As you may have heard, there’s not a lot to write about with baseball right now. To fill the time, we’ll all use various tricks. The Red Baron echoed a lot of my own feelings- a lot of all of our feelings- earlier this week. Ben Godar found his niche in a way only he can by melding Cardinals baseball with pop culture- video games in this case. J.P. reveled in the glorious mintuiae of the most impressive barrels. Blake looked at potential impacts of a shortened season, stlcardsfan4 continued his look at division rivals, Jeff is working on an awesome RBI Baseball recap, player previews roll on, and Scooter continues to be the glue that holds it all together. I thought it might be fun to travel into the past with a random box score. I asked my lovely wife to choose random numbers between 4 and 9, then 1 through 30, and finally 1 through 99. She gave me 5, 30, 65- May 30th, 1965. That’s the game we’ll review today, with the Cardinals taking on the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park.
The Cardinals were defending World Series champions, though the off-season saw skipper Johnny Keane bolt for the Yankees. He was replaced by a green, first-time manager named Red Schoendienst. The Cardinals entered the day with a record of 23-19, but were in the middle of a three-game losing streak. The last two were walk-off losses in Houston during games five and six of a nine-game west coast road trip. After those two maddening losses, they traveled to San Francisco for a three-game set. The Giants were 24-20, tied with the Cardinals at 3.5 games back of the Dodgers.
One oddity is that it was a Sunday afternoon game, and the first of the series. Opening a series on a Sunday is something that just doesn’t happen these days. The game was a crisp two and a half hour affair in front of 31,919 fans. As near as I can tell, it looks like it was a 64 degree day with no precipitation and some of the lightest wind San Francisco saw all month.
There are some interesting aspects right away. Lou Brock wasn’t in the starting lineup. I can only guess that it was a slight injury. He was removed in the 5th inning of the May 26th game and hadn’t played since, but would return to full-time duty the day after this game. Replacing him at leadoff was slugger Bill White- one of just eight times in his career that White hit leadoff. Replacing Brock in left field was journeyman Bob Skinner, who had become a bench player in the twilight of his career. Other than the missing Brock and Tito Francona starting in right field, that was basically the Cardinals starting lineup in their magical stretch run in 1964. And yes, Tito Francona is the father of longtime MLB manager (and former outfielder) Terry Francona.
On the Giants side, the most notable absence was Willie Mays. Checking the game logs, he had been healthy both before and after this game. It’s altogether possible Giants manager Herman Franks wanted to give him a day off against Bob Gibson. As we’ll see later, he didn’t get the whole day off. Without him, the Giants offense was McCovey, the surprisingly good Jim Ray Hart, and... well, not much else. Lanier, Schofield, and Matty Alou were dreadful hitters that year, and the rest were generic acceptable contributors.
Speaking of Gibson, he entered the game 8-1 with a 2.40 ERA. After getting knocked around by the Cubs on opening day, he had settled in as his usual dominant self. He was opposed by Ron Herbel (3-4, 3.33), a decidedly less dominant 27-year old swingman making his seventh start of the season. He had joined the rotation in May, and two of his seven starts to date had ended before he finished the second inning. Maybe Ron Herbel was the original Opener.
Herbel and Gibson, which is not a law firm, exchanged zeroes through the first two innings, each yielding one baserunner. Skinner tagged Herbel for a two-out single in the 2nd and advanced to second on a passed ball, but Francona struck out to end the threat. Gibson’s lone baserunner was a walk to Len Gabrielson in the 2nd.
The Cardinals scored first in the top of the 3rd. Julian Javier led off with a single to center field, advanced to second on Gibson’s groundout, and then scored on White’s single. The throw came home, but Javier beat it and White advanced to second. He moved up to third on Dick Groat’s groundout, but Herbel struck out Curt Flood to hold the Cardinals lead to 1-0.
The Giants knotted it up three batters later. Hal Lanier, future Northern League manager and nemesis of “Dirty Al” Gallagher (long story, don’t ask), singled to lead off the inning. He advanced to second on a passed ball with Herbel at the plate. Lanier stole third, but McCarver’s throw led to an error that let Lanier score, tying the game at 1-1.
The Giants threatened in the bottom of the 4th, putting Jesus Alou in scoring position but failed to bring him home. The Cardinals returned the futile favor in the top of the 5th. Infield singles by Francona and White and a walk of Groat loaded the bases with two outs. Herbel then coaxed an inning-ending flyball out of Flood.
The tie was broken in the bottom of the 6th. McCovey smoked a double into the right field gap and came around on Hart’s follow-up single, giving the Giants a 2-1 lead. Herbel allowed a two-out single to White in the 7th, then squelched the inning on Groat’s force out. In a matchup featuring a future Hall of Famer (Gibson) and a future Ron Herbel (Herbel), the lesser-known of the two had the edge.
Gibson tapdanced around a leadoff walk to Haller in the Giants half of the 7th to keep the score 2-1, just long enough for the Cardinals to knot it up in the top of the 8th. Flood singled to lead off the inning, stole second with Ken Boyer at the plate, and advanced to third on Boyer’s groundout. Herman Franks had seen enough from Herbel, removing him with one out and Flood on third. The Cardinals had Tim McCarver, a lefty, due up, followed by two more lefties in Skinner and Francona. He called on lefty long reliever Bill Henry to face them.
Henry did his job, retiring McCarver, but Timmy Mac’s flyball was deep enough to score White. Skinner then struck out to send the game to the bottom of the 8th tied, 2-2. Herbel’s final line in the game: 7.1 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.
With the screws tightened, Gibson and Henry coasted through the bottom of the 8th, top of the 9th, and bottom of the 9th without allowing a baserunner. The three scoreless half innings sent the game to extra innings.
White popped out leading off the 10th, but Dick Groat’s follow-up double to left field chased Henry from the game. Franks called on Frank Linzy, a 24-year-old reliever en route to a third place finish in Rookie of the Year voting in 1965. He had notched four saves and a 1.88 ERA entering the game. His assignment was to face the meat of the Cardinals order- Flood, Boyer, and McCarver- with the go-ahead run on second base and just one out. Further complicating matters, Schoendienst summoned Lou Brock from the bench to pinch-run for Groat.
Brock tried to steal third on Linzy with Flood at the plate, but Haller nailed him. It was a 16% swing in win probability, with the Cardinals going from 60% down to 44% after the caught stealing. Flood walked with two outs to reignite the rally, and advanced to third when Boyer’s groundball was booted by McCovey at first. The Cardinals somehow had the go-ahead run in scoring position for the second time in the 10th inning. The rally ended when McCarver lofted Linzy’s offering to center field to end the frame. Dal Maxvill came on to replace Groat at shortstop, removing Brock from the game.
Gibson pressed on, scheduled to face Lanier, Linzy, and Schofield. Sending pitchers into the 10th inning was fairly common in that era, particularly for a pitcher the caliber of Gibson. Conventional wisdom said that Gibson should be able to get through the 8th, 9th, and leadoff hitters, even if we know better today. Lanier threw a monkey wrench into the plan by dropping a single in front of Skinner to lead off the inning. If you thought Gibson pitching in the 10th was unconventional, this next sequence will boggle your mind.
- Franks let the pitcher, Linzy, hit for himself with nobody out and a runner on first
- Not only did Linzy hit for himself. He didn’t even sacrifice bunt the runner over.
- Lest you think this was a rare case of a pitcher being able to hit well, Linzy had five career plate appearances before this one. He was 0-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts. Nothing about this jives with modern logic.
- Linzy grounded into a 1-6 force out and my smug, modern brain wishes it had been a double play to punish Franks for not pinch-hitting for his pitcher with the game on the line.
- But wait! There’s more! With the speedy Lanier now erased from the basepaths, Linzy stood on first with one out. This was another chance for Franks to improve his chances to win with a pinch runner. He passed on the chance.
Schofield stepped up to the plate and laced a single off Gibson to right field and Linzy halted at second base. The alien nature of the managerial choices through a modern prism continued when Schoendienst left Gibson in to face Matty Alou and McCovey with one out and runners on first and second. He successfully navigated around Alou, who flew out to right, but Linzy moved up to third on the play. Schoendienst opted to intentionally walk McCovey, loading the bases with two outs for Hart.
This was the time Franks decided to use a pinch-hitter, lifting Hart for (drumroll please) Willie Mays. He had Mays on the bench the entire time and could have used him to hit for Linzy, or even run for Linzy, but instead chose to use him as a replacement for the second best hitter in his lineup. Aaaaand... it worked. Sort of. Mays hit a flyball to Skinner in left on what should have been the third out of the inning. However, Skinner misplayed it- he was charged with an error- and Linzy of all people bounced home from third with the winning run.
Gibson took the loss despite a solid line- 9.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 4BB, 6 K. White’s 3-for-5 and Groat’s double had paced the offense for the Cardinals. The stars on the Giants side were the trio of pitchers- Herbel, Henry, and Linzy.
Improbably, the Cardinals had experienced three consecutive walk-off losses. It was a nasty little stretch of the schedule that saw them lose 8 of 9 games, 14 of 17, and eventually 17 of 22. They finished the season 80-81 and the Giants came in at 95-67, just two games back of the Dodgers for the National League pennant.
Here’s the win probability graph and the box score.