1985 St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Whitey Herzog
Regular season record: 101-61 (.623), first in National League Eastern Division
Won NL Championship Series over Los Angeles Dodgers (4-2)
Lost World Series to Kansas City Royals (4-3)
Staff Comments (individual rankings in parens)
Ray Mileur (NR) It’s hard not to think that you wouldn’t rank a team that won a 101 games in your top 15 All-Time Cardinal Teams. Given little chance by the pundits to be competing for a World Championship before the season started, you have to give these overachievers a lot of credit for what they accomplished on the field.
Lou Brock was elected to the Hall of Fame in January on the first ballot, a preview of things to come, as the Cardinals led the National League with 314 stolen bases. I think this is one of those teams that fans think about when talking about Cardinal baseball. The team led the league in stolen bases, batting average, on-base percentage, runs scored and fielding percentage. They could hit, run and play defense, all under the watchful eye of manager Whitey Herzog.
The team was three outs from their 10th World Championship before the missed call by umpire Don Denkinger. After that call at first, the team just fell apart, losing both Game Six and Game Seven to the new World Champions, the Kansas City Royals. If you talk about Cardinal baseball for more than two minutes, you’ll be talking about the 1985 team.
Jerry Modene (4) One of my personal favorite Cardinal teams ever (probably the 1973 team is the only one that comes close) as this was a team that was supposed to finish last after Bruce Sutter signed with Atlanta as a free agent.
But sparked by the trades for slugger Jack Clark and John Tudor (who overcame a sluggish 1-and-7 start to win 20 of his final 21 decisions) and Whitey Herzog’s masterful mixing-and-matching of the “bullpen by committee” – to say nothing of the call-up of speedster Vince Coleman – the Cardinals took off after a 14-and-17 start and dominated the race until disaster struck in the form of an injury to Clark.
Undaunted, Herzog made the deal for veteran Cesar Cedeno, who put up one of the top end-of-the-season-acquisition performances of all time and kept the Cardinals ahead of the New York Mets.
Those Cardinals wound up winning 101 games to the Mets’ 97, and rode heroic performances by Ozzie Smith (“Go Crazy Folks!”) and Jack Clark to an NLCS win over the Dodgers – but ultimately fell short of the brass ring as Vince Coleman’s injury (he was run over by the automatic tarp), a lack of hitting, and of course that famous call at first base in Game Six cost the Cards the World Series.
I’ll never forget that night, stuck as I was on the anchor desk at KALB-TV as Game Six unraveled behind my back on the studio monitors. The 1985 Series loss is the only time I ever really carried a loss around; it took me until the next spring, really, to get over it.
Rob Rains (10) This is the team which is probably ranked in incorrect order, simply for the lack of winning the World Series. Whether or not you want to blame Don Denkinger, the fact is this easily was the best Cardinal team between 1967 and 2004 and deserves to rank closer to those teams in these fantasy rankings.
The 1985 Cardinals were the epitome of Whiteyball, evidenced by their becoming the first NL team since the 1912 Giants to steal more than 300 bases in a season. Built for the spacious artificial turf field at Busch Stadium, the entire Cardinals team ran opponents wild. Five players had 30 or more steals, led by Vince Coleman’s NL-rookie record of 110, which helped him capture the Rookie of the Year award.
Willie McGee, another of the jackrabbits, won the batting title and the MVP Award, and Ozzie Smith hit perhaps the most famous homer in Cardinal history with his left-handed, game-winning playoff homer against Tom Niedenfuer and the Dodgers. The only Cardinal to hit more than 10 homers was Jack Clark with 22, but the Cardinals proved there were other ways to win.
Both John Tudor and Joaquin Andujar won 21 games, and Tudor’s season might have been the second greatest individual pitching performance in franchise history, trailing only Bob Gibson’s 1968. He won 20 of his final 21 decisions and led the league with 10 shutouts, posting a 1.93 ERA.
Brian Walton (NR) This club stumbled badly out of the gate, not even getting above .500 until the quarter pole of the season. Yet, once they took over first place on June 21, they remained there the rest of the way.
Four all-time top Cardinals were on NL Manager of the Year Whitey Herzog’s club: pitchers Bob Forsch and John Tudor, infielder and NL Championship Series Most Valuable Player Ozzie Smith plus outfielder and regular season National League MVP Willie McGee. McGee’s .353 batting average was especially notable as it was a new NL high for a switch-hitter. Speedy Vince Coleman took home the NL Rookie of the Year award and Tommy Herr drove in a career-high 110 runs.
In my opinion, Tudor was the anchor of this team. He just didn’t put runners on base all season long, amazingly yielding fewer than one per inning. Tudor’s walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) mark of 0.938 is third-lowest in franchise history to this day. Joaquin Andujar joined him with 21 victories and Danny Cox contributed 18.
I’ll let the others dwell on the 1985 post-season. To be honest, I’d still rather not talk about it.
Key: NR = not ranked
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