With less than 3 hours remaining to Game 6, I’m going to steal a page from my friend Bob Netherton‘s book and spin a short tale.
The impending Game 6 reminds me of another Game 6, played 26 years ago TODAY. In 1985 I was already a Cardinal fan in diaspora; a fact made doubly interesting because I lived in the city of their NLCS foe. After the Cardinals were soundly beaten and, frankly, somewhat embarrassed during Games 1 and 2 of that series, the locals yukked it up a bit. Sweep was often heard from fans, acquaintances, and the LA sports writers. We know how it went down. Instead, those Cardinals took 3 straight from the Dodgers, and returned to Chavez Ravine with a chance to win the NL Pennant.
The game pitted Joaquin Andujar against Orel Hershiser in a rematch of Game 2. Six days before Andujar didn’t survive the fifth, surrendering six earned runs, while Hershiser went the route, allowing 2 runs on 8 hits and striking out four. The game started out as a reprise of the 10 October game – Mariano Duncan doubled leading off the game, and three batters later Bill Madlock knocked him in, giving the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. In the second, Hershiser helped himself by delivering a single on a 0-1 pitch with two out, extending the inning for Duncan, who also singled to knock in Greg Brock, and Los Angeles led 2-0. Whoo boy, here we go.
I should note, this game was played under the Southern California sun; it started at 2:05 pm. I smuggled a transistor radio into school so I could listen to it during class. You read that right, too: a teenager in the mid-80s was listening to a baseball game during the school day. I sometimes wonder why MLB doesn’t play lots of day games anymore during the playoffs.
Anyway back to the game. Andujar was a lot of things, but he was also tough and emotional; they didn’t call him ‘one tough Dominican’ for nothing. Properly seethed, he doubled off Hershiser to start the third, and came around on Tommy Herr’s base hit. 2-1 Dodgers. It stayed that way into the fifth.
In the fifth the wheels appeared to come off the Cardinal train. Andujar muffed a Duncan roller to the mound for an error. Duncan stole second, moved to third on Ken Landreaux’s ground out, and scored on Pedro Guerrero’s sac fly. Madlock followed that with a HR, and suddenly the Dodgers led 4-1. Orel was cruising, having allowed just 3 singles and a walk to the Cardinals since the run-scoring knock by Herr. Not looking good. By this time, class is out and I’m trying to listen to the game on the bus. Not easy.
In the seventh the Cardinals struck. Darrell Porter and Tito Landrum led off with singles. Steve Braun, pinch-hitting for Andujar, moved them up with a 3-1 groundout. With that play Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda summoned Tom Niedenfuer, to snuff out the Cardinal rally. He didn’t. Willie McGee greeted the Dodger closer with a single that scored both. Three pitches later Ozzie Smith followed with a triple to score McGee, and suddenly the game was tied at 4. A hush gathered over Dodger Stadium. Niedenfuer wriggled off the hook by striking out Jack Clark and Andy Van Slyke to end the inning.
Todd Worrell came on in relief of Andujar, and that pest Duncan welcomed him to the game with his third hit, a triple. Worrell, summoning all the magic he had, retired Landreaux on a pop fly, intentionally walked Guerrero (that noted Cardinal killer) and then retired Madlock on a 6-4-3 twin killing. Still tied at 4. Sadly it would only stay that way until the next Dodger at-bat, when Mike Marshall hit the first pitch of the bottom of the eighth out of the ballpark to give the lead back to Los Angeles, 5-4.
I’m still listening to the game on the radio (it was an hour bus ride just to get into my section of town), so I’m tenuously aware the Dodgers have the lead. However, I get to listen to the game in the car the rest of the way home.
Worrell gets out of the rest of the eighth without incident. Niedenfuer, who has already worked an inning and two-thirds, stays on for the ninth. Cesar Cedeno pinch hits for Worrell and strikes out. McGee singles and steals second. The Wizard walks. Herr grounds out to first, moving everyone up 90 feet. Lasorda walks to the mound. Will he take Niedenfuer out? Will he intentionally walk Clark and pitch to Van Slyke, a lefty who was oh-for-four and hitting just barely .100 in the series?
Neither. He famously talked to Niedenfuer, then said ‘Don’t give him anything good to hit.’
I run into my living room and turn on the TV just as Lasorda is leaving the mound. Jack Clark hit the next pitch halfway up the LF bleachers for a 3-run HR. It is impossible for me to describe the absolute feeling of jubilation that coursed through my fifteen year-old body at that moment; I almost jumped through the ceiling. I swore I saw Guerrero throw his glove down in disgust as that ball flew over him and became a souvenir. Twenty years later I saw a replay of that entire ninth inning and sure enough, he did.
I remember the Cardinals cleared a LARGE space around home plate so there would be no doubt he touched home. This was in response to a controversy two days earlier, when Ozzie jumped into the arms of euphoric Cardinal players at the plate after his walk-off HR decided Game 5; some thought he never touched home.
The Dodgers were broken. Ken Dayley came on and retired the side in order, and St Louis went on to the World Series.
Twenty-six years ago today. Here’s hoping the 2011 Cardinals win tonight to advance to the World Series.
Thanks for reading, and Go Cardinals!