Posted on 16 November 2010.
Last week, Michael Metzger took us back to Game 7 of the 1987 World Series with his article, The Other Game 7. It was truly an amazing game that had more plot twists than a Dan Brown novel. With the 25th anniversary coverage of the 1985 World Series last month, that leaves just one more Game 7 for the Cardinals in the Whitey Herzog era. That would be October 20, 1982: The Other Other Game 7.
Even though they had the best record in the National League East in the strike shortened 1981 season, not everybody was convinced that the St. Louis Cardinals had the pieces in place to win the division in 1982. Cardinals fans were still upset over the sequence of events that brought Darrell Porter to St. Louis and sent long time favorite Ted Simmons to Milwaukee. There were also questions about where the production lost in the Garry Templeton for Ozzie Smith trade was going to come from. We did have Bruce Sutter, Bob Forsch and Joaquin Andujar, but Steve Mura, John Stuper and Dave LaPoint didn’t seem like the back end of a championship rotation. To make things more interesting, nobody on the Cardinals roster had career years, although Bruce Sutter, George Hendrick and Keith Hernandez were certainly very productive.
If there was a surprise, it was Lonnie Smith. He was just what manager Whitey Herzog needed at the top of the order – a good hitter with speed. A catalyst – the archetype of a Whitey Ball player. He would not be enough though, as the final piece fell into place when David Green, recently obtained in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, went down with an injury. A young speedster named Willie McGee was called up to fill in for Green. As Brock had done in June 1964, McGee turbocharged this lineup and transformation to Herzog’s “running rabbits” was complete.
A huge winning streak at the start of the season gave the Cardinals some separation from their chief competition, the Philadelphia Phillies. The two teams would battle all summer for the NL East championship. Another well timed winning streak in September proved to be too much for the Phils, and the Cardinals cruised to their first division title since the league adopted the format in 1969. Step one complete.
There was another roadblock to the date with Game 7 – the Atlanta Braves. The Braves, behind NL MVP Dale Murphy, won the NL West division on the last game of the season. This would be their second trip to the playoffs and were the slight underdog to Herzog’s Cardinals. But in a short series, anything can happen. And it did.
The original Game 1 was interrupted by rain at a most fortunate time for the Cardinals. Trailing 1-0, the game was just a few outs from being an official game before umpires called it. A do-over. In the second Game 1, Bob Forsch cruised to an easy win, throwing a complete game 3 hit shutout in the 7-0 victory. Game 2 was a nail biter and would go down to the wire. Newcomer Darrell Porter proved to be the hero with an important RBI double in the middle of the game, followed by scoring the tying run a few innings later. Ken Oberkfell would send the huge St. Louis crowd home delirious with a walk off single after some well executed small-ball. The series would briefly move to Atlanta as the Cardinals jumped out to an early lead in the clincher and never looked back. A sweep of the NL West Champs sent the Cardinals to the World Series.
Meet the Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers were the exact opposite of the St. Louis Cardinals. Where the Cardinals were like a military band marching in precision, the Brewers looked like they just rolled out of a bar at closing time. The Cardinals ran, the Brewers slugged. The Cardinals played excellent defense all around the field. The Brewers slugged. What the two teams had in common were their closers – Rollie Fingers and Bruce Sutter, but Fingers would not be available for the World Series due to an injury. It was hoped that he would be able to return some time in the series, but that never happened, and the Brewers played with one less pitcher on their roster.
Herzog’s Cardinals were just supposed to be a speed bump on the Brewers path to immortality. When the Brewers opened the series with a 17 hit 10 run attack, it looked like that might be the way the series would go. Mike Caldwell did to the Cardinals what Bob Forsch had just done to the Braves – a demoralizing 3 hit shutout.
The Brewers jumped out to a quick lead in Game 2, but the intrepid Cardinals kept clawing their way back. An 8th inning run proved to be the difference in the game as the Cards tied the series.
Now, off to Milwaukee.
Game 3 was the coming out party for Willie McGee. He was a one man assault on the Brew Crew. Not only did he hit 2 home runs on the day, but he robbed Gorman Thomas of one with a Jim Edmonds like catch well above the center field fence. If that wasn’t enough, he made one of the most amazing diving catches, saving another run and preventing a possible rally. As good as McGee was, Andujar was better. He was throwing darts at the Brewers bats, and other than a couple of McGee gems, they weren’t hitting him. Until ex-Cardinal Ted Simmons comes to the plate in the 7th inning and lines the ball off Andujar’s right leg. Andujar had to be helped off the field and by all reports, was done for the series. The Cardinals held on for the win, but the heart and soul of the team just died. Or so we thought.
The next two games would reinforce that belief. The Brewers would get to Bob Forsch and Dave LaPoint in the next two games and take a 3-2 lead in the series.
Game 6 – the first elimination game. It was a cold and rainy night in St. Louis. The temperatures would quickly drop into the 30s – it was just a brutal night for baseball. Whitey Herzog gave the ball to rookie John Stuper, but all hands were on deck in case there was trouble. Through two long rain delays, Stuper was magnificent. He took a 1 hitter into the 9th inning while his teammates chewed up the Brewers bullpen to the tune of a 13-1 laugher. The young rookie right-hander may have just saved the World World Series.
The Other Other Game 7
To everybody’s surprise, Joaquin Andujar was announced as the Cardinals starting pitcher. Just a few days earlier, he had to be helped off the field. We’d last seen him standing on crutches with a huge bandage wrapping his knee. Now he’s standing in front of a sellout crowd at Busch Stadium in the biggest game of the season. His opponent would be former Cardinal, Pete Vukovich, who looked like he had slept in his uniform. Andujar was elegant, Vukovich unkempt. Andujar threw fastballs. Vukovich threw junk. The differences between these two couldn’t be greater.
Watching Andujar warm up, it was pretty obvious that he wasn’t right. He was landing gently, unable to put all of his weight on his right leg. He would throw across his body awkwardly. None of that seemed to matter though as Andujar, pitching on pure adrenaline, retired the first 9 men he faced. On the other side of the diamond, Vukovich was in trouble all night, throwing high pressure pitch after high pressure pitch. One of these two were about to crumble – we just didn’t know which one.
At first it looked to be Andujar. The second time through the order, the Brewers started a rally. Paul Molitor led off the fourth inning with a sharp single to right field. Robin Yount followed that with a slow ground ball to Ken Oberkfell at third base. Molitor was forced at second, but Yount easily beat the throw at first. Andujar was really struggling at this point in the inning. Cecil Cooper then dribbled a single to right field.
The Turning Point
What happens next will determine the winner of the 1982 World Series. On the Cooper single, the speedy Yount tried to take third base. George Hendrick, a vastly underrated defensive player, comes up firing and throws a strike to Ken Oberkfell. Oberkfell does his part by blocking off third base. The throw beats Yount and Oberfell makes the easy tag for the second out of the inning. If you know anything about Joaquin Andujar, you can guess what happens next. That is exactly the kind of play that can get Andujar back into the game, and it does just that. He throws two more pitches in the inning as Ted Simmons pops out. Brewers rally finished – momentum swing in the Cardinals direction.
As if scripted, the Cardinals would finally break through in the bottom of the fourth inning. Just moments after the run saving throw from Hendrick, the bottom of the order gets to Vukovich. A single by Lonnie Smith gives the Cardinals a 1-0 lead, and the hometown crowd is ecstatic. They fail to extend the inning though as Vukovich toughens.
Ben Oglivie would tie the game in the fifth inning with a long long long leadoff home run. Gorman Thomas nearly left the park with a long fly to the warning track that gave Lonnie Smith all sorts of trouble. Two ground balls end the inning without any further damage. Vukovich follows that with his best inning of the game so far, retiring the Cardinals with very little drama.
Andujar would get himself into a world of trouble in the sixth inning. A leadoff double sets up a disastrous sacrifice bunt that Andujar throws away. That allows Jim Gantner to score easily, plus put Paul Molitor into scoring position. A single and sacrifice fly would give the Brewers a 3-1 lead. It would also get the Cardinals bullpen busy. Andujar would close out the inning without any more trouble. There are now just 12 outs remaining and the Cards had a 2 run deficit.
Vukovich’s flirting with danger would finally get the best of him in the bottom of the inning. A one out single by Ozzie Smith followed by a double by Lonnie Smith set up the Cardinals best scoring opportunity of the game. Lefty Bob McClure replaces Vukovich and gets into trouble of his own. He walks pinch hitter Gene Tenace to load the bases. Mike Ramsey then runs for Tenace, putting good speed on the bases. On his 29th birthday, Keith Hernandez singles, scoring the 2 Smith’s. Silent George Hendrick follows that with a single, scoring Ramsey with what would turn out to be the game winning RBI.
With a slim 4-3 lead, Herzog stays with Andujar for the seventh inning, hoping he can get one more inning out of the right-hander. If so, he can turn the game over to Sutter – the best closer in baseball. Doug Bair and Jim Kaat are warming up, just in case. Andujar strikes out the dangerous Gorman Thomas, but the next batter silences the huge crowd. Roy Howell hits a towering shot to left field that totally fools Lonnie Smith. He breaks the wrong direction, turns the wrong way on the warning track, but somehow leaps at the very last second to catch the ball. Smith did absolutely everything wrong in the making that play, except he made the catch. 50,000+ fans in St. Louis exhaled in unison. A single by Charlie Moore sets up the Brewers last chance. Jim Gantner lines an Andujar pitch up the middle, but the “One Mean Dominican” snags it for a brilliant defensive play. He throws a 90 mile per hour strike to Keith Hernandez for the last out in the inning. Andujar knew he was done for the night, and being Andujar, wanted to go out with a flourish. Gantner takes exception to the showmanship and pleasantries were exchanged. Each of the players indicated that the other was #1 in their heart too, or something like that. Home plate umpire Lee Weyer quickly got in between the two players to prevent any unnecessary escalation.
That was the last we would hear out of the Brewers in the 1982 season. The Cards would tack on two insurance runs later in the 8th inning, but it was now Sutter’s game and he did not disappoint. The bearded one would face just six batters and retire them all with nothing leaving the infield. The only Brewer that put up a fight was Gorman Thomas, the last man Sutter would face. He worked the count full and then fouled off a number of pitches. That’s when Sutter would get the big man to swing at an outside fastball and miss.
The sight of Darrell Porter jumping up, throwing away his catchers mask and running out to hug Bruce Sutter is one of the greatest images in Cardinals history. Game 7 of the 1982 World Series was really one for the ages. An unexpected pitching performance from Joaquin Andujar, who was not even supposed to be available. George Hendrick’s run saving throw, and then a couple of innings later, driving in the winning run. And Bruce Sutter being Bruce Sutter.