Thursday, April 23, 2015

April 23, 1968: Brock Walks It Off Against McCool

     On April 23, 1968, the Cardinals found themselves trailing the Reds 2-0 in the ninth, when they struck for two runs to tie the ballgame and send into extras where Lou Brock finished things off with a walk off two run blast in the tenth that gave the club a come from behind 4-2 victory.

     The wheels began to fall off the Reds bus with George Culver walking Curt Flood. Culver had been handcuffing the Cardinals lineup up to that point. It was just his second walk issued, he had struck out five, and allowed just four hits. However, it was his fifth hit surrendered that would end his day, as Roger Maris dropped a single into right.  The Reds skipper Dave Bristol called on Ted Abernathy to take over for Culver. Abernathy may have thought he had done his job when the first batter he faced, Orlando Cepeda, shot one to Tony Perez at third. In an attempt to start a game ending double play Perez threw the ball into right center. Dick Simpson, who had ran for Maris scored on the miscue, and the bases were loaded. One batter later Tim McCarver pushed in the game tying run with a groundout. It was a whole new ballgame with the score knotted up at two. 

     Steve Carlton started this one for the Birds. He ended up going five and a third, struck out four, gave up seven hits, and allowed the two runs, before handing the ball over to his bullpen. Ron Willis and Dick Hughes bridged the gap that ended with Joe Hoener pitching a scoreless ninth and tenth. The pitching staff collectively did their job, and Lou Brock was about to reward them and the rest of the team for it. The Reds sent Billy McCool out to pitch the tenth. McCool had finished second in saves in 1965 and 1966. He had gotten the best of the Redbirds during those two seasons, however, the tables had turned in the years that followed. 

     McCool was able to get Dal Maxvill to fly out, but then he walked Ed Spiezio, which brought Lou Brock to the plate. Brock was no stranger to McCool, saying that the young hurler had been as tough on him as anybody in baseball. He could only recall one hit off of McCool, which was a bloop single in '64. On top of that Brock had struck out three times in four trips to the plate on this night, and was searching for a hit. He found the hit and it was a big one as he pounced on a McCool pitch that sailed over the wall to win the ballgame. The walk off was just the second of Brock's career. He ended up hitting one more in 1969. It makes me wonder which of the three would he would consider the most memorable. I would imagine they all were all a thrill that goes beyond measure.

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