The 1985 Cardinals entered the season looking to reinvent themselves. Three years removed from a World Series victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, the team had taken on a massive roster overhaul on the heels of a few disappointing seasons.
The 1985 Cardinals would feature three position players who were a part of that world championship team. Tommy Herr and Ozzie Smith continued to hold down the middle infield and Willie McGee would patrol the grass of center field. The Cardinals would be thankful for McGee being there still, as he would win the National League batting title and put together one of the best seasons in his career. Joaquin Andujar and Bob Forsch were the only holdovers in the starting rotation from the champions a few years before.
But a team built on speed, youth, and defensive fundamentals would reward manager Whitey Herzog with a regular season record that produced 101 wins. They would win the East Division title and head to the playoffs to take on a heavily favored Los Angeles Dodgers team in a NLCS that was expanded to a best-of-seven series that season.
But the Cardinals would not need seven games to make their way back to the World Series. The team that was built on speed and Whiteyball looked over-matched, immediately dropping the first two games of the series to the Dodgers by the scores of 4-1 and 8-2. The Cardinals would return to St. Louis looking to find a way to win and continue a successful season.
Game three of the series would be played in front of the fans at Busch Memorial Stadium and the Cardinals would get back to their running ways. With three stolen bases, an error on Dodgers’ starting pitcher Bob Welsch, and even a few caught stealing, the Cardinals scraped together four runs and held the Dodgers off for their first win.
Down one game to two, the Cardinals were dealt a blow to their post season in an event that is known in St. Louis simply as “The Tarp Incident”. Prior to game four of the National League Championship Series, while doing routine stretching in the outfield, Cardinal rookie outfielder Vince Coleman’s leg was rolled over by the automatic tarp machine, ending his season. Coleman would go on to be voted unanimously the Rookie of the Year after setting a new rookie record for stolen bases with 110.
Despite becoming an engine missing a spark plug, the Cardinals’ offense erupted in game four, handing the Dodgers a 12-2 loss and drawing the series even at two games a piece. The Cardinals would put the game away early with a nine run second inning and do so in true Cardinal style from 1985. Twelve runs without a home run, the Cardinals simply took advantage of every opportunity afforded them to give themselves life in the series.
The offense may have jumped up in game four, but it quickly disappeared for the final game of the series to be played at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals would jump out to a two-run lead early on only to let the Dodgers come back and tie the game in the fourth inning. In the ninth inning, a moment that lives on forever in St. Louis would draw an emotional call from a legendary broadcaster and send the thousands of fans packed into Busch Stadium into a frenzy. Ozzie Smith came to the plate for the 3,009th time in his career from the left side of the plate and did something he had never done before. In the words of the great Jack Buck, he “corked one down the line” that left the field of play and sent the series back to Los Angeles with the Cardinals in command three games to two.
Game six would seem to wrap up the series in every way. The Dodgers would take an early lead and cling to it until the Cardinals would surge back in the seventh inning to tie it at four. The bottom of the eighth would see the Dodgers pick up a tie-breaking run off a solo home run from right fielder Mike Marshall. Leading the game five to four going into the ninth inning, the young Cardinal team that was built for speed and small ball would put the finishing touches on the National League Championship Series in an uncharacteristic way. Jack Clark would hit a three run home run to put the Cardinals in the lead seven to five. Ken Daley would take the mound and close the game, and the series, out for the Cardinals and they would head to the World Series to attempt to win a tenth world title for the franchise.
Stick around this week as the staff here at I-70 Baseball will break down the World Series that gave us our name 25 years ago as we feature commentary from both sides of the state, reliving the series from the viewpoints of St. Louis and Kansas City.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
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