The 1967 St. Louis Cardinals had four future hall-of-famers, won the NL by 10.5 games, and ripped the world series out of the desperate grasp of Boston’s “Impossible Dream” Team.
It was a simpler time. The stockings were woolen, hats were cappier, and a bat flip would have earned the sternest of talking’s to. Fifty years ago, the St. Louis Cardinals garnered their eighth World Series title, and sent the people of New England into a deep, inescapable, sadness.
During the 1960s the Cardinals bullied through baseball via blunt force trauma. Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson delivered blistering heat to anyone who cared to step to the plate, and had just enough of a slippery finger that the next one always just might meet you on the chin.
In July of 1967, however, a sharp line drive from Roberto Clemente found its way to shatter Gibson’s knee and put the season in jeopardy. Doctors told him he wouldn’t pitch for at least a year, but five weeks later he was on the mound again, terrorizing hitters. The team would win 101 games, led by NL MVP Orlando Cepeda, in Stan Musial’s first year as general manager.
Carl Yastrzemski snatched a triple crown, Jim Lonborg a Cy Young, and the Sox were able to book a reservation in the World Series for the first time in 21 years. Joy would be brought back to Mudville for a fleeting time.
Game 1 was a pitcher’s duel between Gibson and youngster José Santiago (starting to give Lonborg rest after pitching in the pennant clincher three days prior). Ex home run king Roger Maris would drive in both runs for the Cardinals en route to a 2-1 victory that afternoon. BG45 would fan 10 and go the distance.
The BoSox dominated the sequel and tied the series at 1 with a 5-0 victory at Fenway. Lonborg was majestic on the mound, throwing 7 2/3 of no-no baseball while Yaz went deep twice and
The series shifted to St. Louis and the Cards wasted little time going up early and often in Game 3 (5-2) and 4 (6-0) victories. The latter would be highlighted by a second complete game, five hit, masterpiece by Bob Gibson.
Boston, a vast chasm of darkness and angry townies behind them, pushed to a 3-1 victory in Game 5 on who but Jim Lonborg’s back, and returned home for a 8-4 victory in Game 6.
All great stories must come to an end, and our fairy tale is no different. On Thursday, October 12 Bob Gibson and Jim Lonborg, on combined five days rest, faced off in the grand finale. It was clear early on, however, that ol’ Jim’s arm was not long for this game.
Three hits and a wild pitch put the Cards up 2 in the 3rd while a Gibson dinger of his own in the 5th doubled the lead to 4. The Sox eeked one back in the bottom half of the frame but any hope of a comeback was drained by Julian Javiers 3 run bomb in the sixth.
Lonborg would be pulled, but Gibson, for the third time in the series, would eat all nine innings and grab a half share of the World Series MVP (Lou Brock’s seven steals and .414 BA would receive the other half)
While this year’s Cardinals may not boast the same arsenal of fire power, the boundless unpredictability of baseball leaves a glimmer of hope for October baseball regardless of common speculation.