The San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates were supposed to battle for the National League Pennant in 1967. At least that was the plan before the season began.
The Cincinnati Reds had a lot to say about that early in the season. They got off to a quick start, leading by as many as 4 1/2 in early June. Eventually their pitching depth would come into play and they would fade during the dog days of summer. The Reds would end up winning 87 games, but would finish 19 behind the Cardinals when all was said and done.
The first meeting between the Reds and Cardinals would be a short two game series in early May. The Reds would come into St. Louis, hoping to make a statement, as well as increasing their lead in the National League standings. The scheduling would be fortunate for the Reds as manager, Dave Bristol, would be able to use his two best pitchers: Jim Maloney (1-0) and Milt Pappas (2-1). Red Schoendienst and the Cardinals would counter with their top two starters: Bob Gibson (3-1) and Ray Washburn (0-2). You could always count on Bob Gibson to give you a good game, but it was a healthy Ray Washburn that gave Cardinals fans the most to cheer about in the early part of 1967.
May 2 – St. Louis 5, Cincinnati 0
In the first game, Bob Gibson was exceptional. The big right hander was never in trouble. Gibson would only give up two hits in this game: a leadoff double to future Cardinal Vada Pinson in the fourth and a single to Leo Cardinas in the fifth. While dismantling the Reds lineup, Gibson would fan 12 and walk 2. From the very first pitch of the game, Gibson overmatched the first place Reds, making a statement of his own.
On the other side of the diamond, the Cardinals would put pressure on Jim Maloney all night long. A single by Tim McCarver in the second inning, advancing on a ground out by Mike Shannon would set up the first Cardinal run. McCarver would steal third base and later score on a Jim Maloney wild pitch.
The Cardinals would add three more runs in the fifth inning when Mike Shannon would hit a bases loaded double, scoring all three baserunners. Roger Maris would single in Bob Gibson for the final Cardinals run in the sixth, giving the home team a 5-0 lead.
All in all, a nifty 2 hit complete game shutout for Gibson’s fourth win of the season.
But that’s not the story. That would come 22 hours later.
May 3 – St. Louis 2, Cincinnati 0
When the Cardinals took the field the next night, we expected a rejuvenated Reds lineup to try to earn a split in the short series. What we got was one of the best pitched games of the year by Ray Washburn. Finally healthy after dealing with arm troubles, the newly retooled Washburn kept the Reds off balance all night long. Where Gibson was striking out Reds hitters, Washburn was getting weak ground balls to the infield. When your infield consists of Mike Shannon, Dal Maxvill, Julian Javier and Orlando Cepeda, that is a recipe for success. Like Gibson in the previous game, Washburn would surrender only two hits: a two out single by Pete Rose in the fourth and a two out single by Chico Ruiz in the fifth.
Other than a shaky first inning, Milt Pappas was nearly as good as Washburn. The top of the Cards order would manage a small rally in the fourth inning. Just as he had done in the previous game, Mike Shannon would deliver the big blow, a bases loaded single to drive in two runs – the only runs that would be scored in the game.
As the game wore on, Washburn seemed to get stronger and stronger. Forget any hits; in the the last three innings, the Reds would get only a single base runner (on a walk). When they did hit the ball, only two made it out of the infield, both harmless fly outs to Curt Flood. It was also one of the quickest games I’ve ever heard, lasting only an hour and forty minutes.
More important, this game was something Cardinals fans had been waiting to see since 1962, a healthy and dominating Ray Washburn. We would see a lot of this over the next two seasons.
The high flying Reds game into Busch Stadium, hoping to extend their lead. Over two games and just under four hours of baseball, all they managed were four hits. They left St. Louis with their tails tucked between their legs, as they would several more times that unforgettable summer.