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cards' top 20 homers

today's tournament results are directly below.

i'm on the road for the next 3 days, so this is a canned post --- not enough preservatives in it to kill you, i hope. a week or three ago, joe posnanski wrote a post listing the 20 greatest homers in baseball history. he cautioned that it was his very own personal, subjective list --- as opposed to some purportedly objective result of some purportedly objective method. in the same spirit, i'm gonna list my 20 greatest homers in cardinals history --- my own opinion. your mileage may (and undoubtedly will) vary. here we go:

honorable mention: mike laga, september 15 1986, off ron darling: not really a homer, so it doesn't count --- but it went all the way out of the damn stadium, albeit foul by a mile . . . . turns out that was a pretty exciting ballgame, one worthy of the cards-mets rivalry of that era (even though that year's race had already long been decided) --- scoreless tie into the 13th, cards won it on a walk, bunt, infield hit, intentional walk, and (with the bases loaded) walk to curt ford. final score, 1-0.

20. carl taylor, august 11 1970, off ron herbel: this is not really a very important home run, but it holds a special place in family lore --- and it's my list, dammit. i was 7 years old, at the game with my dad, my brothers, and a cousin who was visiting from new york. the cards fell behind 8-1 early and were still down 4 by the bottom of the 9th; then, with 2 outs, the journeyman taylor came off the bench and blasted a walkoff grand slam. years from now, when my brothers and i are roommates in the alzheimer's ward, i reckon we'll still nod at each other from time to time and say: "carl taylor; yep. carl taylor." lengthier writeup at the old blog.

19. rick ankiel, august 9 2007, off doug brocail: the carl taylor homer writ large --- a moment so indelible that several generations of fans (young, old, and in between) will never forget it.

18. tom lawless, october 21 1987, off frank viola: the homer was big, yeah --- it broke a 1-1 tie and put the cards up by 3 in a game they had to win --- but it's only on the list because of the pose, bat flip, and trot. lawless had homered only once in his big-league career (in 1984), but you'd never know it from the way he strolled down the line, bat still in hand, admiring every millimeter of the baseball's journey over the wall (which it barely cleared). jack buck (calling the game on national radio) had a priceless call of this homer, which went something like: "the cardinals go ahead on a 3-run homer by tom [pause] lawless [longer pause] . . . . folks, that is hard to believe."

17. fernando tatis, april 23 1999, off chan ho park: my wife (then girlfriend) and i were in st louis for a bat mitzvah; we'd just flown in and were sitting around getting caught up with my parents, with the ballgame on in the background. nobody was paying much attention to the game, but we did note tatis' first grand slam and were engaged enough that one of us said, as the lineup cycled around: "hah, that'd be nuts if he got a chance to hit another one." tatis was batting 4th, and the bases were loaded for the leadoff man, darren bragg; they stayed loaded through 2 batters (bragg reached on an error, renteria singled in a run) to bring up mcgwire, who seemed sure to ruin the opportunity. dad and i had by then peeled off from the conversation, and mom and heidi soon joined us in front of the set. "c'mon, walk him," we were all saying; big mac obligingly flied out to short right, keeping the sacks jammed for the immortal moment.

16. george hendrick, july 4 1980, off kevin saucier: i know george hendrick once hit a home run off the face of the stadium club at busch II; i'm pretty sure it was this one, ending a game that had been deadlocked at 0-0 for almost 10 innings. this happened long before the ball and / or the players were juiced, when it was virtually impossible to hit a home run into the upper deck at old busch (i think only willie stargell and mike schmidt had done it up to that point). hendrick's blast didn't quite reach the upper deck, but only because the windows of the stadium club got in the way; the ball still seemed to be rising when it bounced off the plexiglass. i saw it in person.

15. mark whiten, september 7 1993, off rob dibble: how stunning was this --- four homers in a game by a cardinal? this was only 1993, remember --- a date more proximate to whiteyball than to mcgwireball. busch II was still at its native proportions (ie, 414 to dead center and 386 to the gaps), and the team had witnessed only two 30-homer seasons in its history (not surprisingly, this game took place on the road). nor was it a particularly homer-heavy season; only 2 nl players topped 40 homers. whiten's feat was about as likely as it would be for brendan ryan to tie the single-game record for stolen bases (and who knows what it is?).

14. brian jordan, october 13 1996, off greg mcmichael: another personal favorite --- my dad called this homer, down to the pitch. the cards had rallied from an 0-3 deficit the previous (7th) inning to tie the score; when jordan stepped up in the 8th one 1 out and the tie still in force, dad said something like: "i think it's jordan's turn to be the hero today." so what are you saying, dad --- you think he's gonna hit it out? "that's what i'm saying." on this pitch? "this pitch." boom! --- jordan lines it into the left-field bullpen, and the cards win the game 4-3. it would be their last win of 1996 . . . . .

13. mark mcgwire, may 16 1998, off livan hernandez: the longest homer ever at busch II, a 545-foot missile off the post-dispatch ad in centerfield. it was his 16th of the year in his 171st plate appearance, a rate of 1 dinger per 10.7 pa, an incredible rate; he would hit 54 more over his remaining 510 plate appearances, or 1 dinger per 9.4 plate appearances.

12. stan musial, may 2 1954 (game 2), off hoyt wilhelm: i had to find some way to get The Man on this list --- just through dumb luck, at least one of those 475 homers he hit for the cardinals must have been important. unfortunately, his only postseason homer (in the 1944 series) wasn't particularly crucial, and the regular-season boxscores aren't available for most of his career (retrosheet's archive only goes back to 1957). his walkoff in the bottom of the 14th won the 1955 all-star game, but it wasn't truly a "cardinal" homer; so i went with this, musial's famous 5th home run in a doubleheader --- which made him the first big-leaguer to hit 5 homers in a single day.

11. mark mcgwire, september 8 1998, off steve trachsel: number 62. would rank higher if not for --- well, you know.

10. terry pendleton, september 11 1987, off roger mcdowell: the cards were down to their last out in this game and 3 run behind the noxious mets. they'd only mustered 1 hit through 8 innings; they'd lost jack clark for the season; and they were about to blow the last vestiges of a once-9.5-game lead. the shea faithful were aroar, and mcgee's RBI basehit with 2 outs in the 9th did nothing to shut them up --- the mets still led by 2, and against this slumping bunch of cards it might as well have been 20. pendleton coolly moved forward in the batter's box, hoping to catch mcdowell's sinker before the late break; he lifted one to center, and (from my vantage point 3,500 miles away) it looked like an easy out coming off the bat. but dykstra kept going back, then looked up . . . . . for me, this was the true "go crazy, folks" moment of the 1980s. the cards went on to win that game in the 10th, then pounded the still-stunned mets the next day; pendleton's homer brought a left-for-dead team back to life and sent it on to a division title.

9. ken boyer, october 11 1964, off al downing: after their 9-run outburst in game 1 of the '64 series, the cards' bats went silent. they scored only 4 runs in the next two games and lost both (dropping game 3 on a walkoff homer by mantle), and they managed only 1 hit through the first 5 innings of game 4. trailing 3-0 in the top of the 6th at yankee stadium, they were staring a 1-3 series deficit in the face. with 2 on and 1 out, groat hit a double-play ball to richardson that should have ended the inning; he booted it and everyone was safe. boyer made them pay big time: his grand slam gave the cardinals their first lead since early in game 2. ron taylor made it stand up, and the cardinals evened the series.

8. tim mccarver, october 12 1964, off pete mikkelsen: the day after boyer's grand slam knotted the series at 2 games apiece, bob gibson threw a masterpiece. after putting down an early threat, he retired 10 men in a row and breezed through to the 9th with a 2-0 lead and 12 strikeouts. groat booted a grounder leading off the inning, but gibson retired the next two and had only to get tom tresh to complete the shutout. . . . tresh took him deep and tied the score. it was a crushing blow for the cards, a terry pendleton moment for the yanks --- new life when all seemed lost. but the cards put runners at 1st and 3d with one out in the 10th for mccarver. way back in the first inning, he'd struck out with the bases loaded against mel stottlemyre; this time he came through, yanking it out to right field to give the cards a win and a 3-2 lead in the series.

7. jim edmonds, october 20 2004, off dan micelli: edmonds hadn't been a factor in the series --- 5 for 20 with a homer overall, but just 1 hit in his last 10 at-bats. he'd struck out in his 2 previous trips to the plate. but edmonds had always been a stellar postseason performer --- he carred a career october slugging average of .617 into that at-bat, averaging a homer every 13 at-bats (vs a regular-season average of 1 homer per 17 at-bats). it was only the 2d elimination game the cardinals had ever won under la russa.

6. albert pujols, october 17 2005, off brad lidge: for sheer heroism, no homer tops this one. if the cards had gone on to win the series, it'd probably be #1 on this list.

5. whitey kurowski, october 5 1942, off red ruffing: as the only homer in st louis history that clinched a world series title, this one's got to be high on the list even though few (if any) of us remember it. it wasn't the most critical moment; the cards already led the series 3 games to 1 and games 6 and 7 would be played back in st louis, if necessary. kurowski, a rookie in 1942 who'd hit 9 homers and earned 6 points in the mvp balloting, came up with 1 out in the top of the 9th with the score tied 2-2 and the series-clinching run at 2d base. in today's game, he might have been pitched around --- the punchless marion was on deck, with the pitcher due to follow. but ruffing, a great world series pitcher with a 7-1 career record and 2.63 era, elected to pitch to him, and kurowski took him deep. it was ruffing's october swan song; he would never again pitch in the world series.

4. scott rolen, october 21 2004, off roger clemens: seems laughable in retrospect, but clemens was assumed to be retiring after the 2004 season; he'd done the farewell tour and all, and it looked as if his last act on a big-league diamond would be to yield a fall-behind homer late in a winner-take-all game. rolen had taken an 8-pitch at-bat against clemons in his previous trip, which ended in a flyout to center; this time he jumped on the first pitch. kerpow.

3. ozzie smith, october 14 1985, off tom niedenfuer: if it had been anyone other than ozzie, i don't think this hit would hold quite the same place in our hearts, 20+ years later. damn, but that little squirt was a winner.

2. jack clark, october 16 1985, off tom niedenfuer: probably shouldn't be listed this high, but i was in the park --- it was the greatest in-person thrill in my 40 years of watching this team. and what the hell, it did turn a loss into a pennant-clinching win; that's got to be worth something. niedenfuer had already faced clark once in this game and got the better of him --- struck him out with 1 out in the 7th and the go-ahead run on 3d in a tie game. he had a base open in the 9th and could have put him on; bill james made a good case in the 1986 Baseball Abstract that pitching to clark was the right percentage play. i wouldn't have . . . . i think it took clark about 4 full minutes to round the bases.

1. yadier molina, october 19 2006, off aaron heilman: perhaps i'm just overrating this homer because the memory's still so fresh, but i don't think so. the franchise had never witnessed a homer like this one --- it simultaneously staved off elimination (as the pujols and edmonds homers of the previous 2 years) and propelled the cards to a championship (like rolen and clark's blasts). molina's homer was one of only 6 in baseball history (unless i've missed one) that decided a winner-take-all game in the 9th inning or later. the others:

aaron boone, 2003 alcs game 7
rick monday, 1981 nlcs game 5
chris chambliss, 1976 alcs game 5
bill mazeroski, 1960 world series game 7
bobby thomson, 1951 nl playoff game 3