Saturday, March 23, 2013

Friday Reading And 1985- A Heck Of A Year

Old Greek Esther 9: 1-31, 10: 1-13, 11: 1.

We've been blessed with a lot of great seasons of baseball.  But the winner, and still champion, of seasons, my favorite year, is 1985.  Only 2004 is in the neighborhood.

In its totality, even with the event that I shall never write of or speak of again, this was the funnest and most exciting season of Cardinals baseball in my lifetime

My reasoning starts with the fact several baseball "experts", with the Cardinals just 2 seasons removed from winning the World Series, picked them to finish last that year.  They almost got it right.  If by almost got it right, one means first place instead of last and winning 101 wins during the season.

This was the most exciting baseball team, and brand of baseball, I have ever seen.  This season was the absolute pinnacle of "Whiteyball".  This team collectively, stole an incredible 314 bases that year, stretched singles to doubles, doubles to triples and blazed around the bases.

Their speed forced other teams into mistakes.  When the Cardinals had a baserunner, each pitch became a "cat and mouse" between pitcher and baserunner.  The batter was sometimes an afterthought, which meant they often got better pitches to hit, i.e. fastballs, due to the stolen base fears.  It was interesting to watch, and listen to.

It was Jack Clark's first year with the club.  1985, and the 2 years that followed, had such a nice offensive chemistry between his slugging power and the rest of the lineup's speed and base thievery.

Willie McGee hit .353, hit 18 triples, had 56 stolen bases, and won the MVP that year.  And a Gold Glove.  The most exciting play in baseball was a ball in the gap with Willie in the game.  If Willie hit one in the gap, it was electrifying to watch him run the bases.  If he was on defense and a ball went in the gap, it was just as electrifying to watch him run one down.

It was Vince Coleman's first year.  You could almost, almost, ditto what I wrote about McGee running the bases and apply it to Coleman.  And patrolling the outfield, left, in his case.  There weren't many balls that fell between those two.  Oh, and he stole 110 bases.  And won Rookie of the Year.

Tom Herr, who was my favorite player along with McGee, had his best year ever, hitting .302, driving in 110 runs and stealing 31 bases.  Which was sweet, because the media was in love with Ryne Sandberg, his 2nd base counterpart on the hated Cubs, and Herr totally outplayed him this year.

Of course, Ozzie Smith played spectacular SS and stole 31 bases.  And Terry Pendleton played a remarkable 3rd base, gobbling up everything that came his way.

It was 1982 World Series MVP Darrell Porter's last year with the Cardinals.  There was veteran Cesar Cedeno filling in exceptionally well at first base for the injured Jack Clark the last month of the season.

John Tudor and Joaquin Andujar each won 21 games.  Tudor went 21-8, which is great.  But the fact he started 1-7 makes his record unbelievable.  It was truly one of the most bizarre seasons by a pitcher.  I had given up on him after the first few weeks of the season, but fortunately Herzog didn't.

Herzog commandeered a "bullpen by committee" that year, never naming a closer until late in the year when Todd Worrell came up from the minor leagues.  He instead used his head and matched his bullpen pitchers to the particular game situation he was facing.  All of which he had figured out in his head before the game even started.

Everyone in the national media was in love with the Mets at that time.  Cardinals fans all knew that we were the better team, and it was nice to prove it in 1985, and 1987.  That was a fun rivalry.

We didn't get a lot of games on TV at that time, so it was a great season of listening on the radio to Jack Buck and Mike Shannon.

I can remember no time, in decades of listening to and watching the Cardinals, that I was more nervous and excited than listening to the radio for the 3 games with the Mets the last week of the season, October 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  Maybe it was the fact I couldn't see what was going on, with Jack and Mike being my eyes and expertly calling those games, but the late innings of those games were positively thrilling.  My heart raced with the announcement of each pitch being delivered, and would calm down after I heard the results, only to repeat the cycle countless times.

The Mets were breathing down the Cardinals necks at that point of the season.  They won the first two games and were just 1 game back going into the last game of that series, with only 4 games left in the season.  If the Cardinals had lost that last game of the series, they would have been tied with 3 to go.

I've never been so relieved than at the call of the final out of game 159, which put the Cardinals up 2 with 3 games to play.

The Cardinals clinched 2 days later, against the Cubs, making that win doubly sweet.  The Cubs had been the darlings of the country the previous year, something that was really hard to swallow.  So this was vindication, placing the universe back in order.

We all know what happened in the post-season.  The Cardinals looked lost the first 2 games in Dodger Stadium.  The Dodgers had home field advantage, despite the Cardinals having the best record in baseball that year.  Returning to Busch Stadium was all the team needed.  The offense got rolling, especially in game 4.  Then came Ozzie's go-crazy home run in game 5 and Jack Clark's dramatic game 6 heroics.

In the middle of all that was another legendary occurrence in Cardinals lore- Vince Coleman, one of the fastest players on the team, getting his leg eaten by a slow moving automatic tarp rolling machine.

We won't go into the World Series.  But this was definitely the best team, and the most exciting team, I've ever seen.  There's a video, called "Heck Of A Year", about this season.  A lot of what follows comes from that video.  Enjoy.

Then there's this.

And this.

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