On October 8, 1964, a controversial call grabbed the headlines after the Yankees knocked off the Cardinals 8-3 in Game 2 of the Fall Classic in St. Louis.
The incident came with one out in the sixth inning. The score was knotted at 1-1 when Bob Gibson sailed one in on the Joe Pepitone who looked like he was following through with his swing when the ball may or may not have nicked his thigh. The Yankees first baseman then turned to the home plate umpire Bill McKinley and said it had hit him. He had a what appeared to be a red mark on his leg to prove it. The ump said "no swing, take your base", which sent Tim McCarver and company into a frenzy.
A fierce argument ensued, but the call stood and Pepitone was standing on first, and Mickey Mantle who had walked to leadoff the inning stood at second. The hit batsman immediately haunted the Birds. One batter later Tom Tresh came through with a single that brought Mantle into score the go ahead run. While the call was controversial, it hardly decided the contest. Gibson was tagged for two more runs in the seventh, and the Birds bullpen had a four run implosion in the ninth that added to the Yankees side of the scoreboard. The sixth inning call was something that people simply latched onto, rather than focus on the entire game. There is no doubt it was a momentum shifter, but there were plenty of other things to look at as well.
All too often we see a pivotal moment in the game take away from the splendid performance of the players on the other team, and there were several Yankees players that truly did deserve a proverbial tip of the cap. One of those players was a young rookie by the name of Mel Stottlemyre. Many Cardinals fans of this generation almost surely recognize the name, as he is the Father of former Redbirds hurler Todd Stottlemyre. Mel's performance in Game 2 of that series was masterful. While he did surrender the three runs, he did go the distance, and held the Cards to just seven hits, and struck out four. On the offensive side of the ball everyone that was penciled into the starting lineup for the Bronx Bombers contributed. Their shortstop Phil Linz went 3 for 4 and sparked the big ninth inning with a leadoff home run, and Mickey Mantle went 1 for 4, knocked in two with a sacrifice, and a double. This was a battle of heavyweights. Very similar to Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Some rounds went to the Yankees, the final round went to the Cardinals.
There were some bright spots in this game for the Cardinals. One of them came before the game, as backup Bob Uecker entertained the fans by playing a Tuba in the outfield. Another had the name Gibson and the number 45 on his back. While he was charged with the loss, he struck out nine, which included the four in a row after walking the first man he faced. It did not work out the way he had hoped, but Gibson's contributions to this series were far from over. He had taken some lumps, but he would learn from them and move forward. That sixth inning call that went against the Cardinals would become a distant memory in the coming days, as the club focused on the road ahead, and marched toward a World Series title.