On August 5, 1954, Stan "The Man" Musial made Brooklyn's Tommy Lasorda's big league debut a memorable one by knocking in seven runs, with two three run home runs, and a sacrifice fly during a 13-4 win at Ebbets Field in New York.
Every single batter in the Cardinals lineup produced, including the pitcher Brooks Lawrence who not only went the distance, but picked up three hits in three trips to the plate, and scored twice. Rip Repulski's four hits in six trips led the hit parade, while Ray Jablonski and Bill Sarni each rapped out three. The big story of the day was "The Man" who hit towering drives over the screen in right not once but twice, and both times he had two men on ready to pat him on the back at the dish. The first big blast came in the top of the third, and put the Cardinals up 4-2, and ended a frustrated Preacher Roe's day. The Brooklyn starter was so angry with himself that he hurled his glove into the audience as he walked toward the dugout. Erv Pavlica took over for Roe, and Musial busted things wide open with him on the bump in the fourth with his second blast of the day which put the score at 8-2. Lasorda came into relieve in the fifth, and was greeted by Musial in the sixth with a sacrifice fly that brought Wally Moon into score, which was also Stan's seventh RBI of the day.
In his first three innings of work the future Hall of Fame manager gave up six hits, and three runs in three innings of work. The Cardinals catcher Bill Sarni might have made the biggest impression on the 26-year-old Lasorda, as he took him deep in the seventh. After Tommy handed the ball off to the next victim, the Cardinals continued to roll, until the ninth inning brought about a merciful ending for the Bums from Brooklyn.
That win in Brooklyn was a highlight from a season that saw the Cardinals finish near the bottom of the standings with a 68-86 record. It marked the first losing season for the club since 1938. The 86 losses were the most losses the club had recorded since 1924. The bright spots on the pitching staff was Luis Arroyo's 11-8 record, but the rookie's last win came in mid July, while the anchor of the pitching staff Harvey Haddix posted a 12-16 record. Pretty rough. When it came to the position players, Musial was the only one who hit over .300 on the year. Both Bill Sarni and Red Schoendienst suffered through slumps, while the rest of the squad were youngsters who struggled to live up to expectations. There were some bright spots though, such as Bill Virdon who took home rookie of the year honors with a .281 average, and Wally Moon who flirted with .300 before finishing up at .295.
The team that the Cardinals faced that day in Brooklyn was a team of destiny who were in search of their first World Series championship. They had come close multiple times, but for one reason or another they were not able to achieve the ultimate goal. That changed in 1955, as they won 98 games, the National League Flag, then the World Series in a classic seven game battle that saw them topple the mighty Yankees. It was a lesson in baseball for the Cardinals. Every year is not your year. You tip the cap to the opponents when they do well, and in many cases the opponents do the same when you do well. Sportsmanship. If there was ever a man who defined that word his last name was Musial.
Check out the box score here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BRO/BRO195408050.shtml
Sidenote about Lasorda's career on the diamond. It was a short one. Just three years in the majors, but he did spend a total of 14 years in the minor leagues. His record in the majors was 0-4, in 26 appearances. They often joke that some of the worst players make some of the best managers, and ole Tommy proved to be a pretty damn good skipper. Good enough that he has a plaque in the hallowed halls in Cooperstown. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Lasorda, along with the men he helped achieve their dreams. While we might be rivals on game day it should never influence the respect we have for the players and coaches who do things the right way. Tommy Lasorda is one of those men.