dugout like an angry father. He threw him against the wall, and told him to get the hell out of there. He could not grasp how a man making major league dollars could act like a child. The entire ballclub was embarrassed by the incident. In many ways this day has become almost celebrated as we realize that it was a day that helped Ozzie become a Cardinal, but it was dark day in Cardinal Nation. Especially for Templeton. 

    The big story of that day should have been an eight run outburst in the fifth that led to a 9-4 Cardinals victory. That was not the case though, as Templeton grabbed the headlines.The team ordered him to seek psychiatric treatment following the incident, and after doing so he was able to return to the lineup in mid September. His time missed had hurt the team in many ways, which included thoughts of a postseason run. Templeton's return came with an apology, and with hopes that the water would flow under the proverbial bridge. With that said, the bitter feeling had existed before that day in August, as he had requested a trade earlier that Summer, and once this incident took place it seems there was an irreparable rift, which led to the trade. While those within the organization denied that a trade would happen during the season, there were many who speculated that the Padres would swap Smith for Templeton . It was simply speculation at the time, but it was speculation that proved to be true as the team swapped shortstops in December of '81. It worked out quite well.

     Templeton spent six years with the Birds on the Bat across his chest, and during that time he proved that he was extremely talented, as he hit .305, appeared in two All Star games, and took home a Silver Slugger. When the trade sent him to the West Coast, Ozzie had just completed his fourth year with the Friars. Smith was still finding himself at the plate, as he carried a .231 average over those four years. However, he had showed everyone across the ranks of Major League Baseball that his defense was superior, as he earned back-to-back Gold Glove awards in '80 and '81. The Cardinals gambled on his bat coming around to his defense, and made the deal that would give Templeton new scenery to right the ship, while the Cardinals had a clean slate with the defensive mastermind who became known as "The Wizard of Oz." 

      Had Templeton kept his cool on that day at Busch there is a very good possibility that Ozzie would have played his Hall of Fame career elsewhere. Templeton had a solid career with the Padres, and as time marched on the incident became a bad memory. In many ways I look at it like that's life. I was just four years old when the incident happened, so for me there is no reason to dislike him. While they never did iron things out with an apology, both Templeton and Herzog both said they held no grudges. It worked out for both parties. Templeton worked his tail off in San Diego, and because of that he was named the Captain of the team in 1987. It was a position he held until he was traded in '91. He would end up sitting in the managerial seat after his playing days came to an end, and that is a testament to the man he became. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone moves on. He did exactly that, and so did the Cardinals organization.

     While Templeton was turning over the new leaf in San Diego, Ozzie was in St. Louis thrilling the fans in for more than a decade. He represented the club in the All Star game 14 times and laid claim to 13 Gold Glove awards while wearing the uniform that features Birds on the Bat. He also helped the team win the World Series in his first season with the club, and was key in winning the National League Pennant in '85 and '87. His performance in the '85 NLCS earned has become legendary, as he led the way to victory with a walk off home run in a pivotal Game 5 of the series. The call made by Jack Buck that came with that home run is perhaps the most famous call in the history of Cardinals baseball. From backflips to postseason heroics "The Wizard" put together a Hall of Fame resume in the Gateway City, and when you glance at his plaque in Cooperstown there is an STL on his cap. For that, I say thank you to Garry Templeton. No hard feelings...

Wish I had the video, check out the box score: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN198108260.shtml

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