In that spirit, I found a video documenting a complete Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) R.B.I. baseball game between the Cards and Tigers from 1987. I have not found other such videos (or does that what emulators produce?) so the recap below might be a unicorn.
If you’d like to watch the entire game first, you just need 24 minutes and five seconds and the capacity to click here.
Otherwise, read on!
It was a pixelating night for game, pitting two clubs that had not faced each other in 38 years, last on October 10, 1968 in that dreaded World Series Game 7 loss to the Tigers,
4-1. But this is a different world. Despite the Cards entering Tiger Stadium as visitors, both pitchers hit. Take that, DH!
Lefty and maybe Cardinal HOFer John Tudor was up against righty Doyle Alexander, who shoulda played in the Deadball Era with that name. Doyle came to the Tigers from the Braves in an August 12, 1987 trade for Just a Guy John Smoltz. (Maybe Skyricesq can analyze that transaction for you.)
With Atlanta, Doyle had been 5-10 with a 4.13 ERA; but the Motor City agreed with him, as he posted a 9-0 mark and a shiny 1.53 ERA the rest of the way. Alternatively, Tudor must’ve been broked at some point, as he came in having made just 16 starts, posting a 10-2 record with a 3.84 ERA over 96 innings. (You’re welcome for the bonus Games Started and Innings Pitched stats for context.)
For you offensive folks, the Cards lineup came in sporting a (non-pitcher) .276 overall BA, slightly below the Tigers’ .284 mark (not counting their DH). That’s all you need to know there.
The Bird’s-Eye View
This would’ve been a great game for Jack and Mike call. You might’ve heard a unique application of “Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!” Two “Get up, baby, get up!” And at least two “Ol’ Aber has done it again, folks” with plenty of “Heh, heh, heh’s” slurred in. In the end, Jack would’ve told you “That’s a winner!”
Plus, it included free baseball!!
The action produced like 90th percentile Cardinal offense (11 runs on 16 hits and 4 SBs). It was paired with great starting pitching (head-scratchingly pulled quickly), and initially good relief pitching followed by very bad that Whitey napped through. Somewhere, Tony LaRussa admired the offense but muttered sarcastic comments at the bullpen management.
The icing on the cake was that 7 of the Cards’ 16 hits went for extra bases: 2 2B, 1 3B, and 4 HR (2 inside the park!) while the Tigers’ power was limited to 2B and a solo homer.
The run-scoring distribution pleased both those with primary bias and recency bias, as all tallies occurred within the first 3 and the last 3 innings. The visiting Cards jumped on top in the first third, scoring 3 on 2 long balls. One was from their sole power hitter Jack Clark, who smacked a 2-run dinger in the first. Ozzie supplied the second homer in the third, but he didn’t even need it to go over the wall!
Meanwhile, crafty lefty John Tudor pitched shut-out ball through 4.1 innings. Whitey must’ve seen something Cards fans didn’t, as he pulled him at that point for Danny Cox, who covered the next 2.2 innings unscathed.
Doyle Alexander pitched okay by NES standards, giving up just the 3 runs through 4 frames. Jack Morris followed him by blanking the Cards over the next 3 innings to keep the score 3-0 going in to the 8th. So, a totally Whitey Herzog NL-type game, right?
Wrong. Things suddenly got all video-gamey.
In the 8th, the Cards parlayed an error by Tigers’ left fielder “Captain” Kirk Gibson (that will remind you of a certain Matt Holliday play), daring baserunning, and a couple of key hits into 2 runs that upped the Cards’ lead to a comfortable 5-0.
But that comfort was short-lived, as the Tigers roared back (LOL) in the bottom of the frame, plating 4 all off Ken Dayley via a solo homer by Gibson, 3-straight singles, a poor fielder’s choice decision, and a fourth run-scoring single for good measure.
The Cards didn’t tack on in the 9th, then hoped Closer Todd Worrell would hold the slim one-run lead. He did give up a one-out double, but another suspect infielder’s decision and poor NES controller button pushing allowed the Tigers to tie the score.
In the bonus 10th inning, though, the Cards finally put the Tigers away. It began in that time-honored Whiteyball way: an infield single and a single to right…but those runs were chased home by a dribbler that somehow morphed into a 3-run inside-the-park homer (by Jack Clark!), followed by triple, double, ‘nuther 2-run dinger! When the smoke cleared, 6 runs crossed to produce an 11-5 lead!
Worrell remained in to—no really—close the game out this time, which he accomplished, doing so by inducing a double play the hard way and giving the Cards the win!
The Flight Path
*Includes In Play: Run(s)
*Top of 1st
The Cards got on the virtual board immediately with two key elements of the Whiteyball formula doing what they do.: Ozzie reached on a one-out IF single to his lesser counterpart Alan Trammell at short, then he promptly stole second. (Duh.) RISP never really meant anything to next hitter Jack Clark, so just he ripped the first pitch he saw off the computer screen far beyond left field for a 2-run dinger! Pixel fireworks ensued as the 2-0 score appeared in sweet, sweet, squat, blocky font.
Bottom of 1st
Tutor got into a little one-out jam himself in the first when Gibson doubled off the wall in left-center. He was quickly erased, however, on his own TOOTBLAN and a highlight-reel play when Darrell Evans smashed a grounder down the third-base line as Gibson tried to advance. Terry Pendleton dove to his right, snagged it, tagged Gibson out, and still attempted the DP to first, but Evans reached safely.
Tutor was fortunate again to escape the inning unscathed, as next batter Matt Nokes cranked a deep liner into right that was hauled in on a nice running catch by Curt Ford.
Top of 2nd
The Cards’ 6-8 hitters went down 1-2-3. ‘Nuff said.
Bottom of 2nd
The Tigers couldn’t parlay a one-out single into anything as Tutor easily managed the bottom of the Tiger order.
*Top of 3rd
The Cards increased their lead as the Wizard oppo’d a two-out liner into the gap in left-center. He kept makin’ left turns, though, even pop-up sliding at third to continue—‘cuz There’s No Place Like Home, Dorothy!—easily beating the throw for an inside-the-parker, expanding the lead to 3-0!
Bottom of 3rd
American League Pitcher Doyle led off (Fun!) by beating out an IF single to the Wizard at short. I call BS, NES! After Tudor K’d Trammell, a Gibson grounder forced Doyle at second, but Kirk beat the relay to first. Evans doubled to center, but Gibson stopped at third, not daring to test Willie’s arm.
Now with second and third but two out, Tudor walked the lefty Nokes on four straight. And it inexplicably looked like an IBB, as all pitches were inside easily off the plate. That brought up righty Herndon, who Tudor promptly jammed on the first pitch, inducing a gentle come-backer for out 3 and no runs.
Top of 4th
Jealous of Ozzie’s inside-the-parker, Willie tried one. It began as a grounder past the charging Trammell (LOL). Gibson also took a horrible route in left field, allowing the ball to roll to the wall. Alas, the relay was perfect; plus, McGee initially slid at third, but his pop-up wasn’t as good as Ozzie’s, as Willie was nailed at the plate. (Replay confirmed the call.) The next three Cards went down quietly in order.
Bottom of 4th
The Tigers went down 1-2-3, aided in no small part by Clark. Known for his defense, Jack dove to his right to turn a Sweet Lou Whitaker hard grounder into a Sweet Unassisted Out.
Top of the 5th
Nasty middle reliever Jack Morris replaced Alexander in the top of the 5th to try to keep the Cards from adding on. He dispatched Peña and Tudor easily via strikeout and Vince grounded out softly to second. Why he didn’t beat it out is another NES BS moment!
Bottom of 5th
Eleven years before pitchers proclaimed Chicks Dig the Long Ball, Jack Morris led off (LOL) to give it a shot. Instead, he made just enough contact to bloop a single to left. After getting Trammell to pop out to Herr, Whitey decided 4.1 innings of 4-hit shutout ball was enough. Wait, what about the pitcher win, White Rat!? He replaced Tudor with righty Danny Cox to face lefty Gibson. Bad process, bad result, as James T. Kirk flared one to left-center that Willie mis-judged, allowing it to drop in front of him.
However, unaccustomed to the base paths, Morris had not gone half-way, buying Willie time to nab him at second. Evans next grounded to Pendleton, who went the long way across the diamond, hurling a one-hopper to first (on grass!) to get the final out.
Top of 6th
I guess Ozzie didn’t like his chances against Morris, as he led off trying to bunt for a hit. It rolled directly in front of the plate, and Morris threw him out easily. Both Herr and Clark flew out to shallow left and deep short, respectively, obviously swinging for the fences.
Bottom of 6th
Jack the Fielder flashed leather for the second time, blocking a hot shot off the bat of Nokes leading off the inning. Jack scrambled, picked it up, and out-hustled Nokes to the bag for out 1. After Herndon grounded out to Pendleton (via another one-hop throw), Lemon drove a grounder all the way to the CF wall but was held to a single by McGee’s famous “Recovery Defense.” Cox then got Brookens to ground out to the Wizard to end the frame.
Note: The NES Official Scorer gave Willie an error on the single to CF. Sure, somebody held the Down Arrow too long, and he was unable to cut it off, but he didn’t come near it, so technically not an error.
Top of 7th
Like Ozzie in the 6th, Willie led off by bunting one in front of the plate (unlike Ozzie, McGee produced a swinging bunt) that Morris snatched and whipped to first for the out. After Pendleton grounded out to third, long-time Cardinal favorite Curt Ford singled to right. Things ended there with Peña striking out on a nasty 71 mph breaking pitch.
Bottom of 7th
After Brookens struck out on a wicked Cox slider to start the bottom half, lefty-swingin’ Pat Sheridan came off the pine to hit for Morris. Right-armed Cox remained on the bump. Bad process, good result, as Sheridan popped out to Ozzie inside the arc. Cox was still throwin’ strong, as he struck out un-deserving HOFer Trammell to end the inning.
*Top of 8th
Whitey sent RHH Cox up to lead off the inning—of course!—and Sparky Anderson counted with his lefty reliever Willie Hernández—sure! Whitey counter-countered with the switch-hittin’ Secret Weapon…who decided to hit lefty—why not!? Weird process, lucky result, as Oquendo laced a liner to left that bounced off Gibson’s groinal area and fell to the turf for an embarrassing error. Animated lines flashed above Kirk’s head indicating cartoon pain-swearing as José laughed to first.
Using all his ‘80s tools, The White Rat sent Oquendo with Coleman bunting. Alas, it went foul. Undeterred, Whitey did it again; this time, Vince whiffed on the bunt, but José slid in safely to second. Vince then tapped one back to the mound, but Oquendo daringly advanced to third as throw went to first to get Vince, putting a runner at third with one out. What’s more Whiteyball than that?
Well, attempting a suicide squeeze on the next pitch, that’s what! Alas, Ozzie fouled it off. Now swinging away, The Wizard popped out to first. Oquendo surprisingly did not tag up. But Pretty Tommy came through with a 2-out single to right to plate José, making it 4-0 Cradz.
Then, as he so often did, Clark slapped a base hit down the right-field line to the corner, scoring Herr all the way from first. Jack thought about third but wisely retreated about halfway, getting back safely to second. 5-0 Cards!
Next hitter Willie caught a bad break as he smacked a liner that magnetized into the glove of Brookens at third for the final out. 1987 Cards fans groaned at missing out on the guaranteed play-at-the-plate collision between Jack and the catcher!
*Bottom of 8th
Foreshadowing Matheny, Whitey leveraged the fact that he let Cox hit for himself in the top of the frame by immediately replacing him in the bottom half without facing a single batter. Lefty Ken Dayley became the bridge to the 9th, as the first 3 hitters up were lefties, but in the meat of the Tiger order. Good process, really bad results: Gibson launched the second pitch into the bleachers in right to give the Tiggers their first tally; Evans followed with a long single to the wall in right; then, Nokes singled through the 5 ½ hole to put runners at first and second, nobody out. Hoping for a pitcher’s best friend grounder, Dayley instead induced a grounder from righty Herndon that reached the wall in left-center, making it 5-2 with runners on first and third.
Whitey showed confidence in his reliever (I guess), as he left Dayley in to face another righty, Lemon, who grounded to Pendleton’s backhand. The runner on third broke on contact, and despite Terry fielding the ball cleanly near the bag, he chose to throw to first for the out. Had he gone home, he woulda nailed him. Instead it was now 5-3, runner on second, one out.
With the #7 lefty hitter Whitaker up, Whitey thought, “Ah hell, leave Dayley in,” and Ken rewarded the skipper by fanning Lou on three straight breaking balls. Where was that earlier, Ken?
Looking for just the right veterany goodness for a big 2-out hit, Sparky swapped the 9-year veteran righty Brookens for the 9-year veteran righty Mike Heath. It worked, as Heath promptly singled to right to make it first and third, two out. Doubling down, Anderson then sent up 15-year MLB-er Bill Madlock (not to be confused with senior citizen lawyer Ben Matlock), playing for the final team of his Cardinal-killing career.
With Dayley continuing to exhibit bad body language but still in, Madlock hit a “ground ball with eyes” that snuck through the middle and somehow rolled to the wall. Do grounders accelerate in the outfield, NES? So that made it first and third, two out, score now 5-4, tying run at third, go-ahead on first.
Whitey shook off his Budweiser half-buzz to finally remove Dayley, and brought in his righty fireball Closer™ Todd Worrell an inning early(!), lining him up for the potential inning and a third Save. Facing leadoff man Trammell, Worrell K’d him on 3 pitches to preserve the 1-run lead.
*Top of 9th
Always following Whitey’s lead, Sparky brought in his righty Closer, Eric “The Hit” King. Pendleton led off by doing that Cardinal thing, slapping a ground-ball single to left then quickly turning it into a double by stealing on the next pitch. Alas, Ford was the Anti-Cardinal, striking out, thus not advancing the runner. Peña then sent a deep fly ball to left-center that Pendleton daringly tagged up on to advance to third on a close play.
Continuing the Cardinal Way of letting relievers hit, Worrell was asked to cash in the two-out RISP. Cards fans were flabbergasted to witness Todd flail badly at three straight sliders out of the zone, thus ending the inning as it began.
*Bottom of 9th
Worrell initially showed no signs of fatigue from his at bat just minutes ago, striking out the dangerous Gibson to lead off the bottom of the frame. Bad things happened next, though, as Evans dinged him for a double deep to right center. To make matters worse, Pendleton forgot the situation, when he fielded a grounder off the bat of Nokes and threw to second instead of first! Herr’s valiant attempt at the relay was too late to get the runner.
So now with first and third, one out, Worrell bore down, rebounding to strike out Herndon. With hope yet to put the game away, Todd got (what seemed to be) a weak grounder to Herr that should’ve produced a Cardinal victory.
But somebody was hittin’ Tommy’s Right Arrow instead of freakin’ LEFT ARROW, and he charged right past it, allowing it to roll (wait for it) all the way to the wall, plating the tying run, and putting runners again at first and third.
Mercilessly, Todd next got Whitaker to flare a fliner to Herr, who this time was directed with the correct buttons to flag it down. But the damage was done and the game was now knotted at 5-5.
*Top of 10th
King remained in the game to face the Sinister Speedsters atop the Cards’ lineup. After Vince lined out weakly to third, (If you’re following closely, Vince did nothing at the plate the entire game.) But Whiteyball re-commenced. Ozzie started a rally by getting jammed, rolling a slow roller (yay!) to Trammell, beating the over-rated short stop’s throw.
Ozzie easily stole second on the next pitch (Duh), then Herr pulled a single through the hole into right, but Ozzie had to stop at third due to a laser throw from Sheridan. With Birdos on El Bagos at first and third, Jack licked his chops and twisted his back foot violently in the dirt.
He hacked mightily at the second offering—a bit too mightily—as he merely produced a squibber down the first-base line. BUT!...CUE YAKKITY SAX!!!...
The catcher stayed put as Ozzie sped home…The first baseman froze on the bag…The pitcher failed to cut the ball off and hilariously chased after the slow-roller all the way into right field as Jack motored for second….
Finally, the right fielder retrieved it at the wall, but Ozzie and Tommy had already crossed the plate...And by the time the right fielder slung the ball weakly (to third!), Jack the Streaker had safely crossed home to make it 8-5 on what had to be his one and only inside-the-parker! (Their second of the game, you’ll recall.) Somebody look that up!
After Willie next flew out to right, Pendleton re-ignited things by tripling into the right-center gap. Ford knocked him in by yanking one down the right-field line for a double to make it 9-5! With King still pitching, Peña added insult to injury by tomahawking a 2-run dinger just over the left-field wall, spitting tobacco juice from the giant wad in his cheek as he started his home run trot.
Now with a once-again comfortable lead at 11-5, Whitey
pinch-hit for let Worrell hit for himself. This time, he did foul off a few before striking out. Pencil him in for future at-bats.
Bottom of 10th
With “Saves are Stupid” Worrell back on the hill, the Tigers sent in lefty Dave Bergman to pinch-hit. He grounded a slow roller right back to Todd, but it somehow eluded him and continued toward Ozzie, but the Wizard’s throw was late. (Next Spring Training will have extra Button Fielding Practice.)
Following the strategy of the times, Sparky left Closer King in to hit. He clunked a dribbler back to Worrell, who fielded this one cleanly, whirled, and threw 98 mph to second for the force-out.
With one out and a runner at first, Trammell was late on a Todd heater, and grounded it right at the first-base bag. But Jack had wisely been holding the runner on with only a six-run lead, allowing him to snag it, step on first, and fire to second for the tag-play DP.
However, the runner retreated to first base, and Ozzie’s relay beat him—with Herr now covering first!—to complete the patented 3-6-4 DP to end the game! A-HAHAHAHAHAHAH!
CRADZ WON 11-5!!!
The Bottom Line
- LOL: The Tigers actually out-hit the Cards, 16 to 15.
- ITPHRs: The Cards’ two inside-the-park HRs marked the 11th time in MLB history (up to 1987) in which two such dingers occurred in the same game.
If Willie’s attempted inside-the-parker had succeeded, it woulda been the first time a team had three such dingers in the same game, like ever.
- Proper RBI Distribution: Clark (6); Peña (2); Ozzie (1); Herr (1); Ford (1)
- Just to Remind You They’re Fast: The Cards had 4 stolen bases; the Tigers, sticking to AL baseball, had none. Three of the four base stealers scored: including one on an over-the-wall HR and one on an inside-the-parker (LOL).
- Proof Sac Flies and Bunts Don’t Help: The Cards had no sac flies and one unsuccessful bunt-for-a-hit attempt; two unsuccessful bunt-and-run attempts (the runner stole second on the second try); one unsuccessful suicide squeeze attempt; and no successful sac bunts (not sure how many attempts; hard to tell with NES swing animation).
- Zero Cardinal Walks! - Who has time for walks with all that hittin’ goin’ on?
A Fistful of Pitching: Whitey displayed unusual pitcher management:
- The Good – Tudor pitched 4.1 innings of 4-hit shutout ball then was pulled. Cox pitched
2.2 innings of scoreless relief from the 5th through the 7th.
- The Ugly – Dayley pitched just .2 of an inning, giving up 4 runs before getting yanked.
- The Unlucky – Worrell did give up a 1-out double in the 9th that did ultimately score to
tie the game. But it came because of a bad infielder’s choice and a bad infielder’s route.
- Stout Defense by NES Standards: Despite several instances of horrible routes (by infielders and outfielders alike) due to panicky button pushing, both the Cards and Tigers each were charged just one error, the only way to judge defense in the ‘80s.