As the Cardinals settled back into the top of the division at the end of the season and conjured some surprising postseason comebacks, there were renewed charges that the organization dabbles in the Dark Arts. It's difficult to confirm these accusations. Just as front office officials won't divulge their exact metrics for rating pitching prospects across various levels of competition, they won't comment on whether the Cardinal Way manual contains explicit instructions for conducting a Black Mass in the clubhouse.
But the Cardinals did add to their scrapbook of memorable postseason comebacks, and they did it via the long ball.
In Game 2 of the NLCS, three of the Redbirds four dingers ranked in the Top 30 all-time Cardinal postseason home runs in terms of Win Probability Added (WPA). Kolten Wong's walk-off blast, magical though it was, only tied for 9th on that list, along with a certain David Freese homer.
For the purposes of this post, and to please the unclean spirit of The Cloven One, I have converted WPA into Devil Magic Units (DMU) by a formula of: 1 WPA = 1 DMU. With that in mind, here are the Top 5 Cardinal Postseason Home Runs, ranked by Devil Magic.
5. Ozzie Smith - 1985 NLCS Game 5
One of the most memorable calls in broadcasting history, but still only good enough for 5th on this list (or technically part of a three-way tie for third, if you want to nit-pick). They called him The Wizard, and this was some Dark Sorcery indeed.
The walk-off homer came off Dodgers reliever Tom Niedenfuer, who will make one other appearance on this list. It was the first time in his major league career Ozzie homered from the left side, which we all know is Satan's preferred side of the plate.
4. Tim McCarver 1968 World Series Game 3
I could not find any video of this, likely due to 1960s restrictions on the broadcast of Unholy Acts. While most of these home runs came very late in the game, McCarver saw fit to call forth The Beast in the 5th inning, during a crucial scoring opportunity.
McCarver came to the plate with two on, two out, and the Cardinals down 2-1. His 3-run blast to right, driving in Curt Flood and Roger Maris, would tally the ultimately winning runs and put the Cardinals up 2-1 in the series. After winning the next game to take a commanding 3-1 lead, the team would run out of Devil Magic and eventually lose the series.
3. Matt Adams 2014 NLDS Game 4
Again, the Cardinals called on the power of The Left Hand, as the homer was the first Kershaw had ever given up on his curveball to a lefty. With the Cardinals down 2-0 at the time and facing the best pitcher in the league, it should come as no surprise the home run swung their odds of winning the game mightily.
Combined with the .31 DMU on Adams go-ahead homer in Game 2 of the NLCS, he accounted for nearly as much Devil Magic this postseason as Black Sabbath during the Dio years.
2. Albert Pujols 2005 NLCS
Throughout the country, babes wept in their mothers arms the moment the bat made contact. Children and the faint-of-heart turned away from their televisions, unable to comprehend the violence they had just seen unleashed on a baseball.
With the Cardinals down 4-2 in the 9th, facing elimination and Brad Lidge at the height of his powers, their fate seemed certain before Pujols' act of depravity.
I consider myself to be a man of science, but if this was not proof of devil magic at work, I don't know what is. And yet, it's only tied for the top spot in the Cardinals history of Dark Home Run Rituals in the postseason, along with:
1. Jack Clark 1985 NLCS
The bat flip wasn't quite so fashionable in 1985, but Clark's mic drop and slow trot around the bases still brought pleasure to The Prince of Devils. Watch the whole team come out to greet Clark as he crosses home plate, and keep in mind this was THE TOP OF THE 9TH.
Like the Pujols offering, this blast came with two outs and the Cardinals down, in this case 5-4. In the video clip, Vin Scully notes Tommy Lasorda in the dugout, wondering if he should instead pitch around Clark.
Like Ozzie's homer two days before, it came off of Dodgers reliever Tom Niedenfuer, who must have felt like he had descended to the Ninth Circle of Hell.
To quote Baudelaire via Verbal Kint, "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." With their ongoing history of postseason heroics, the Cardinals have convinced many that the devil is very real indeed, and he prefers the St. Louis baseball team.