July 30, 2011 – St. Louis 13, Chicago 5
On this Saturday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs were engaged in a rather entertaining game at Busch Stadium. The Cubs had jumped over Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse early, taking a blindingly fast 5-0 lead in the top of the first. In the bottom of that inning, the Cardinals got two of those runs back, thanks to a home run by Albert Pujols and timely hits by Matt Holliday and Skip Schumaker. Clearly, this was shaping up to be one of “those” games.
Or perhaps not, as the next four innings were played rather uneventfully. Of particular note was Lohse’s dominance as he allowed just a single base runner over the next four innings, on an error by David Freese. A complete turnaround from what looked to be a shaky outing from the veteran right hander.
The momentum of the game changed swiftly and completely in the home half of the sixth inning, and it was one aggressive play that made that happen.
With the score still 5-2 in favor of the Cubs, starter Rodrigo Lopez worked himself into a quick jam. After retiring his opposite number to start the inning, Ryan Theriot would hit a single, and Jon Jay would follow that up with a double. Given the Cardinals woes with the double play in 2011, walking Albert Pujols to load the bases seemed the wise decision, even if the next batter was Matt Holliday. Unfortunately, walking Holliday wasn’t such a good idea, and it would put an end to Lopez’s day.
Jeff Samardzija is now into the game to face David Freese, and he gets Freese to ground into an inning ending double play, or so we thought at the time. What nobody expected was a hard charging Matt Holliday, breaking up the play with an aggressive but legal near-slide into second base. Not only did it break up the double play, which would have ended the inning, it shook up Cubs shortstop Sterling Castro so much that Albert Pujols was also able to score on the play. Samaridzija and Cubs were clearly rattled, and before the final out was recorded in the inning, five additional runs had scored, giving the Cardinals a commanding 10-5 lead.
The Cardinals would go on to win the game 13-5, but that’s not the end of the story.
During the pre-game broadcast, and several times throughout the Sunday night game itself, ESPN broadcasters kept talking about Holliday’s slide and now dirty a play it was. Bobby Valentine went so far as to suggest that Holliday be hit with a pitch, making a special point of it when the Cardinals slugger came up to the plate with two outs and no runners on base.
Was it a dirty play ? Let’s take a look back at October 15, 1964 and see what they said about it back then.
Game 7 of the 1964 World Series
There is nothing like the seventh game of the World Series. Two teams have battled through 150 games or more, and just nine innings of baseball stand between the jubilation of a champtionship and the bitter disappointment of a loss.
So it was with the Yankees and Cardinals on this beautiful October afternoon in St. Louis. There would be no excuses for either club, as they sent their best to do battle. Starting for the Yankees was young Mel Stottlemyre, who had turned heads in both leagues when he posted a 9-3 record in his rookie season, and a partial one at that. On the mound for the Cardinals was Bob Gibson, pitching some of the best baseball in his career. The two had met twice before with Stottlemyre earning the win in Game Two and Gibson in Game Five. Both pitchers were on the same rest, and this had the makings of being a legendary game.
And it was.
Each pitcher had escaped early trouble and were settling into a nice groove. The game was scoreless heading in to the home half of the fourth inning, where the outcome of the entire series was about to be determined.
National League Most Valuable Player, Ken Boyer, would lead things off with a single. Dick Groat would coax a walk out of Stottlemyre, putting runners at first and second base with nobody out. Defensive miscues had been haunting the Yankees throughout the series, and the next play would be one of the biggest. A tailor made double play ball looked like it might get Mel Stottlemyre out of the jam, but an errant throw by shortstop Phil Linz not only failed to retire the speedy Tim McCarver, it also allowed Ken Boyer to score the first run of the game. Mike Shannon follows that with a smart single, taking Stottlemyre’s pitch the other way. Tim McCarver was able to make take third base on the play.
This brings us to the play of the game.
With Dal Maxvill harmless waving at a Mel Stottlemyre delivery, Mike Shannon breaks off first base on something of a delayed steal. Elston Howard’s throw was well wide of the base, but a hard charging, and more barrel rolling than sliding Shannon was able to disrupt second baseman Bobby Richardson enough that Tim McCarver was able to beat his return throw home. Both runners were safe and absolutely nothing was said of Shannon’s aggressive, yet totally by the rules slide into second base. No complaints, no whines, no second guessing, because that was how the game was supposed to be played by teams that wanted to win championships. And if you were looking for a player who played the game hard, Mike Shannon was one of the best.
A Dal Maxvill single would give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead, but we are not quite through with the Moon Man.
Bob Gibson would wobble just a bit in the top of the fifth inning. A leadoff walk to Tom Tresh started a most promising rally from the Yankees. After getting Ken Boyer’s brother Clete to fly out, another walk brought the tying run up to the plate.
For a moment, it looked as it Phil Linz had delivered as he lines a rope into the right-center field gap. Out of nowhere comes a hard charging Mike Shannon, who not only makes the catch, but is able to keep himself upright long enough to get off a strong throw to Dick Groat, beating Tresh who had ventured too far off second base. That was an inning ending double play, and the end of the Yankees rally, the last they would muster in 1964.
The Cardinals would tack on three more runs in the bottom of the inning and one more later on a Ken Boyer home run. Those gave Gibson enough breathing room to survive home runs by Mickey Mantle, Phil Linz and Clete Boyer, and win the game and series.
Bob Gibson would take home MVP honors, but it might not have been that way if not for the hard play of Mike Shannon. That slide and subsequent defensive gem were the keys to taking an earlier lead, and maintaining it.
Just as Matt Holliday’s aggressive, but by the rules slide did in Saturday’s game. In fact, those are the plays that you expect from championship teams. It remains to be seen if the Cardinals are in deed worthy of that label, but for one afternoon in St. Louis, they did play a very hard, and by the rules game. And the fans really liked what they saw.