1964 St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Johnny Keane
Regular season record: 93-69 (.574), first in National League
Post-season: Won World Series over New York Yankees (4-3)
Staff Comments (individual rankings in parens)
Ray Mileur (8) The 1964 World Series is the first fall classic that I can remember clearly, perhaps due in large part because I still have a highlight video of the seven-game classic, that I watch about once a year. It was the year that the Philadelphia Phillies blew a one-time 11 game lead and saw a 6 ½ game lead vanish with only 12 games to play, an unprecedented collapse that became known as the Phillie Phold. The upstart Cardinals fought tooth and nail to win the National League crown in the final two weeks of the season.
Mickey Mantle, playing in his last World Series hit three home runs, raising his total to a record-setting 18, surpassing Babe Ruth’s mark of 15. Bob Gibson won the Series MVP. Yankee starter, Jim Bouton who later wrote “Ball Four”, had a tremendous series, winning both of his starts and posting an ERA of 1.56. It featured the matchup of brothers Ken (NL MVP) and Clete Boyer, the addition of future Hall of Famer Lou Brock who helped propelled the Cardinals to their first title in 18 seasons. It was a historical season capped with one of the all-time greatest World Series.
Jerry Modene (15) The subject of a magnificent book by David Halberstam, the 1964 Cardinals were the epitome of the franchise’s long history of “get-hot-in-the-second-half” teams; rarely (1931, 1968, and 2005 are the only seasons that come to mind) have the Cards led more-or-less from wire-to-wire; far more often the Cards have hung in there through the mid-season and then gotten hot at the end.
Sometimes it worked, as in 2001 when the team went 36-14 down the stretch to tie for the NL lead in wins with 93; sometimes it didn’t, as in 1963, when the team put together a magnificent 19-and-1 stretch from August 30 to September 15, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion to the Dodgers.
1964 was nothing like that, though, and in fact the 1964 squad was such a disappointment after the near-loss in 1963 that its sluggish start cost GM Bing Devine his job – but not until after he’d made the two key acquisitions for the team that mid-season; the callup of outfielder Mike Shannon and The Trade (yes, Broglio-for-Brock). It’s really amazing to realize nowadays that when The Trade was first announced, it was universally derided, even by team members who felt that the Cards couldn’t afford to be giving up a pitcher as good as Broglio had been.
The 1964 Cardinals were a solid defensive team that could hit, and had some good, solid pitching. But it was also a team in transition, not unlike the 2006 World Champions, and they would find themselves finishing below .500 the very next season, and then replacing some of their declining veterans (notably Boyer, Groat, White, and Curt Simmons) with younger talent that augmented the young core group of Gibson, Brock, McCarver, and Flood.
Rob Rains (11) This club likely would not have earned a spot among the top 15 Cardinal teams of all time without the help of the Phillies, whose collapse in the last two weeks of the season allowed the 93-win Cardinals to beat the Reds and Phillies by one game. Given that opening, the Cardinals beat the Yankees in a seven-game World Series that is still remembered for Ken Boyer’s dramatic grand slam which turned the series in the Cardinals’ favor.
The other factor which of course made this a memorable season was the arrival from Chicago of Lou Brock. Even though in retrospect it looks pretty stupid, there were more than a few skeptics at the time in St. Louis who thought Bing Devine had made a bad deal in sending pitcher Ernie Broglio to the Cubs in the package for Brock.
Ray Sadecki won 20 games to lead the pitching staff, which also got 19 wins from Bob Gibson and 18 from Curt Simmons. No other pitcher won more than eight games.
Brian Walton (10) With a Bob Gibson 9-1 loss to the Phillies on July 24, the Cardinals had a losing record after 95 games, had fallen into seventh place and were ten games out of first. From that seemingly-hopeless position, this 1964 club went 46-21 the rest of the way to slip past the Phils and Reds to win the pennant, the Cardinals’ first in 18 years.
Six of our top 40 Cardinals players of all time were on manager Johnny Keane’s club: pitcher and World Series Most Valuable Player Bob Gibson, infielders Bill White, Julian Javier and regular season NL Most Valuable Player Ken Boyer, and outfielders Lou Brock and Curt Flood.
This was a team of ironmen as Flood and Boyer played in all 162 games and Dick Groat missed just one. Boyer led the NL with 119 RBI and White drove in 102. White also won his fifth-straight Gold Glove Award while Flood led the league with 211 hits and took his second in what would become seven consecutive Gold Gloves, same as White. Brock made an immediate impression in St. Louis, hitting .348 and stealing 33 bases. The staff was led by Ray Sadecki at 20-11, Gibson at 19-12 and Curt Simmons at 18-9.
In a highly-publicized divorce, skipper Keane (right in photo) defected to the losing New York Yankees following the Series and was replaced by one of his coaches, Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst (left). Keane would last just over a year in the Bronx while Red remained at the helm of the Cards for 12 years.
Key: NR = not ranked
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