How The Cardinals Won The 1964 World Series

A few weeks ago, we took a look at how the 1964 Cardinals outlasted the Philadelpha Phillies and Cincinnati Reds and won one of the most exciting National League championships in baseball history. This time, I’d like to look at the World Series, to understand how the underdog Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees. Yes, the Cardinals had plenty of pitching and timely hitting, but so did the Yankees.

Injuries would play an important role for both clubs. Former Rookie of the Year and perennial All Star shortstop, Tony Kubek, would miss the last week of the season and all of the World Series with an injury. Phil Linz would fill in for Kubek and terrorize Cardinals pitchers with the long ball. He would also commit two costly errors, as would second baseman Bobby Richardson and third baseman Clete Boyer.

On the other side of the diamond, the Cardinals had their own troubles in the infield. Julian Javier was reduced to a single appearance as a pinch runner. A youngster from St. Louis named Dal Maxvill took his place, and played the position brilliantly. Not only did he play error free for the 7 games, Maxvill made a diving catch on a ball that kept a Yankees rally from getting started. He didn’t hit quite like his Yankees counterpart, but he did drive in a key run in Game 7.

The 1964 World Series would take a full seven games, plus an extra inning. For all of that wonderful baseball, the outcome was determined on a handful of plays – one team made them, and the other didn’t.

Game 1

If you were writing the perfect baseball script, Game One would have featured Bob Gibson and Whitey Ford, and the fans would have been in for a genuine treat. Unfortunately, Gibson had been used too often on short rest to be available for the opener. Instead, Manager Johnny Keane went with his young left hander, Ray Sadecki, winner of 20 games in 1964. Ford had half that many victories in the World Series alone, 236 for his career and an ERA that rarely went above 3 runs per game. Ford had the record for most Wins in the World Series. Ray Sadecki was about to throw his first pitch in the fall classic.

Fans didn’t realize it at the time, but the opening play would be an eerie indicator of how the series would go. Phil Linz hits a sharp line drive towards Ken Boyer at third base. Boyer knocks the ball down, picks it up and fires a strike to Bill White to record the first out. Perhaps not worthy of a highlight reel, but this is the type of play the Cardinals would make all series long. And the kind that the Yankees didn’t.

That was nothing compared to what would happen when Phil Linz came up to bat in the fourth inning. The Yankees had taken a 3-2 lead on a Tom Tresh 2 run homer and an RBI single from Whitey Ford. Sadecki had labored, but seemed to be getting back in a groove. With a runner on first and two out, Linz hits a bullet down the third base line. Off the bat, it was an easy RBI double, but somehow Ken Boyer leaps to the right and knocks the ball down, scampers over to pick it up, and fires another strike to Bill White at first. This was a play that maybe only Brooks Robinson might have been able to make. On replay, Linz beats the throw, but it was a close play and the home team got the call this time. There would be payback in Game Two.

Tom Tresh would again victimize Sadecki and extend the Yankees lead to 4-2 with a double in the fifth inning.

The Cardinals would finally get to Whitey Ford in the sixth inning. Mike Shannon would hit a long two run homer, well over the scoreboard. That tied the score at 4-4. Tim McCarver follows that with double. Al Downing comes in to relieve Ford and gets pinch hitter Charlie James to pop out. With two outs, here is where the game will be determined, and Phil Linz is in the middle of the play. Pinch hitter Carl Warwick hits a sharp grounder just beyond the glove of Linz, and McCarver scores the go-ahead run. Warwick goes to second on the throw home. Curt Flood follows that with a long fly ball to the warning track that Tom Tresh loses in the sun and crowd, and by the time he recovers, Javier, running for Warwick, scores and Flood is at third with a triple.

The Yankees would get one of the runs back in the 8th, but an error, passed ball and consecutive hits from Flood and Lou Brock would put the game out of reach.

Game 2

Game 2 would feature two right handers, Bob Gibson for the Cardinals and Mel Stottlemyre for the Yankees. Both pitchers had exceptional seasons, Gibson winning 19 games for the Cardinals ,while Stottlemyre won 9 games for New York after being called up in early August. The fans were expecting a pitching duel, and the two starters didn’t disappoint.

The game was tied at 1 run apiece as the Yankees batted in the top of the 6th. Mickey Mantle led off with a walk. Elston Howard would follow that with a line drive up the middle, but out of nowhere comes Dal Maxvill to make a spectacular catch. He was unable to get himself into position to double off Mantle from first, but that play may have prevented a longer Yankees rally.

This game would be decided on the next play. On an inside pitch, the home plate umpire ruled that Gibson hit Joe Pepitone. Replay showed that the pitch was nowhere near the Yankees first baseman, but he was awarded first base on the play. Perhaps this was a payback for the call that went against Phil Linz in Game One. A rattled Gibson gave up a single to Tom Tresh, and the Yankees took the lead. One that they would not surrender.

The game was still close when Bob Gibson was lifted for a pinch hitter in the 8th inning, but the Yankees would get to Barney Schultz and Gordie Richardson in the top of the 9th, and make it a laugher. Mel Stottlemyre would finish the game and earn the win for the Yankees.

The series is now tied at 1 game apiece.

Game 3

In an unexpected pitching duel between Jim Bouton and Curt Simmons, defense again would play a factor in the outcome of this pivotal game. With the Yankees leading 1-0, Tim McCarver hits a single to right that goes through Mickey Mantle’s legs. McCarver would take second on the error. After a Mike Shannon fly out, Dal Maxvill would ground out, allowing McCarver to take third on the play. Curt Simmons ties the game by hitting a squibber down the third base line, just beyond the reach of Clete Boyer.

Neither pitcher would give up another run in the game.

In the top of the 9th, a Phil Linz error almost turned into disaster, but pinch hitter Bob Skinner failed to drive home Tim McCarver, who had reached base on the Linz miscue.

Barney Schultz, who saved Game One and let Game Two slip away, took over for Simmons. He faced one batter, Mickey Mantle. Schultz threw a “come hit me” knuckler, and that’s just what Mantle did. They Yankees won, 2-1, and had a 2-1 lead in the series.

Game 4

Another battle of left handers, this time the Game One starter for the Cardinals, Ray Sadecki, and the hard throwing Al Downing for the Yankees. The Yankees get all over Sadecki to start the game, with the first four men reaching base. Poor defense on the part of the Cardinals aided the early Yankees rally when Phil Linz, who led off the game with a double, was picked off second base, but an error by Ken Boyer allowed Linz to take third. A single to right by Mickey Mantle was originally misplayed by Mike Shannon, but he recovered and threw a bullet to Dal Maxvill, catching Mantle trying to advance on the play. That would be the only out Sadecki would get as Johnny Keane gambles and goes to his bullpen in the first inning. He calls on the veteran, Roger Craig. After a shaky beginning, Craig settles down and keeps the Yankees damage to just three runs. And we all know what that means, a single blast can tie the game.

This game would be decided by two plays in the sixth inning.

Carl Warwick would lead off for the Cardinals with his third pinch hit in the series, tying a World Series record. Curt Flood would follow that with a single. Lou Brock would fly out. And now, the first pivotal play. Dick Groat hits a sharp grounder to Bobby Richardson at second, a tailor made double play ball to get Downing out of the inning. Thompson is unable to get the ball out of his glove, and all base runners are safe. You know what’s coming next, right ? Bases loaded, following an blown double play. Ken Boyer blasts an Al Downing changeup about 20 rows deep in the left field bleachers for the 9th grand slam in World Series history. It also gave the Cardinals a 4-3 lead, and this time it is the Cardinals that won’t surrender.

Ron Taylor takes over for Roger Craig and pitches four innings of shutout baseball to preserve the win for Craig and the Cardinals.

The series is now tied at 2 games each. With Bob Gibson ready for Games 5 and 7, the Yankees hopes for another World Series title are beginning to fade.

Game 5

Bob Gibson and Mel Stottlemyre would hook up again in Game 5. They started off right where they ended in Game Two, with both pitchers putting up lots of shutout innings.

Defense would come into play in the Cardinals half of the fifth inning. With one out, Bob Gibson lifts a pop up, just beyond the infield into left field. The ball fell in between a hard charging Tom Tresh and a back-peddling Phil Linz. Curt Flood follows that with a sure double play ground ball, but it takes a bad hop and Bobby Richardson is unable to make the play. Both runners are safe. A single by Lou Brock and a ground out from Bill White gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

The Cardinals still had a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the 9th inning. Mickey Mantle would reach base on an error by Dick Groat. Gibson would fan Elston Howard. What happens next is the turning point in the World Series. Joe Pepitone hits a grounder down the third base line, and Bob Gibson makes the most unbelievable play, throwing a strike to Bill White as he is falling down. One of the greatest defensive plays in World Series history. The reason this play is so important, Tom Tresh would follow itwith a home run, tying the game at 2-2. If Gibson does not make that play, the Yankees would win the game. But Gibson did make the play, and the game would go into extra innings, or inning.

Pete Mikkelson would get into all sorts of trouble in the top of the 10th inning. Bill White would lead off with a walk, followed by a perfect bunt from Ken Boyer. Bill White then steals third base, putting the go-ahead run just 90ft away with nobody out. That play was important because Dick Groat would ground out to third, and White’s stolen base prevented the easy double play. White had to hold at third, but just for a moment as Tim McCarver would follow with a three run homer to give the Cardinals the lead.

Gibson would pitch a very quiet 10th inning for the victory, giving the Cardinals a 3 games to 2 lead in the series, but not before one more spectacular play. With 2 outs, Roger Maris hits a foul ball out of play on the third base side. Just as the ball is about to strike National League President, Warren Giles on the head, Ken Boyer reaches deep into the stands and makes a circus-like catch to end the game. I can still hear Harry Caray with the call on that play.

Game 6

Game Three starters, Jim Bouton and Curt Simmons would do battle in what Cardinals fans hoped would be the final game of the World Series. Unlike the previous five games, this one would be determined by the long ball, and from a familiar source. With the score tied at 1-1 in the sixth, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle hit back to back home runs to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead. As in Game Three, Simmons pitched well enough to win, but it was another late inning meltdown from Barney Schultz and Gordie Richardson that put the game out of reach, and taking the series to a decisive Game 7.

Game 7

There is nothing like a World Series Game 7, and the one in 1964 was one for the ages. It is remembered for a historic pitching performance by Bob Gibson, setting the World Series strikeout record. It is also the game where both Boyer brothers, Ken and Clete, hit home runs. What has been forgotten were two plays by Mike Shannon, in the span of about 10 minutes, one of which gave the Cardinals the lead, which they would extend and then hold onto for the win.

In the fourth inning, the Cardinals had a 1-0 lead. Tim McCarver was on third base, Mike Shannon on first. With light hitting Dal Maxvill at the plate and one out, Mike Shannon steals second – or more precisely, tackles the base. On the throw, Tim McCarver breaks for the plate and easily beats the throw home, completing one of the most exciting plays in baseball – the double steal. That was the first play. As he did throughout his career, Dal Maxvill delivers a huge hit, scoring Shannon, giving the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.

In the top of the next inning, Bob Gibson got into a bit of trouble with a pair of walks. With one out, Phil Linz hits a sinking line drive to right field. It was a sure hit that would easily score Tom Tresh from second base. Mike Shannon had a different idea as he caught the ball off his shoe top in full stride and then fired a strike to Dick Groat covering second base, completing an unbelievable double play. That was the second play, and it ended the Yankees threat.

The Cardinals would tack on three more runs in the fifth inning, giving them a 6-0 lead. A three run homer by Mickey Mantle would give the Yankees fans a glimmer of hope, but that would be extinguished when Ken Boyer hit a home run in the seventh, extending the Cardinals lead to 7-3.

Gibson was now on cruise control and had just 6 outs to record to give the Cardinals a World Series championship. A tiring Gibson would give up two solo home runs in the ninth inning, one to Clete Boyer and the other to Phil Linz, who had been victimized on several defensive plays in the series. Bobby Richardson would pop out to Dal Maxvill to end the game, and the series.

Beyond the Box Scores

Much has been written about the 1964 World Series. Bob Gibson’s gutsy 10 inning performance in Game 5, setting the strikeout record in Game 7. Mickey Mantle setting the World Series career home run record. Even Carl Warwick’s three pinch hits. The real story in this championship series were a handful of defensive plays that the Cardinals made, in true Gashouse style. And several others that the Yankees didn’t make. In the end, those plays were the difference in the 1964 World Series.

8 thoughts on “How The Cardinals Won The 1964 World Series

    1. Thanks, Angela. I really appreciate the comment.

      October 1964 is a wonderful book. There are a few places where I think Halberstam takes far too much creative license in depicting the differences in the two teams, but he does a great job with a lot of the historical context. In a couple of cases, I’m actually trying to correct a couple of points :-) But don’t tell anybody.

      Another one, with similar (but equally charming) flaws is El Birdos: The 1967 and 1968 St. Louis Cardinals by Doug Feldmann. He does a great job with the history of what was going on around the game, but totally whiffs on the actual baseball. It’s certainly worth a read, after October 64, 60ft 6in, Ball Four and a couple of other ones.

  1. Great coverage of the classic ’64 Series. The Cardinals and the Yankees are my two favorite teams. I lean to the Redbirds because I grew up in St. Louis, but I love going to the new Yankee Stadium whenever I am in NYC. ( I do miss the old Yankee Stadium though!)The ’64 Series is still a mixture of joy and sadness for me. The Cardinals winning started them on the path to becoming one of the great teams of the 1960’s era. Gibson’s Game 7 performance was not qualitatively speaking, his greatest series performance, but I always think of it as most impressive because he did it on two days rest and pitched a complete game when he didn’t have anything near his best stuff. The sad part of the series is that it truly marked the end of the great 40 year Yankee Dynasty, the greatest dynasty in the history of professional sports.
    Ironically from a St. Louis perspective, the Yankees had more home town products than the Redbirds. Yogi Berra and Elston Howard were both from St. Louis. The only St. Louis hometown guy on the Cardinals was third baseman Mike Shannon.

  2. Pepitone, in game 5, hit the ball off Gibson, not down the third base line, and the play at first should have been a safe call, as evidenced by the front page of the New York Daily News the next day…..

    1. Bob, that may be true, but a multitude of games and series can be said to hinge on a call. Pepitone also arguably was not hit by the Gibson pitch in game 2, a play that opened the way for a Yankee rally. Here in St. Louis, people still blame Don Denkinger’s call for the Cardinal loss in the 1985 Series. But the truth is, that the Royals out-played us. Like I have said, the Yankees are my favorite AL team, and the greatest sports dynasty ever. But in ’64, they were a fading dynasty and the truth is that the Cardinals won because they were the better team in that series.

        1. Actually, the Yankees fired Berra and Keane resigned and walked away from the Cardinals. Word has it that the Cardinals, who had had a near miss pennant race against the Dodgers in ’63, got off to a slow start in ’64 and in mid-summer a quiet agreement had been made to let Keane go at year’s end and bring in Leo Durocher. Then the Cardinals traded for Brock and
          went on a tear, clinching the NL Title on the last day of the season. Keane had apparently gotten wind that his job was in jeapordy and decided that, win or lose, he would resign at year’s end. The morning edition of the now-defunct St. Louis Globe Democrat had an interesting front page that day. The headlines were as follows:
          1- Cardinals Win Series
          2- Johnny Keane Resigns
          3- Yankees Fire Berra
          4- Krushchev Resigns as Soviet Premier
          5- China Tests Atomic Bomb

          Keane was the one who helped to make Bob Givson’s career. The prior Cardinal manager, Solly Hemus, berated Gibson and seriously believed that he would never amount to much as a pitcher. Berra was a local
          St. Louis jewel and we loved him here as a native son.

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