Thursday, September 4, 2014

September 4, 1964: A Walk Off For The Captain

     On September 4, 1964, Ken Boyer capped off a 15-hit attack by knocking in his 100th RBI of the season with a three run walk off bomb that beat the Cubs 8-5 in front of a home crowd in St. Louis. The game also featured one of the most exciting plays in baseball, as "The Moon Man" Mike Shannon stole home in the eighth, before Boyer ended it with his fifth career walk off blast in the ninth. It was more than just the fifth walk off blast for The Captain. It was the final walk off blast during a career that should forever be remembered in Cooperstown, New York.

      The game did not start off well for either starter. Curt Simmons surrendered two runs in the top of the first, but the lead did not stand long for those Baby Bears from the Windy City, as Dick Groat and Bill White came up with RBI singles off of Dick Ellsworth that knotted things right back up in the bottom of the inning. The Birds jumped ahead in the third, when Groat came up with another RBI single that was followed by a double play ball off the bat of Boyer. While Boyer had to be disappointed by the twin killing it was a productive twin killing, as it brought Lou Brock into score from third, to give the Cardinals a 4-2 edge.

     Simmons looked like he had the Cubs number after that first inning. He was cruising through their lineup until the seventh when he gave up a two out single to catcher Jimmie Schaffer. The Cubs second baseman Ron Campbell followed it up with  a double that scored Schaffer to cut the score down to 4-3. The double ended Simmons' day, and Johnny Keane called on reliever Ron Taylor who gave up a pinch hit RBI single to Len Gabrielson. The game was tied, and this one was going to be decided by the bullpens.

     Things got worse before they got better for the Birds. Taylor surrendered a leadoff triple to Ellis Burton in the top of the eighth, which was followed by an RBI single by Billy Williams. The Cubs had a 5-4 edge, with no outs and Williams standing on first. Taylor was able to work his way around it. He sat Ron Santo down with a flyout, struck Ernie Banks out, then worked around an error that put another runner on the basepaths, before recording the last out of the inning. While he was able to work his way around the mess the damage had been done, but this fight was far from over.

     Lindy McDaniel had come in relief of Ellsworth in the seventh, and he struck out the side . The former Redbird came out in the eighth and recorded two quick outs, and they were big outs, as his victims were Boyer and Bill White. McDaniel's problem was his sixth consecutive out never came. Shannon came to the dish, and dropped a single into left, then Keane sent Bob Skinner into pinch hit for Julian Javier.  The move paid off, as Skinner singled to right, which sent Shannon over to third. Moments later Tim McCarver was standing at the dish hoping to tie it up when Skinner and Shannon executed the perfect double steal that tied the ballgame at 5-5. McDaniel finally did get that last out, with a groundout right back to him by McCarver, but the chain of events that preceded it had breathed new life into the surging Cardinals.

     Taylor came on in the ninth, and struck out the first man he faced. He followed up the K with back-to-back walks, and just like that the Cubs were threatening. Keane wasted no time. He called on Gordie Richardson who would record one of his six major league wins that day, which came after he induced an inning ending double play.

    The chess match continued in the bottom of the ninth, as Keane sent Carl Warwick to the plate to pinch hit for Richardson to leadoff the inning. Once again the move he made delivered with a single that came off of reliever Don Elston who had taken over pitching duties for the Cubs. Warwick was moved over to second on a sac bunt by Curt Flood, which spelled the end of Elston's day. The Cubs skipper Bob Kennedy went to a lefty on lefty matchup by calling on John Flavin to pitch to Lou Brock. The move backfired. Brock singled into center, and Flavin's day ended almost as quick as it began, as Kennedy called on his third hurler of the frame by calling on Freddie Burdette. The big righty retired Groat on a fielder's choice that ended up with Warwick being called out at home, before Boyer came to the plate and finished the Cubs off with a big fly into the seats. It had been a battle, and the man that the team called their Captain had ended it with one big swing of the stick. That's the kind of thing an MVP does. It was quite the ballgame, and I'm sure the fans that walked through the turnstiles that day were nothing but smiles as they left the ballpark.

     Boyer is arguably one of the most underrated players of all time. In his 11 seasons with the Cardinals he hit .293, knocked in 1,001 runs, and parked 255 in the seats. What he did in 1964 was put the team on his back throughout and carry them to glory. While every man on that roster is due a large amount of credit, the contributions of The Captain were key in taking that National League Crown. His average in the World Series is very deceiving at .222, because when he did hit they were clutch hits. The grand slam in Game 4 of the series was a pivotal moment, and his three hit performance in Game 7 was a capper to an improbable season in which the stars aligned as Boyer and Birds brought home a ring. When you take your kids down to the ballpark, and you look out at that wall in left, be sure to tell them about each of those men who adorn it, and whatever you do don't forget to tell them about The Captain. When you do, turn and point up to that flag that has the numbers 1964 across it, and take a moment to tip your caps to the man who wore the number 14.

Check out the box score here:

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