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A Cardinals history of Bryce Harper-like games

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a history of the other team playing scared baseball

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As is now widely known, last Sunday Bryce Harper had seven plate appearances against the Chicago Cubs without recording an official at-bat. This had never been done before but that's what can happen when a game goes extended innings and a player is hit by a pitch and walked six times - three of them intentionally. All of the free passes led to Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark accusing the Cubs of playing "scared baseball."

Because baseball is worthless if everything isn't somehow about the Cardinals, I wanted to see which Birdo has had the most Harper-like game. Using the Play Index, which truly is one of the great marvels of our time, I searched under "Game Finders" for all Cardinals who have finished a game with 0 at-bats and then sorted by the greatest number of plate appearances. I found that the record for most plate appearances ever for a Cardinal without recording an official at-bat is five - and it was done five times but only once in the last sixty years.

Here they are sorted by the most recent:

5/27/04 - Albert Pujols: 5 PAs, 0 ABs, 4 BB (1 IBB), 1 SF, 1 R, 1 RBI

The Cardinals beat the Pirates 6-3 to improve to 24-22 and two and 1/2 games out of first.

By the conclusion of this game our former hero and current opponent was hitting .279/.383/.570. It had been an uncharacteristically slow start for Pujols and it wouldn't last. The rest of the way Pujols slashed .352/.432/.693 to finish the season at .331/.415/.657. That was the second and last time he didn't lead the Cardinals in bWAR (Scott Rolen- 9.2, Pujols - 8.5; and 2002 Jim Edmonds - 6.7, Pujols - 5.5) during his tenure.

This game also began a streak in which the Cardinals would win 80 of their next 110 games and put them on their way to becoming the best Cardinals team of most of our lifetimes. Following last night's 5-2 victory, if the Cardinals could pull off a similar streak they'd be 98-46 in late September and ideally within ten games of the Cubs, assuming yesterday's double-header sweep at the hands of the hapless Padres isn't a signal of the Cubs' upcoming self-implosion. You just never know with those guys.

9/15/51 - Solly Hemus: 5 PAs, 0 ABs, 5 BB, 3 R

The Cardinals beat the Boston Braves 10-1 to improve to 74-67. They finished the season 81-73 and 15.5 games behind the New York Giants. Usually Hemus got to first base minus the unofficial at-bat the hard way - by getting hit by a pitch. He was hit by the most pitches in the NL in 1952 and 1953.

Also of note, a lad named Sibby Sisti was the Braves' shortstop on that afternoon. Other names seeing action in this game: Earl, Buddy, Sid, Walker, Ebba, Willard, Roy, Red, Enos, Hal, Vern, and Del.

6/11/50 - Stan Musial: 5 PAs, 0 ABs, 4 BB, 1 HBP

The Cardinals beat the New York Giants 6-1 to improve to 29-17 which, at the time, was good for first in the NL. That would not last and the Cardinals finished the season 78-75 - 5th place and 12.5 games behind the Phillies. Following this game the Man was hitting .388/.490/.681. He finished the season at .346/.437/.596 and was runner-up in MVP voting behind Phillies' pitcher Jim Konstanty. Musial's 7.3 bWAR dwarfed Konstanty's 4.4.

Also, batting leadoff and playing second base for the Giants was former Cardinals player and manager Eddie Stanky, who actually led the NL that year in bWAR (8.0) and was the only player besides Jackie Robinson (7.5) to finish ahead of Musial. Stanky finished third in MVP voting; Robinson 15th. Stanky arrived on the Giants on December 14, 1949, by way of trade from the Boston Braves, which cleared room for, you guessed it, Sibby Sisti in the Braves' infield.

7/10/49 - Lou Klein: 5 PAs, 0 ABs, 3BB, 1 HPB, 1 SH, 2R

The Cardinals beat the Reds 7-4 to improve to 47-32 and a half-game out of first. They would go on to finish 96-58, which, by winning percentage (.623) is their 18th best season but they finished a game out of first behind the Brooklyn Dodgers. That afternoon Musial went 2-5, and St. Louis native and fine, strapping Italian-American Joe Garagiola (RIP) knocked in a run.

Lou Klein is perhaps most famous for bolting from MLB for the Mexican League in the middle of the 1946 season which earned him a five-year suspension from Commissioner Happy Chandler. The suspension was lifted on June 5, 1949, and Klein rejoined the Cardinals and had the Harper game barely a month later.

4/23/22 - Rogers Hornsby: 5 PAs, 0 ABs, 4 BB, 1 SH, 1 R, 1 RBI

The Cardinals, guided by manager Branch Rickey, beat the Reds 6-3 to improve to 5-4 and two games out of first. They finished the season 85-69 and eight games behind the New York Giants. Their first World Series would come four seasons later. Following this game Hornsby was hitting .387 but would actually improve on that average and hit .401 for the season which is the 13th best of all time.

Even better, subbing in late in the game for third baseman Milt Stock was "Specs" Toporcer and I think I know how he got his name.

Born with bad vision, Specs was the first non-pitcher to wear eye-glasses on the field. After he retired from the Cardinals in 1928 he became farm director for the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately, while serving in that capacity he had a surgery which left him completely blind. He died in 1989 at the age of 90.

*****

That's it, that's the list. Most importantly, the Cardinals won every single one of these games and that's the proper way to punish those who dare play baseball scared.