Friday, April 8, 2016

April 8, 1970: Gibby and Allen Lift The Birds On Opening Day

     On April 8, 1970, the Redbirds opened up the season with a comeback win over the Expos in Montreal. The heroes of the day were Bob Gibson, who struck out nine through eight, and Dick Allen, who in his regular season debut with the club went 3 for 5, with a home run and two doubles.

     It was a cold and blustery day north of the border, as an early morning snow threatened to blanket the field at Jarry Park. By 7:30 a.m. the snow had turned to rain, and shortly thereafter the skies cleared, as a crowd of more than 20,000 prepared for a day at the ole ballgame. That crowd in Montreal knew their team would have their hands full with Gibby standing on the mound for the Redbirds. However, they had hope that Bill Stoneman would be able to get the job done, and Stoneman delivered with a nine pitch first inning to start things off. Gibson stumbled early, falling behind 2-0 in the bottom of the first, despite striking out the side. The first man he faced, Marv Staehle, reached on a single, then he walked Rusty Staub, before watching Ron Fairly knock in the first run of the day with a single. Gibson then picked up his first strikeout, before Coco LaBoy singled to bring Staub around to score. Down 2-0, Gibson struck out the next two men in succession, which was a sign of things to come for the home team.

    Gibson and company watched the tide turn in the fourth, as Dick Allen ripped a double to open the inning. Allen would come around to score on a two out single by Joe Hague, and just like that the score sat at 2-1. Stoneman proved to be a formidable foe, as he pitched his way into the eighth before serving one up to Allen that landed 420 feet from where it started. The score was 2-2, as the Redbirds began to march toward victory.

      The Expos were trying to salvage the contest with Stoneman still on the bump in the ninth, It just was not happening on that day. He gave up a single to Leron Lee to start things off, Hague moved him over with a bunt, before Julian Javier punched a single into left that brought in the go ahead run. Moments later the phone rang in the Montreal bullpen and Stoneman handed the ball off to Carroll Sembera. That is when the floodgates opened. Sembera gave up a double to every other batter he faced, starting with Dal Maxvill, followed by Lou Brock, then capped off by none other than Dick Allen. Quite the Cardinals debut for Allen. By the time Senbera handed the ball to Dan McGinn the score was 7-2. McGinn picked up the final out of that fateful ninth, before watching St. Louis' Chuck Taylor pitch a scoreless ninth. The Redbirds were victorious.

      Allen would spend just one season with the Birds, hitting .279 with 34 home runs. As a huge fan of the man, I wish his time in the Lou was much longer. Gibson was poised for another great season right out of the gate that season, and he ended up with 23 wins, which was not only a career high, he also led the league in wins. Unfortunately, no other pitcher on that staff in 1970 got the job done like Gibby did. In fact, only one other hurler cracked double digits in wins, which was Steve Carlton who posted a 10-19 record. Another aspect that hurt that club in 1970 was a shaky lineup,full of question mark, which the famous artist Amadee poked a little bit of fun at with the illustration to the right. In the end the club went 76-86. With that said, the year did have its great moments, and that opening day had quite a few great moments as well. It was one to remember.

Check out the box score here:

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