Unlike the current edition of the Cardinals, the 1964 squad was in disarray going into the traditional mid-season All Star break. The positive vibe that had been established by a 19-12 start had evaporated and the Redbirds were mired at 28-31 on June 15 when they made the famous Lou Brock/Ernie Broglio trade. A four game win streak then pushed the Cards to 32-31, but that was their only appearance north of .500 since the trade. The Birds sat at 39-40 at the break - tied with the defending National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers in fifth place a full ten games behind the Philadelphia Phillies. The San Francisco Giants were right on the Phillies' heels and the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds were close behind. The Dodgers and Cardinals headed up a group of five teams that were between 10 and 12.5 games out. The hapless New York Mets brought up the rear; already 27 games off the pace.
Despite the trade of their Opening Day starter, the Redbirds had solid starting pitching. Bob Gibson, was saddled with a 6-6 record, but the Cardinals had supported him with only four runs in the five starts he had lost. The other members of St. Louis' Big Three, Ray Sadecki and Curt Simmons, had compiled identical 9-6 records.
Just like the 2014 edition, the 1964 Cardinals sent a four man contingent to the All Star game. Curt Flood made the first of what ultimately would be three All Star teams. The smooth center fielder was joined by three members of the Cards' so-called "Million Dollar infield" (a rather laughable moniker as each member drew a salary that was less than $100,000): third baseman Ken Boyer, shortstop Dick Groat, and first baseman Bill White. Second sacker Julian Javier was bypassed for Bill Mazeroski and Ron Hunt.
As was typically the case in that era, the National League roster was loaded. Bear in mind, the NL was the vastly superior league at the time - as attested to by the Senior Circuit's 25-2 record in All Star games between 1959 and 1982. The NL boasted 12 future Hall of Famers on the 1964 25-man roster. Cooperstown inductees included pitchers Jim Bunning, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, and Juan Marichal as well as batters Willie Stargell, Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Bill Mazeroski, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams.
The Hall of Famers were complemented by should-be and could-be Hall of Famers. Milwaukee Braves catcher Joe Torre also achieved HOF status as a manager, and his 57.6 career bWAR merited serious HOF consideration on its own. Boyer's 62.8 bWAR may eventually earn him a Cooperstown plaque. Seven other members of the 1964 NL All Star squad exceeded 30 career bWAR: Pitcher Chris Short, and outfielders Johnny Callison and Smoky Burgess, as well Flood, Groat, White, and Hunt. All told, 21 of the 25 roster members achieved HOF status and/or 30 + career bWAR.
The American League countered with a squad that featured only six future HOFers - Al Kaline, Luis Aparicio, Whitey Ford, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, and Brooks Robinson. However, Kaline and Aparicio were injured and replaced on the roster. Ford started the Sunday before the Tuesday All Star game and was shelled and did not appear in the Midsummer Classic.
The starting pitching match up was an all-Los Angeles affair with the Angels' Dean Chance and Drysdale from the Dodgers squaring off in New York's Shea Stadium. The ALers drew blood in the top of the first when a Torre passed ball (he couldn't make the catch on a Drysdale spitter) led to an unearned run when Harmon Killebrew singled in Jim Fregosi. Chance pitched around a Boyer single in the second and finished with three scoreless innings.
Jim Bunning (just two weeks removed from his perfect game) came on for the NL in the fourth and pitched a pair of scoreless innings. AL manager Al Lopez of the Chicago White Sox (The Sox were not the defending AL champs - the Yankees were. However, 1963 Yankee manager Ralph Houk took the General Manager position in the off-season and the decision was made to have Lopez as the All Star manager as the ChiSox were the 1963 runnerups) turned to Kansas City Athletic reliever John Wyatt. The former Negro League star combined with Ryne Duren, Roy Face, Dick Radatz and Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm in the 50s and 60s to popularize the role of closer. Wyatt, however, gave up a game-tying tying homer to the first batter he faced - the Cubs' Billy Williams. Wyatt then retired Mays and Cepeda but Boyer quickly untied the game with a long blast into the left field bleachers. One inning later, Dick Groat stepped in with Clemente aboard against the Minnesota Twins' Camilo Pascual. Groat laced a double into the left center field gap and Clemente raced all the way home from first to push the NL margin to 3-1.
However, in the sixth, Chris Short could not replicate the success of his Phillies' teammate Bunning as Brooks Robinson tripled in Mantle and Killebrew to tie the game. An inning later the AL took the lead off the Astros' Turk Farrell on a Fregosi sacrifice fly.
The game stayed that way until the bottom of the ninth when Radatz took the mound for his third inning of work. The imposing Radatz stood 6'6" and tipped the scales at 230 pounds. The hard throwing righty had mowed down the NL six up and six down in the seventh and the eighth with a quartet of strikeouts. Radatz, nicknamed The Monster, complied 17.3 bWAR in three seasons from 1962 - 1964 - all from the bullpen. Radatz walked Mays to open the frame and the Say Hey Kid swiped second. Cepeda hit a pop fly single over the head of first baseman Joe Pepitone and when Pepi threw wildly, Mays scored the tying run. Flood pinch ran for Cha Cha and a couple of outs and a walk later took his lead as Callison stepped in. The powerful Callison was in the midst of a four season streak in which he would record at least 23 homers as well as double digit triples in each campaign. He powered a Radatz fastball into the second deck in right field to give the NL the walkoff victory.
It was the first All Star walk off homer since 1955 when Stan Musial's walk off shot ended a 12 inning affair. There hasn't been a walk off homer since in an All Star game.
Remembered Callison years later and years ago, "That homer was the greatest thrill of my life, but I remember thinking that it was only the beginning. It was going to be the Phillies' year. We had everything going our way. Everything."
Time would tell whether the Phils would be able to parlay their All Star break lead into an NL pennant.