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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Five Great St. Louis Cardinals' Moments for Opening Day Pre-Gaming

Posted By on Thu, Apr 8, 2021 at 6:20 AM

click to enlarge The St. Louis Cardinals have had some good days. - SCREENSHOT MLB/YOUTUBE.COM


Baseball is just about back in St. Louis.



After a surreal 2020 season — cardboard fans, anyone? — the Cardinals are set for their home opener this afternoon. First pitch for the game against the Milwaukee Brewers is at 3:15 p.m., which really isn't all that far away. But in the meantime, pre-gaming with a few great Cards' moments never hurt anybody.

David Freese in Game 6
The pride of Wildwood may have spent more than half of his career in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, but he'll always be remembered as a Cardinal thanks to his 2011 World Series heroics. (If you want to feel old, recall that this October will be the tenth anniversary of that series and Freese will be 38 this month.) The good guys were down 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth in Game 6, and just when it looked like Texas Rangers' closer Neftali Feliz was about to smoke the Cardinals' 28-year-old third basemen, Freese smacked a two-run triple off the right field wall to tie it up. He then followed with a game-winning home run in the eleventh, earning free t-ravs for life.


Enos Slaughter's Mad Dash
Are you going to Busch Stadium today? Give the Enos Slaughter statue a (air) high five on your way in to sit in your socially distanced bleachers pod. Nearly 75 years have passed since the 1946 World Series, but Slaughter will forever live in Cardinals' lore for his high-speed daring. Stranded on first base late in the game against the Boston Red Sox, Slaughter sprinted toward second on a hit-and-run and then bolted for third. As the legend goes, the Cardinals' third base coach signaled for him to pull up there, but Slaughter ignored him and cut hard for home. He beat the throw from a surprised Red Sox infielder and put St. Louis ahead 4-3, just the boost they needed to win the city's sixth World Series. And, no, we aren't old enough to have seen it live (not by several decades, thank you very much), but the internet provides, always.


Lou Brock Sets Career Steals Record
Like Slaughter, the late Lou Brock has a bronze statue outside of Busch, but he was even more of a terror on the base paths. He led the Major Leagues six times in stolen bases, piling them up season after season until finally, in 1977, the future Hall of Famer broke what was then one of baseball's most prestigious records. In a game against the San Diego Padres, Brock took off from first and slid seconds later into second, busting up the throw to steal his 893rd base. The previous record was held by Ty Cobb and had stood for nearly 50 years. Funny enough, Brock's statue depicts him with a bat in hand at the end of his swing. But for plenty of St. Louis fans, he'll forever be remembered coming in feet first, a half second from popping up safe on second.


"Go Crazy, Folks!"
Ozzie Smith had never hit a left-handed home run — until the ninth inning in Game 5 of the 1985 National League Championship Series. Cards fans would have been thrilled with just a single against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the Wizard poured a little backflipping magic into his swing that night, slapping a line drive just over the right field wall for a walk-off home run. A stunned Jack Buck then delivered what would become an unforgettable call from the booth: "Go crazy, folks!"


Mark McGwire Hits No. 62
Roger Maris' home run record was the holy grail, untouchable for nearly four decades. There was a certain numerical symmetry adding to the mystique: 61 homers in 1961. So when Big Mac and Sammy Sosa started swatting balls over the fences at an unheard of pace during the 1998 season, it was the biggest thing in sports. McGwire would ultimately hit 70 (and later admit to using steroids in that season and others); it was his 62nd that was the biggest thrill. In dramatic fashion, the Cardinals were in Chicago playing Sosa's Cubs when McGwire tied the record and then returned the next day, hitting a low liner to left that barely cleared the fence. It was a puny shot compared to the bombs that had become McGwire's signature, but nobody seemed to care.



We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.
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