Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 15, 1964: The Birds Take The Title

     On October 15, 1964, the Cardinals were crowned World Series Champions after beating the New York Yankees 7-5 in Game 7 of the World Series. It had been 18 seasons since the City of St. Louis could celebrate as champions, and Bob Gibson's complete game MVP performance on just two days of rest had a large part in making the celebration possible. The Birds also took advantage of key opportunities which led to the year 1964 being a year that will forever be celebrated in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

      Mel Stottlemyre was on the bump for the Yankees, and the rookie hurler was locked up in a dual with the 28-year-old Gibson through the first three innings. However, things unraveled for Stottlemyre in the third. Ken Boyer started the inning off with a single, and Dick Groat followed it up with a walk. Tim McCarver looked like he had hit into a double play, only to have Phil Linz throw wide to first. Boyer scored on the play, while McCarver stood on first. Mike Shannon moved the Cardinals catcher over to third with a single to right center, and the Birds were beginning to fly. When things are going right it seems everything falls into place, and the next Cardinals run is a great example of that, as McCarver and Shannon executed a double steal with Shannon swiping home for the second Redbird run. Dal Maxvill  added another one to the board with a single that brought McCarver in, before Stottlemyre could get the last two outs of the inning. When reflecting on the game later Yogi Berra saw the throwing error by Linz as the play that made all the difference in the inning, and quite possibly the game.

     Not only did the Cardinals plate three runs on the young Yankee hurler in the third, they also ended his day. He had tried to dive for the ball before Linz's critical error, and hurt his shoulder in the process. Berra said it led to his decision to pinch hit for him in the fifth. The Yankees could not get anything going in that inning. Then in the bottom of the frame Lou Brock took Stottlemyre's replacement Al Downing's first pitch, and put it in the stands to lead things off. It was going to be another big Redbird inning. Downing did not even record an out. He gave up a single to Bill White, then a double to Ken Boyer, before he was given a ticket to the showers. Rollie Sheldon inherited Downing's mess, and while he was able to record three successive outs, the first two were productive outs that brought White and Boyer trotting in. After five the Cardinals held a 6-0 lead, and the fans in the stands were buzzing. They could feel victory in the air.

     There was a man on that Yankees roster who would bring some of them back down to earth in the sixth. He was future Hall of Famer, and he had already broke a few Cardinals hearts with a walk off blast in Game 3. That man's name was Mickey Mantle, and he made Bob Gibson pay for giving up back-to-back singles by hitting a three run bomb that touched the clouds in St. Louis, and cut the Cardinals lead in half.  Gibby picked up two outs, then walked a man before ending the inning by striking out Clete Boyer.

     Ken Boyer grabbed one of those runs back with a solo shot in the seventh, and Gibby sailed into the ninth up 7-3. Just three outs away. They were not going to be easy outs. However, Gibby did strike out Tom Tresh to start things off. Suddenly the short rest might of caught up with Gibson, as he served one up to Phil Linz who was doing what he could to make up for the earlier error by launching a solo shot. Gibby then set down pinch hitter Johnny Blanchard with his ninth K, and he needed one more out to wear the crown. Clete Boyer made him wait by launching a bomb of his own into the seats, which made the Boyer brothers the first siblings, to both hit a home run in one World Series contest. To date, they are only brothers to accomplish that feat.

     As you could imagine there had to be many fans with their hands put together as they prayed, while other fans could hardly bring themselves to watch what turned out to be a historic last out. That out came with a soft pop up by Bobby Richardson that landed in the glove of Dal Maxvill.It had been a true seven game battle, and every man on each of those rosters gave their all before the St. Louis Cardinals were crowned World Series Champions.

Check out the box score here:

     Afterword: As mentioned before it had been 18 years since the fans could celebrate a World Series title in the city, and when Maxvill recorded that out, hundreds poured onto the field, as McCarver and the rest of the team ran to the mound to congratulate the warrior, the World Series MVP, the champion, Bob Gibson. The season had many ups and downs. From Bing Devine getting fired after building what proved to be a championship ballclub, to overcoming an 11 game deficit just to have a shot at winning that title. What the club had been through had simply battle tested them, and they were ready to take the title when they got their chance.

     Historically, the series has been looked at as a last hurrah for that Yankees club who had built on decades upon decades of success. Mantle had won seven World Series titles beginning in 1951. His last came in 1962. He did not appear in another World Series following the '64. In fact, he hung up the cleats at the end of the '68 campaign, and the Yankees did not make it back to the Fall Classic until 1976. That run in 1964 made Bob Gibson's name known in every household across America. He was already making a name for himself before that World Series before that title run, but after it came his name was splashed across the headlines of every major newspaper in the country. His legendary tale was just beginning, and it helped make the Cardinals one of the best clubs in the National League during the latter half of the decade.

     There would be immediate changes in management, as Johnny Keane resigned the next day. He ended up taking Yogi Berra's job in New York. Through the years I have read that it was big surprise, and it may have been. However, speculation was rampant during the World Series that Keane would be leaving St. Louis, and Gussie had to at least have some idea that the Cardinals skipper might be on his way out. Keane was not happy with the way things went with Devine, and there were rumors that Leo Durocher had already been tabbed the next Cardinals manager before the historic run had take place. Keane scoffed at the offer Gussie made him at season's end, and when the World Series was over he would not let the Cardinals owner make another offer. He was done. He did not let it turn into a distraction during that run to glory, which is something that makes me have a great respect for him. Keane did a masterful job of managing during that group of men. The speculation after Game 7 was that he was going to managing the Pirates. Nobody thought it would be the Yankees, considering Berra had just skippered them to a pennant winning season. However, the bar was set higher than a pennant in New York, and someone in that front office thought Keane would be able to  reach that bar. After just two years in the Bronx his days as a skipper were over, and a year after that he passed away just a month after taking a job with the Angels as a scout.

     Devine went onto win Executive of the Year after building the club that took the flag, then went
onto build a foundation that would evolve into the Miracle Mets in 1969. Coincidentally, he was back with the Cardinals following the Championship run in '67. Seems he never enjoyed the fruits of his labor the way he deserved to. He served as the Cardinals GM from '68 to '78, and after a brief stint with the football Cardinals he returned to the baseball Cardinals as a special adviser. A lifelong St. Louisan, Bing Devine's name is one of many names that each every Cardinals fan should know.

     The sudden departure of Keane opened a door, and it was not Leo Durocher that walked through It was Red Schoendienst, and he was at the helm when they took the top prize just three years later. He managed the team until 1976, and has been with the team in some capacity ever since, which included two other stints as skipper. In my opinion St. Louis has many treasures, and Schoendienst is one of them.

       I will be taking a break from the daily posts. I hope that all of those who have spent the time to read these have enjoyed them. I know that I have enjoyed writing them. This has been a fun season, and I feel blessed to know that as a Cardinals fan our postseason continues later today. Win or lose I will always be a proud fan of the St. Louis Cardinals.


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