Greatest Cardinal Moment Tournament: First Round, Branch Rickey Regional, 4-13 Matchup

Here we are starting our third week of the Greatest Cardinal Moment Tournament.  I know I got into a very good discussion on Twitter (#BestCardsMoments if you want to hashtag) about our 8/9 matchup from last week and I hope that some of the other games have provoked similar thoughts and opinions.  Let’s see where the bracket stands now (here’s a link to pop it into a new tab):

Some good moments have moved on, some have gone home. Now let’s look at the first of our two matchups today.

#4 Bruce Sutter strikes out Gordon Thomas to end Series (1982)

vs

#13 Mark Whiten hits four homers in a game (1993)

This is a generation fairly spoiled on Cardinal baseball.  Since 1996, the Cardinals have basically always been contenders.  Part of that is due to the format changes the games has brought upon–more divisions, wild card one then wild card two–but no matter the reasoning, fans have rarely had to go more than one season without the team being in the playoffs and even in those years they missed, they are probably in the hunt.

So imagine what it was like to go from losing the World Series in 1968 to finally reaching it again in 1982 without any postseason baseball.  No league championship series (which started in that time), no World Series, nothing but quiet Octobers for such a legendary squad.  When they did return to prominence, the city was fired up like it had not been in a long time.

Playing the Milwaukee Brewers, their now-divisional rivals, then AL powerhouse, the Cardinals got obliterated in Game 1, bounced back to grab a 2-1 lead after Game 3, fell behind 3-2 after Game 5, then smoked the Brewers 13-1 back in Busch Stadium in Game 6, setting up a winner-take-all final game.

The teams matched zeros for three innings before St. Louis scratched out a run in the bottom of the fourth.  Milwaukee quickly tied it in the fifth, then took the lead on a double-single-single-sacrifice fly combo that gave them two runs.  The Cardinals didn’t wait to respond, plating three in the bottom of the frame capped by George Hendrick‘s single to make it 4-3.  The Redbirds got two more in the eighth to make the score 6-3 going into the ninth.

Unlike what you’d see these days, closer Bruce Sutter game into the game in the eighth to keep the lead at one.  When he went back out for the ninth, it was almost a sure thing that he’d be bringing home a championship.  Sutter did not fool around, getting longtime Cardinal Ted Simmons and then Ben Oglivie to ground out.  That left one out remaining and Sutter took care of it in dramatic fashion.

A World Series winner indeed.  The Cardinals were back and yet again Champions of the World.

From the high of a World Series title, we drop to a lost season for our next highlight.  The Cardinals were struggling in 1993.  It was the era after Augie Busch and before the new ownership would come along.  It was a season that the front office actually did some selling, moving Lee Smith to the Yankees for a middling prospect (Rich Batchelor) at the waiver deadline.  There’s really not much to remember from that season.

Even in the dross of a lost year, though, some gold can be found.  In September, the Cards found themselves in Cincinnati.  The Reds also weren’t doing much that year, sitting under .500 when the doubleheader that day began and 20-plus games out of first.  So how do you make a game between two way-out-of-it teams in September interesting?

Bring the power.

Mark Whiten spent two years wearing the Birds on the Bat and, while he did hit 39 home runs over the two years, his time in St. Louis would have probably been considered nondescript, though some of that was due to the teams he was on.  On September 7, 1993, he made sure that his name would always be remembered in Cardinal lore, smashing four home runs in the evening game.

(How strange is it to hear Al Hrabosky as the color man even that far back? And paired up with Joe Buck!)

Not only did Whiten hit four homers on the night, becoming the only Cardinal ever to do that, but he also drove in 12 in this game and one in the opener, tying Stan Musial for most RBI in a double header.

Whiten’s name resurfaced recently, of course, as the 2017 club faced the Reds and saw Scooter Gennett smack four homers against them.  A mirror of history, it would seem.

So, which is the biggest Cardinal moment?  Vote below and come back later today for our other matchup!

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