Saturday, July 29, 2017

PTWSW #79: The 1982 St. Louis Cardinals

Manager: Whitey Herzog
Record: 92-70
Ballpark: Busch Memorial Stadium
Owner: August Busch Jr.
GM: Joe McDonald
Coaches: Chuck Hiller, Hub Kittle, Hal Lanier, Dave Ricketts, Red Schoendienst

Future Hall of Famers: Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter

All-Stars: Lonnie Smith, Ozzie Smith

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Lonnie Smith, .307
OBP: Keith Hernandez, .397
SLG: George Hendrick, .450
OPS: Lonnie Smith, .815
2B: Lonnie Smith, 35
3B: Lonnie Smith, Willie McGee, 8
HR: George Hendrick, 19
RBI: George Hendrick, 104
BB: Keith Hernandez, 100
SB: Lonnie Smith, 68

Team Leaders, Pitching

W: Joaquin Andujar, Bob Forsch, 15
SO: Joaquin Andujar, 137
ERA: Joaquin Andujar, 2.47
IP: Joaquin Andujar, 265.2
CG: Joaquin Andujar, 9
SHO: Joaquin Andujar, 5
K/BB: Joaquin Andujar, 2.74
SV: Bruce Sutter, 36 (NL leader)


Oldest Player: Jim Kaat (b. November 7, 1938)

Youngest Player: David Green (b. December 4, 1960)

First to Leave Us: Darrell Porter (d. August 5, 2002)

Last Survivor: Most are still living as of the date of this post.

First in Majors: Jim Kaat (debut August 2, 1959)

Last in Majors: Willie McGee (final game October 3, 1999)

First to Play For the Franchise: Bob Forsch (July 7, 1974)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Willie McGee (October 3, 1999)

Pre-union Team: The 1978 San Diego Padres had five: George Hendrick, Steve Mura, Eric Rasmussen, Ozzie Smith, and Gene Tenace.

Reunion Team: The 1983 Detroit Tigers (Doug Bair, Julio Gonzalez, and John Martin) and 1988 Atlanta Braves (Ken Oberkfell, Lonnie Smith, and Bruce Sutter) had three each.


Keith Hernandez, NL First Base Gold Glove
Ozzie Smith, NL Shortstop Gold Glove

Season Summary

In 1980, the once-proud St. Louis Cardinals had spent a decade mired in mediocrity. Poor hiring choices, ill-conceived trades, and the stale leadership of company men had resulted in no postseason appearances since the NL pennant of 1968. In early June, the Cardinals found themselves with the worst record in baseball, which led to the firing of former Redbird great Ken Boyer as manager. To replace him, the Cards hired Whitey Herzog, whom the Royals had controversially fired at the end of 1979, just one year removed from a run of three straight division titles.

There was definite talent on the team Herzog inherited, which showed itself once he took the reins. With Whitey at the helm, the Cards went on a 38-35 run before Herzog handed the reins to Red Schoendienst, allowing himself to finish the season as general manager. It was as GM that Herzog would remake the Cardinals into the team he wanted; out were longtime slugging catcher Ted Simmons and longtime slow-footed third baseman Ken Reitz, who had started the 1980 All-Star Game. To replace them, Herzog brought in free agent backstop Darrell Porter, who'd played for him in Kansas City, and young infielder Ken Oberkfell took over the hot corner. He also landed All-Star closer Bruce Sutter from the Cubs to handle ninth inning duties.

With their revamped roster, the Cardinals might've won it all in 1981. With Herzog doing double duty as field manager and general manager, St. Louis finished with the best record in the National League East. Unfortunately, due to the mid-season strike, the playoff format required a team to have the best record in their division for either the first or second half of the season, neither of which the Cardinals accomplished. The Cardinals spent that October watching the postseason on television, and Herzog prepared himself for another busy offseason.

In October, the Cards acquired a minor league outfielder named Willie McGee from the Yankees in exchange for pitcher Bob Sykes. The move wasn't flashy, and it was overshadowed by the Yankees playing in the World Series at the time, but it would prove significant. Herzog would also re-sign free agent pitcher Joaquin Andujar, grab outfielder Lonnie Smith from the Phillies, and trade talented-but-troubled shortstop Garry Templeton to the Padres. The key player the Cardinals got back from San Diego? A little shortstop with an outstanding glove by the name of Osborne Earl Smith. Little did anyone at the time know that Ozzie Smith would spend 15 seasons in a Cardinal uniform.

After getting off to a 1-3 start, Herzog relinquished his GM duties and stuck to managing full time. The Cardinals then went on a 12-game winning streak, propelling them into the pennant race early. McGee, the promising young outfielder, made his major league debut in May, and quickly became the full-time center fielder, allowing Lonnie Smith to take his more natural position in left field. The Redbirds struggled a bit in June, and by the All-Star break, they were in a close race with the Phillies for the division title.

Both teams continued their winning ways through the second half, and on August 12, the Cardinals regained first place. They brought their lead up to 3.5 games on September 1, only to see it slip away when a slump coincided with a Philly hot stretch. On September 13, with the Cardinals holding a half-game lead, the two teams met for a three-game series at Veterans Stadium. The Phillies took the first match (as well as first place) behind Steve Carlton's three-hit complete game shutout. Not to be outdone, the Cardinals roared back by not allowing any runs in the next two games. Joaquin Andujar pitched a three-hit complete game shutout of his own in the third contest. It was the start of an eight-game winning streak, which gave the Cardinals the division lead they'd hold for the rest of the season. On September 27 against the Expos, the Cardinals clinched their first-ever NL East title.

Whitey Herzog had truly created a team in his own image. With McGee, the two Smiths, and Tommy Herr leading the way, the Cardinals topped the league with 200 stolen bases, while finishing last with a paltry 67 home runs. They tied San Diego for the lead in triples, and they were first in on-base percentage, thanks to finishing second in both batting average and walks. Their pitchers struck out the fewest batters in the league, but they made up for it by allowing few homers, and their fielding was among the best in the NL.

The National League Championship Series matched the Cardinals with the Atlanta Braves, who were appearing in the postseason for the first time since 1969. Game 1 was initially rained out with the Braves leading 1-0, and when the game was replayed, the Cardinals won easily, as Bob Forsch pitched a 7-0 shutout. Game 2 was the only close one of the series; it was a tie ballgame in the bottom of the ninth when Ken Oberkfell's drive just got past Brett Butler's glove in center field, scoring David Green with the game-winner. The series shifted to Atlanta, but Game 3 proved to be another easy victory for St. Louis, allowing them to complete the sweep and make it back to the World Series for the first time in 14 years.

The American League's representative was the Milwaukee Brewers, playing in the franchise's first World Series, who had come back from a 2-0 deficit in the ALCS to beat the Angels. On the Brewers' roster were three players Herzog had traded away during the wheeling-and-dealing 1980-81 offseason: Former franchise icon Ted Simmons, 18-game winner Pete Vuckovich, who would win the Cy Young that year, and injured closer Rollie Fingers, who wouldn't see action in the World Series. Of the players the Cardinals had received back in that deal, two were still on the roster (David Green and Dave LaPoint), one was included in the deal for Ozzie Smith (Sixto Lezcano), and the other was included in the deal for Lonnie Smith (Lary Sorensen). The Brewers were in many ways the Cardinals' opposite: They won mostly by slugging home runs, and weren't big on base-stealing. Their pitching and defense were average at best, and they relied on hits much more than walks.

The Brewers won Game 1 in a blowout, by a score of 10-0. Milwaukee's dynamic duo of Robin Yount and Paul Molitor combined for nine hits and four runs driven in. The resilient Cardinals bounced back, however, with wins in Games 2 and 3. The Cards' Game 2 win came on Steve Braun's bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning, and Willie McGee's two homers powered them to victory in Game 3. The Brewers wouldn't quit though, and they won the next two to take a 3-2 series lead. The Brew Crew took Game 4 thanks to a six-run seventh inning, and Game 5 saw Yount put up his second four-hit game of the series.

Back at Busch for Game 6, the Cardinals returned the favor from Game 1 by blowing out the Brewers 13-1. St. Louis starter John Stuper went the distance, allowing only four hits and two walks in the must-win game. That set the stage for Game 7, which pitted Vuckovich against Andujar, who was returning from an injury in Game 3. After five innings, the game was tied at one apiece, but the Brewers scored two in the top of the sixth to take the lead. The Cardinals were unfazed, however, scoring three of their own in the bottom half to go ahead 4-3. They would never trail the rest of the way. Andujar completed seven innings, and Bruce Sutter came in for the final two, retiring all six batters he faced to close out both the game and the series.

In just two years, Whitey Herzog had turned the Cardinals from a mediocre also-ran to a World Series champion. It was the first championship ring of his career, and he had done it his way. For St. Louis fans, it was the first time they'd won it all since 1967, when Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, and company were still in their primes. It was the beginning of what was to be a successful era in the Gateway City.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives
New York Times: Cardinals Are Baseball's Mystery Team
1982 NLCS on Wikipedia