Friday, May 06, 2005

Roger Freed, Cardinals Legend

Basking in the glow of Monday's record comeback by the Cardinals, my mind hearkened back to another Monday, a forgotten Monday, in the now quite long ago past. Monday, August 22, 1977, to be exact. I was approaching my 14th birthday, and the Cardinals were fighting for their lives.

It had been a great summer. The Cardinals had at one point been 8.5 games back of the Cubs in June. The Cubs had come out of the gates that year as hot as the Cards were last year. They seemingly couldn't lose in May and June. But they did their usual swoon-thing, and dropped back to earth. This Cubs team did the seemingly impossible, and broke a baseball rule of thumb (they "came from ahead" as Jim Rome would say). They finished the season at .500, after being 25 games over .500 in June. But I digress...

On 8/22/1977, the Cardinals were 9 games back of the division-leading Phillies, and a game and a half from second place. The Phillies had already won, and what little hope I had left in this fun year of baseball was almost gone as the Cardinals entered the ninth inning trailing the Dodgers 5-1. Al Hrabosky pitched the ninth and gave up a run. By this time Al's best days as a Cardinal were gone. Anyway, even though I never turned off the radio, I really didn't expect to "witness" what I heard that wild ninth inning.

A 6-1 deficit in those days of "deader" balls and a cavernous, Astro-turf laden Busch Stadium seemed too enormous to overcome. This was before the fences were moved in to promote more home runs. So, I was content with the fact that the Cardinals had reached the point of no return, and would soon be 10 games in back with six weeks to play.

I don't remember the exact sequence of events, the last 28 years have dulled my memory too much. In fact, I had a hard time finding this game on the internet when I remembered it Tuesday. I did find the box score at Baseball Almanac, but what I remember as one of the greatest games I heard on the radio is largely forgotten. I wish I could give the details, but I can't.

But I do remember this. The Dodgers couldn't get anyone out. And as the Cards got closer and closer, the excitement building, and the announcers (had to be Buck and Shannon) crisply calling the play by play, I remember thinking to myself that it would be more devastating to lose after making a comeback than it would have been to lose quietly. Who wants to get their hopes up for a miracle and then have those hopes doused with gasoline and set on fire?

And I also remember this. It was 6-5, two men on, and still only one out, when Roger Freed stepped to the plate. In the late 1970s, the Cardinals had very few power hitters. Simmons could pop a few, and so could Hendrick (who wouldn't come to the Cards until a 1978 trade with the Padres), but otherwise it was a singles hitting team. Freed was the exception. Although usually coming off the bench to pinch hit, he seemed to supply the Cardinals power when they needed it most- at the end games. He is best known for his walk off grand slam against the Astros in 1979, but I will always remember him most for this game.

Freed deposited a pitch from Dodger reliever Charlie Hough in to the left field stands. As my memory is faulty, I think this is how it went down. The Cardinals had completed the greatest comeback I had ever heard of to that point, and I'd witnessed it all on the radio because the Cards didn't televise home games in those days. Sometimes I wish it were like that again, but that's because of the team of Buck and Shannon, which obviously can never happen again. I'm sure before cutting to commercials, Jack uttered that much missed phrase, "totals and highlights in a minute."

So, the Cardinals scored seven ninth inning runs on that day, just like the Cardinals did Monday night this week. The only differences were that the Redbirds only trailed by 5 runs in 1977, and were the home team, so the home run by Freed was a walk-off.

Although they would win again the next two days to run their record to 71-55 (finally moving ahead of the Cubs and within 8 games of first), the 1977 Cardinals swooned shortly thereafter. They went on to finish the last 38 games with a record of 14-24, but did manage to catch the dreadful Cubs, thank God.

It's funny how baseball has been such a part of my life. So when things like Monday's miracle happen, they make you recall bits and pieces of happenings that are long since buried by the unrelenting passing of time. I'm happy that my son likes baseball as much as I do, because now when he's 41 (God willing) and the Cardinals pull off another comeback of historic proportions, maybe he'll think back to this game that happened when he was 15. Life's funny sometimes.


Roger Freed died in 1996 at the age of 49. I don't know how or why he died, but I do remember thinking of this game when I learned of his death that year. I probably haven't thought of it since then until now.

Roger just seemed "clutch". You always felt the Cardinals had a chance if he would pinch hit at the end of a game. To most, he'll always be the guy who hit the walk off grand slam. But just remember, he hit a spectacular home run two seasons before that to cap off another remarkable comeback.

So now I must ask- does anyone else remember this game?


Baseball Almanac Box Scores
Los Angeles Dodgers 6, St. Louis Cardinals 8
Game played on Monday, August 22, 1977 at Busch Stadium II


Los Angeles Dodgers.......ab.....r.....h.....rbi
Martinez 2b ..................5.....0.....1.....0
Russell ss ......................5.....1.....2.....0
Smith rf .........................4.....1.....1.....0
Cey 3b ............................4.....2.....2.....1
Garvey 1b ......................5.....0.....1.....0
Monday cf ....................4.....0.....1.....0
Baker lf .........................2.....1.....1.....0
Davalillo ph,lf ...............2.....0.....2.....1
Yeager c ........................4.....1.....1.....4
Hooton p .......................3.....0.....0.....0
Rautzhan p ...................0.....0.....0.....0
Hough p ........................0.....0.....0.....0

Totals ..........................38.....6.....12.....6

St. Louis Cardinals .....ab.....r.....h.....rbi
Brock lf .........................4.....0.....1.....0
Mumphrey cf ..............4.....1.....1.....0
Templeton ss ..............4.....1.....2.....1
Simmons c ...................4.....1.....2.....1
Hernandez 1b ..............3.....2.....2.....0
Anderson rf .................4.....0.....1.....1
Reitz 3b .......................4.....0.....1.....0
Bosetti pr ....................0.....1.....0.....0
Tyson 2b .....................3.....1.....1.....0
Denny p .......................0.....0.....0.....0
Oberkfell ph ................1.....0.....0.....0
Carroll p ......................0.....0.....0.....0
Iorg ph ........................0.....0.....0.....0
Metzger p ...................0.....0.....0.....0
Rader ph .....................1.....0.....0.....0
Hrabosky p ................0.....0.....0.....0
Freed ph .....................1.....1.....1.....3

Totals ........................33.....8.....12.....6

Los Angeles.. 0 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 – 6 12 1
St. Louis.......0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 – 8 12 1

Los Angeles Dodgers IP...H...R...ER...BB..SO
Hooton .......................8.0...7...3.....3......3....5
Rautzhan ...................0.0...2...2.....2.....0....0
Hough L (5-10) ........0.1....3...3.....3.....0....1

St. Louis Cardinals IP...H...R...ER...BB..SO
Denny .....................3.0...7...5.....5......1....2
Carroll .....................3.0...1...0....0......2....0
Metzger ..................2.0...2...0....0......1....2
Hrabosky W (6-4)..1.0...2...1....1.......0....1

E–Russell (24), Hernandez (8). DP–Los Angeles 3. PB–Yeager (3). 2B–Los Angeles Cey (21,off Hrabosky), St. Louis Hernandez (26,off Rautzhan). 3B–St. Louis Hernandez (4,off Hooton); Templeton (12,off Hooton). HR–Los Angeles Yeager (13,3rd inning off Denny 3 on, 2 out), St. Louis Freed (4,9th inning off Hough 2 on, 1 out). SH–Hooton (12,off Denny). HBP–Baker (5,by Denny). SB–Russell (11,2nd base off Denny/Simmons). CS–Anderson (2,2nd base by Hooton/Yeager). HBP–Denny (4,Baker). U–Art Williams, Paul Runge, Lee Weyer, John McSherry. T–2:37. A–28,222.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

35 years ago today, I remember it well. Miss you Roger.

Greg Pawson said...

When I heard that the Cardinals were threatening to come back tonight against the Dodgers I immediately flashed back to this game! I was 10 years old and it was on Monday Night Baseball on ABC. I watched until the end because I didn't know any better and it was so exciting! It really kindled my lifelong love of baseball. I am an Oregonian and I go to spring training every year. Thanks for your blog post, I was happy to stumble upon it when I google searched for the game. God bless!