#87 St. Louis Cardinals
Since these team cards feature the roster photo from the previous year’s team, this Cardinals card is the last Topps card to feature Stan Musial as an active player. He’s in the front row, fifth person in from the right. Musial retired after the 1963 season, so he’s otherwise not featured in the ’64 set. Red Schoendienst is also in this photo, third from left. He also retired in 1963.
The team cards from this set are hard to find well-centered and often are cut crooked. My version of this card is actually in pretty good shape, at least an EX and probably EX-MT.
These cards recap the team leaders from 1963 on the top part of the back of the card, then shows the W-L record of each pitcher against each team in the league.
While this card shows 1963 numbers, I’m using the team card posts to talk about each team’s 1964 season.
The Cardinals, as you may know, won the World Series in 1964 in a dramatic seven-game series against the New York Yankees. With the Cards trailing the series 2-1, NL MVP Ken Boyer hit a grand slam in Game 4 to give St. Louis a 4-3 win and turn momentum back in their favor.
Game 5 was another classic, with the Cards blowing a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth at Yankee Stadium, as Tom Tresh hit a game-tying two-run homer with two out after Mickey Mantle had reached on a Dick Groat error. The Cards somehow shook it off, and 22-year-old catcher Tim McCarver (decades before annoying World Series viewers on Fox) hit a three-run homer in the top of the 10th to win the game. Yankee Stadium wouldn’t host another postseason game until 1976.
The series went back to St. Louis, but the Yanks didn’t go quietly. Roger Maris and Mantle hit homers to put New York ahead, then Joe Pepitone launched a grand slam that broke the game wide open an the Yankees won 8-3.
Game 7 was somewhat anticlimactic, but the Yankees managed to make things interesting after falling behind 6-0. Bob Gibson was working on two days rest, and started to tire in the later innings. Mantle hit a three-run bomb to pull the Yankees within 6-3, but a Boyer homer put the Cards back up by four. With Gibson running on fumes, Clete Boyer and Phil Linz went deep in the ninth to make it 7-5, but Gibson got a popout from Bobby Richardson to end the series. It was the first World Series win for the Cardinals since 1946.
It’s amazing, really, that the Cardinals even ended up in the World Series. They had won 93 games in 1963, finishing six games behind the Dodgers, who swept the Yankees in the World Series. Expecting another good finish in ’64, the Cardinals instead found their season going south during a rough stretch in June. The Cards were in eighth place on June 17, and were still under .500 (47-48) on July 24.
In the middle of June, the Cards made a big trade, acquiring a young speedster named Lou Brock from the Cubs in exchange for starting pitcher Ernie Broglio (there were four other players in the deal). At the time, it seemed like a good deal for Chicago. Broglio was a solid veteran starter and Brock had been a disappointment. But Brock paid off immediately, as he hit .348 with a .915 OPS the rest of the season for St. Louis. He would of course go on to play 15 more seasons for the Cardinals and retire with 3,000+ hits and a then-MLB record 938 stolen bases. Broglio (who was only 27 at the time of the trade) was a mess in Chicago, and he pitched only 213 innings (5.40 ERA) with the Cubs over three seasons and was out of baseball at age 30.
Sitting in a disappointing fifth place in August, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch got rid of almost everyone in the front office (including GM Bing Devine) but didn’t fire manager Johnny Keane. It was made clear, however, that Busch planned on firing Keane after the season and possibly replacing him with Leo Durocher.
On August 23, the Cardinals were a season-worst 11 games out of first place. But suddenly, everything began to turn around. St. Louis won 17 of its next 22 games to move to 82-63, but the Cards were still six games behind the Phillies with 17 games to play.
Thus, of course, began an infamous chapter in Philadelphia sports history. The Phillies were cruising toward their first pennant since 1950 (and third ever), but inexplicably fell apart in late September in a collapse that’s become known as the “Phold.” The Phils lost 10 games in a row from September 21 to 30 to go from 6.5 games ahead to 2.5 games behind (and third place) in the NL race. The last three of those losses were in St. Louis, which left the Cardinals in first place by a game with three to play.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds had hit a hot streak, winning nine in a row to take over first place on September 27. The San Francisco Giants were also right in the hunt late. With two days left in the season, four different teams had a shot at the NL crown and there were several scenarios that could’ve resulted in a tie among three or four teams.
As it played out, the Giants fell out of contention by losing to the Cubs. The Phillies beat the Reds on October 2 (a Friday) but didn’t play Saturday. The Cards lost consecutive games to the dismal Mets on Friday and Saturday to go into the last day of the season tied.
The Phillies again beat the Reds on the season’s final day, meaning the Cards simply needed to beat the Mets to win the pennant by one game. They did, as Bob Gibson came in on one day of rest to pitch four innings of relief and pick up the victory. St. Louis erupted late in the game and won 11-5.
After the once-flailing Cardinals went on to win the World Series, most assumed that Keane had saved his job. And while all indications were that he’d be back in 1965, he unexpectedly resigned, unable to forgive Busch for his treatment earlier in the season. Keane would go on to be hired as the next manager of the Yankees, who fired Yogi Berra after the World Series. Red Schoendienst took over in St. Louis.