Whitey Herzog 1990 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for October 27, 2017

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I love this card of Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog. I am pretty sure he is jawing at someone.

But there is part of me that looks at his picture and it looks like he is yawning.

His brand of baseball used to drive me crazy in the 1980’s. His team was made up of base stealers and one slugger, often Jack Clark.

Guy would get on base. Steal second. Go to third on a ground out. Score on a sacrifice fly. 1-0.

Do that 4 or 5 times a game, and boom! You’ve won the game without an offensive highlight.

Was he yawning watching his own game?

Herzog came up in the 1950’s through the Yankees farm system but never played for the parent team. He made his big league debut with the Senators in 1956. The left handed hitting outfielder bounced between Washington, Kansas City, Baltimore and Detroit before playing his final game with the 1963 Tigers.

Eventually he landed in the Mets organization as a coach and then became a successful Director of Player Development. Several solid big league players were produced through the Mets farm system in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The team itself won the 1969 World Series while Herzog’s farm produced Amos Otis, Ken Singleton and Jon Matlack among others.

He was considered for the role of manager when Gil Hodges died but the job went to Yogi Berra, who led the team to the 1973 World Series.

That started a trend in Herzog’s early managerial career. He was passed over for the more famous name until he became a famous manager himself.

In 1973, he managed the Texas Rangers but was fired mid season in time for the team to bring in Billy Martin. In 1974, he managed the California Angels but was dropped so the Angels could hire Dick Williams

Finally in 1975, he got a chance with the Kansas City Royals and things clicked. After finishing the 1975 season with the team, he managed the club to a 90 win season in 1976. They won the AL West title and locked horns with the Yankees in a dramatic 5 game ALCS.

Led by George Brett and Dennis Leonard, the Royals won three straight AL West titles, peaking with with the 102 win campaign in 1977. That team was 3 outs away from the World Series but lost another heart breaker to the Yankees.

The 1978 squad also lost the ALCS to the Yankees. Seeing a pattern was developing, the Royals let Herzog walk after the 1979 season. While Jim Frey was leading the Royals to the World Series, Herzog was gobbled up by the Cardinals and a proud franchise was about to get a new identity for the 1980’s.

Lou Brock retired and with him went all connections to the great teams of the 1960’s. With the arrival of Herzog, the Cardinals became one of the great teams of the 1980’s.

His first season in St. Louis, 1981, they had the best record in the National League East. But because the strike split the season into first half and second half, the Phillies and Expos played in October and the Cardinals played golf.

The injustice was corrected in 1982. Ozzie Smith came over from San Diego and Bruce Sutter was now the closer. 1979 Co-MVP Keith Hernandez was still there and Rookie of the Year Willie McGee was about to make his mark along side Lonnie Smith in the outfield.

Joaquin Andujar anchored a rotation the may have lacked a Cy Young candidate but had depth with the likes of Bob Forsch and John Stuper.

They won 90 games and swept the Braves in the NLCS. But in the World Series, the Cardinals were clobbered by Milwaukee in Game 1 and fell behind 3-2 heading into Game 6.

Stuper pitched a gem in Game 6 and the bats came to life with a 13-1 blowout forcing a Game 7 showdown. Milwaukee took a 3-1 lead into the 6th. But RBI singles from Keith Hernandez and George Hendrick put the Cardinals on top for good. Bruce Sutter threw the final two innings and Herzog had delivered a title to the state of Missouri… just not the Royals.

The Cardinals would win three pennants in the 1980’s and come tantalizingly close to a second World Series title. The famous blown call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series haunted the team for decades. In 1987, an hobbled Cardinals team beat the Giants and had a lead in Game 7 of the World Series before the Twins came back.

The only names who played in all three World Series were Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Tom Herr and Bob Forsch. Ken Oberkfell and Keith Hernandez gave way to Terry Pendleton and Jack Clark (who was injured in the 1987 World Series.) Joaquin Andujar gave way to John Tudor. Lonnie Smith left and Vince Coleman arrived. Darrell Porter was the MVP of the 1982 World Series but Tony Pena was behind the plate in 1987.

But the changing cast had the steady pilot at the helm. He was The White Rat, a name he prefers to Dorrel, his real first name.

His brand of baseball narrowly beat out the Mets in 1985 and 1987, years where it looked like New York had the superior team. The two teams had a not so friendly rivalry and the 1986 World Series for the Mets was bookended by Cardinals pennants that seemed to show the Mets were underachievers.

That might not be fair, but Whitey Herzog is in the Hall of Fame and Davey Johnson is not.

Eventually, Herzog resigned from the team in 1990 when he felt like he lost his influence.

The 1980’s were a strange time without a dynasty and a dominant franchise. Herzog’s Cardinals and Lasorda’s Dodgers were the closest thing to a dynasty in the decade. The Cardinals won a World Series and had two other pennants. Los Angeles won a pair of World Series. Head to head, the Cardinals beat the Dodgers in one of the most thrilling NLCS ever played.

Advantage Herzog.

The White Rat’s style of play for the Cardinals in the 1980’s may have driven me bonkers. But there is no denying it worked.

 

 

DANNY COX – Unsung Post Season Hero of October 26

Photo by Mike Yoder

Photo by Mike Yoder

OCTOBER 26, 1985 – World Series Game 6

When a controversial play happens or a team has an epic collapse, inevitably a player’s terrific play is overshadowed. The narrative of the breakdown obscures the clutch performance of someone who was a face plant away from being an immortal to a fan base. Such is the fate of Cardinals pitcher Danny Cox in the 1985 World Series.

St. Louis won 101 games, out playing a strong Mets team. Then they stunned Los Angeles in a memorable NLCS, highlighted by Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark’s home runs.

In the World Series they would face their fellow Missourians, the Kansas City Royals, who did their own Houdini act against a superior Toronto Blue Jays squad.

St. Louis won the first two games. Starter Danny Cox pitched well in Game 2 but it was a late 9th inning rally that sealed the game for the Cardinals.

Up 3-1, St. Louis went for the Series victory at home in Game 5. But Bob Forsch did not pitch well and Danny Jackson threw a complete game victory to send the series back to Kansas City.

Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog handed the ball to Cox for Game 6. 1985 was a breakout season for the 25 year old Cox. He pitched to a 2.88 ERA over 241 innings, winning 18 games along the way, completing 10 of them. Along with 21 game winners John Tudor and Joaquin Andujar, Cox gave the Cardinals a formidable 1-2-3 punch in their rotation.

The Royals would counter with Charlie Liebrandt, who pitched well in Game 2 but would be undone by the late Cardinals rally.

From the start, Game 6 was clearly going to be a pitchers duel. Liebrandt retired the first 15 batters he faced.

Cox was not as dominant but wiggled out of a few rallies and kept the Royals off of the board.

The Cardinals finally got a pair of hits in the 6th but could not score. They went in order again in the 7th. Meanwhile the score was still 0-0 because Cox matched Liebrandt, inning for inning.

With 2 outs and 2 on and the game still scoreless in the 8th, Herzog went to his bench and sent Brian Harper up to bat for Cox. He responded with a 2 strike single that scored Terry Pendleton and gave St. Louis the lead.

Cox was out of the game but his linescore was terrific. With the World Series title within their grasp, Cox went 7 shutout innings, allowing 7 hits and a walk and striking out 8.

Ken Dayley relieved Cox in the 8th and young Todd Worrell took the hill for the 9th. Then came the disaster for St. Louis. A blown Denkinger call at first base opened the Royals offense. Some shoddy defense set up Dane Iorg’s pinch hit walk off single that sent the series to the seventh game.

Game 7 was a travesty for the Cardinals, still smarting from the blown call the night before. Kansas City won 11-0.

Cox would later throw a complete game shutout to clinch the 1987 NLCS for St. Louis before injuries derailed his career. Eventually he would earn his World Series ring as a reliever for the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays.

But had the Cardinals hung on to win in 1985, Cox would have been remembered as a great champion in St. Louis who pitched his club to the crown. As a consolation prize, I am naming him as a Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero.

LONNIE SMITH – Unsung Post Season Hero of October 20

Topps

Topps

OCTOBER 20, 1982 – World Series Game 7

Lonnie Smith changed teams several times in his career but almost always seemed to find himself in the World Series. In 1980 he finished third in the Rookie of the Year vote and helped the Phillies win their first ever title.

He won a ring 2 years later with the Cardinals. In 1985, he went to the Royals in time to win another ring. In 1991 and 1992, he played with the Braves in the World Series. He famously should have scored on Terry Pendleton’s double in a scoreless Game 7. He probably was not distracted by the Twins decoy play as the legend has stated but lost where the ball was hit. Either way, the next year he hit a grand slam and did his best to win his fourth ring in Atlanta.

For the many players who go through their careers without a single World Series appearance, the charmed life of Lonnie Smith must have driven them crazy.

His greatest highlight came with St. Louis and it was probably overshadowed by the heroics of Joaquin Andujar, Bruce Sutter and Darrell Porter but was key to clinch the World Series title.

The Cardinals and the Brewers faced off in the 1982 World Series and from the start, it looked like Milwaukee was in control. Paul Molitor and Robin Yount led their attack in a 10-0 Game 1 massacre. But with Rollie Fingers injured, the Brewers bullpen was vulnerable. The Cardinals came back in Game 2 against the Milwaukee pen. In Game 3, Smith doubled and tripled and the Cardinals took a 2-1 lead. But the Brewers bats came back alive and sent the series to St. Louis with Milwaukee up 3-2, one win from the title.

In Game 6, the Cardinals, including Lonnie Smith, teed off against future Hall of Famer Don Sutton and tied the series with a 13-1 laugher. The stage was set for a winner take call Game 7 in St. Louis.

St. Louis sent Joaquin Andjuar to the mound and the Brewers countered with eventual Cy Young Award winner Pete Vuckovich. Lonnie Smith was inserted by manager Whitey Herzog into the lead off spot but was retired the first two times he came to bat.

In the fourth, the 26 year old Smith, who led the NL in runs that year, came up with 2 on and 1 out. He beat out an infield hit that broke the scoreless tie and put St. Louis on the board, 1-0.

But a Ben Oglive homer and a steady rally by Milwaukee gave the Brewers a 3-1 advantage in the 6th, 4 innings from the World Series title with their Cy Young winner to be on the mound.

In the bottom of the sixth, Lonnie Smith came up again. This time Ozzie Smith (no relation) was on first with one out. He hit a long double down the left field line that put the tying runs in scoring position. Manager Harvey Kuenn could not turn to 1981 Cy Young and MVP winner Rollie Fingers to get the final 8 outs. But his 1982 eventual Cy Young winner was tiring. He opted to go to the maligned pen. It was Lonnie Smith who knocked him out of the game.

The Cardinals pounced on reliever Bob McClure. Gene Tenace walked, Keith Hernandez tied the game with a single and George Hendrick singled home the go ahead run.

With the Cardinals up 4-3 in the 8th, they were 3 outs from winning the World Series but needed insurance. Lonnie Smith helped provide it with a lead off ground rule double. He would score on a Darrell Porter single and before the inning was over, St. Louis had a 6-3 advantage which was more than enough for Bruce Sutter to clinch the title.

Porter’s offensive heroics in the World Series gave him MVP honors. But in the final game, it was the steady attack of Lonnie Smith that kept the Brewers on the heels and eventually cost Milwaukee the series.

That earned Lonnie Smith the title of Unsung Post Season Hero of October 20th.