We’re one week into the Greatest Cardinal Moment Tournament (#BestCardsMoments) and we’ve had some fun matchups already. It’s not surprising, given the seeding on the ones we voted on in the first outing that there’s not been a real close one yet, but it’s still been fun to relive a few moments. Let’s take a look at the current bracket. (If you want to open it up in a different tab, here’s the link.)
Today, we’re moving down the bracket to take a look at a couple of huge and memorable postseason home runs.
#8 Albert Pujols staves off elimination, NLCS Game 5 (2005)
#9 Jack Clark makes the Dodgers pay, NLCS Game 6 (1985)
I’ve admitted before that I’m a terrible postseason game watcher. I get way too nervous to actually watch the games and I can’t stand to see the season come to a close without the trophy going home to St. Louis. So when the Cardinals were down two to the Astros in the ninth inning of Game 5 in 2005, my hand started fidgeting with the remote. (Actually, now that I start to think about this, I may have gotten called away to help with our son, who was closing in on a year old at the time.)
With Brad Lidge on the mound, things looked well in hand for Houston to celebrate at home and Busch Stadium II to never see another game. Two runs was pretty big for a guy that had made his first All-Star team that season and had put up 103 strikeouts in 70.2 innings while accumulating 42 saves. Lidge had allowed two or more runs (earned or unearned) seven times that season in 70 appearances, but only once had he given up three. This really, really should have been a lock. Instead, it played out like Mighty Casey at the Bat, only Casey comes through. (As I am writing this, I realize I did this before.)
In the poem, it’s Cooney and Barrows “dying at first” where here it was John Rodriguez and John Mabry striking out (though J-Rod did have to be retired at first). Then Flynn–um, David Eckstein–let drive a single (and advanced on defensive indifference) while Jim Edmonds walked (unlike Jimmy Blake, who doubled, but in this day and age runners at second and third with two outs would have just brought about an intentional walk.)
Casey, in the form of Pujols, came to the plate. We know the rest.
As Houston flew into St. Louis, their pilot noted that if they’d look outside their windows, they’d see the ball Pujols hit last night. A massive rocket that easily would have left the ballpark had there not been windows in the way. Even though Roy Oswalt came into Busch and did what Roy Oswalt usually did to the Cardinals, meaning that this was just a temporary reprieve, it’s still one of the most indelible memories of St. Louis’s run from 2004-2006 and probably will be the first highlight played when Pujols retires.
Twenty years before that, though, there was another big home run. The 1985 NLCS against the Dodgers is more known for Game 5 and Ozzie Smith‘s “Go Crazy” shot that is the top seed over in the Walt Jocketty Regional. However, Ozzie’s shot only sent the series back to Los Angeles and there was no guarantee that the Cardinals would wind up prevailing.
In Game 6, neither starting pitcher (Joaquin Andujar and Orel Hershiser) had been especially effective, each giving up four runs. The difference was that Andujar gave up his early, while Hershiser faltered in the seventh, giving up three and letting St. Louis knot the score at four. Todd Worrell came in and worked around a leadoff triple in his first inning, but allowed a home run to Mike Marshall to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Though that was the only run that came across, it seemed like it’d be enough to force a Game 7.
Tom Niedenfuer was actually responsible for the last of Hershiser’s runs scoring, as Ozzie got to him again when he came into the game in the seventh for an RBI triple. He didn’t allow anything else and got through the eighth unscathed as well, but the ninth would be different. After a strikeout of Cesar Cedeno, Willie McGee singled and stole second. Wanting nothing to do with the Wizard, Niedenfuer walked Smith and both runners advanced on a groundout by Tom Herr.
Remember we said earlier that, with the game on the line, two outs, and runners on second and third the big bat would typically be intentionally passed? Tommy Lasorda would have none of that. Niedenfuer was no stranger to multiple inning stints, but he hadn’t gone more than two since the beginning of September. Jack Clark, the only real home run threat, came to the plate. Niedenfuer pitched to him.
While the Dodgers still had to bat, that blow basically sent St. Louis right into a collision course with the Royals in the World Series and a moment that, well, isn’t in our bracket.
So which is the biggest moment? Pujols destroying Lidge or Clark smashing Niedenfuer? Vote below then talk about it on Twitter! Plus come back this afternoon for a little more ’80s magic.