Tag Archives: St. Louis Cardinals

Oh doctor! Stan Musial among the walk-off legends

Cardinals legend Stan Musial hit 12 walk-off home runs in his career. That’s one shy of Jim Thome’s all-time record, though if you count All-Star Games in the mix, they’re even. Musial hit one in the 1955 midsummer contest.

I prefer the regular-season stuff and I’m going to salute a bunch of his 12 walk-offs.

The first two come from 1946. On July 14, the first-place Dodgers were in town for a doubleheader, with nearly 34,000 on hand to watch at Sportsman’s Park. This was still a time when the starting pitcher pitched and pitched and pitched, and if he was doing well, he pitched some more. Both starters, Vic Lombardi and Murray Dickson, each allowed one run through 11 innings. Dickson pitched a scoreless 12th. Lombardi was not so lucky. He allowed a walk-off home run to Musial to start the bottom of the 12th.

Musial’s other one came on August 22 against the Phillies and it moved the Cardinals into a first-place tie with the Dodgers. This time, the beneficiary was Howie Pollet, who pitched 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief after Dickson was charged with six runs. The Cardinals had blown a 6-2 lead in the eighth inning, but Musial took care of matters with a 12th-inning walk-off home run vs Andy Karl. As an aside, I chuckled when I saw the name of the author of the game story in the Post Dispatach: Dent McSkimming.

We mention these two walk-off home runs because they were of vital importance. The Cardinals won the pennant by two games over the Dodgers. They went on to beat the Red Sox in seven games to win the World Series.

Next, I want to focus on the 1948 season, not a championship year for the Cardinals, but there was some fun to be had nonetheless. On August 26, the Cardinals and Giants matched up for a doubleheader. The Cardinals swept it, winning 7-2 and 7-5, with the latter victory coming on Musial’s walk-off home run.

“It was about time,” Musial said of the home run, which the newspaper noted with a chuckle (if a newspaper could laugh) broke an 0-for-4 slump.

After a day off (which I believe was a rainout), the team’s played another doubleheader. In the first game, the Cardinals trailed early 4-0, but Musial’s two run single brought them within a run at 4-3 in the fifth inning. They’d tie the game in the sixth inning.

Musial won it in the 12th with a home run, giving him the unlikely feat of a walk-off home run in back-to-back games.

A postscript: The Cardinals won Game 2 of the doubleheader by walk-off, scoring four runs in the ninth inning, the last of which came in on a passed ball.

Musial’s last walk-off home run was epic, not for its impact on the Cardinals hopes, but for what it did for that particular game. On June 5, 1962, the Cardinals trailed the Reds 9-1 in the sixth inning, with the Reds’ last three runs coming on Frank Robinson’s home run. Cardinals manager Johnny Keane was so mad at his pitcher, Ray Sadecki, he fined him $250 for poor performance. Sadecki subsequently asked to be traded. Good thing he wasn’t – he won 20 games for the 1964 champs.

But back to this game, which might have been worse but for Musial throwing out a runner at the plate in the fourth inning. But the Cardinals had some fight in them. They scored three in the sixth and then tied the game with five runs in the seventh. Bill White hit a three-run home run to get it to 9-7 and Ken Boyer tied the game with a two-run homer (scoring Musial ahead of him).

In the 10th inning, the Reds brought in Dave Sisler to pitch in relief. You might recall a few days ago that Sisler was the losing pitcher in a game that the Senators were beating the Red Sox 12-5 with two outs in the ninth inning. This time, he’d be the losing pitcher in a game in which his team blew an eight-run lead.

Musial beat Sisler and the Reds with a walk-off home run in the 11th.

It was a sweet victory for the Cardinals and for Musial, who had been given an honorary doctorate of humanities by Monmouth College (Illinois) the day before (Musial’s son graduated from there).

They should have given him a doctorate of walk-off home runs.

The best Stan Musial stat
Hall of Fame honoree sportswriter Claire Smith stopped me in the hallway after Musial died to ask me what I thought was the best Musial stat.

“1,815 hits at home, 1,815 on the road,” I said.

“No,” she said. “72 … for 72 years of marriage.”

That definitely beats out the walk-off home runs too! 🙂

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Frank Robinson vs Bob Gibson with the game on the line

Baseball-Reference.com lists 350 instances of a player hitting a walk-off home run while trailing and his team down to its last out in the span for which it has regular season data (back to 1925).

I would say that the best batter-pitcher matchup among those was Frank Robinson versus Bob Gibson.

It came in the first game of a doubleheader on September 19, 1964. Both teams were chasing the first-place Phillies (who lost that day on a steal of home!) and in the end, each team would win once.

The Cardinals probably should have swept though. They led 5-0 after three innings with Gibson pitching. Perhaps Gibson was winded by the three doubles he hit, but he was unable to hold the lead. Deron Johnson’s three-run home run in the sixth inning cut the Cardinals lead to 5-3. Marty Keough’s home run in the eighth made it 5-4. The Cardinals failed to score despite loading the bases in the ninth inning, which gave the Reds a chance at a comeback.

Give Cardinals manager Johnny Keane credit for trusting Gibson, who allowed a double to Gordy Coleman to lead off the ninth. A sacrifice by Pete Rose(!) moved pinch-runner Tommy Harper to third. Chico Ruiz struck out looking, but Vada Pinson walked on a 3-2 pitch (newspaper reports described it as “disputed”).

Robinson was 0-for-4 in the game and had struck out representing the go-ahead run in the seventh inning. He homered on Gibson’s first pitch to win the game.

Final score: Reds 7, Cardinals 5.

A couple of postscripts:

Robinson had a lot of big hits that season (he finished fourth in the MVP voting) and a lot of big hits in his career. In fact, Robinson is the only player in Baseball-Reference’s 350-home run data set to hit three walk-off home runs with his team trailing and down to its last out. This was the first of the three.

Just shy of a month later, Gibson found himself on the mound again trying to gut his way to the finish. This would also be a game with a final score of 7-5, though the result was different and slightly more important. It was the clinching game in the Cardinals’ World Series triumph over the Yankees.

Further reading: The website “Retrosimba” did a great review of Frank Robinson’s career vs the Cardinals here