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Legends On Deck

1964 Cardinals vs. 1978 New York Yankees

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The Cardinals and the Yankees had a history dating back to 1926 when Grover Cleveland Alexander struck out Yankee 2nd baseman Tony Lazzeri in the 7th inning of Game 7 of the 1926 World Series to stop a Yankee rally and eventually give the game and the title to the Cardinals. The Yankees would go on to beat St Louis in a rematch in 1928 and then St Louis went on to beat New York in 1942 with New York beating the Cardinals in 1943.

The manager of the Cardinals in 1964 was Johnny Keane and the men who managed the 1978 Yankees were Billy Martin (52-42), Dick Howser (0-1) and finally Bob Lemon who guided the team to that tremendous comeback from 14 games back to win the AL East title over the Boston Red Sox in a one game playoff at Fenway Park. Keane managed St Louis for four years and then managed the Yankees for 2 years before passing away at the age of 55 in January of 1967. Billy Martin knew every trick in the book and learned about managing from the great Casey Stengel. After Howser then came Bob Lemon. Lemon was a member of the vaunted 1948 Cleveland Indians World Series winning team along with Bob Feller and Gene Bearden. Lemon would later be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fam as a player in 1976. Pretty even on the managers and the edge goes to Lemon and the Cardinals because of that comeback against Boston.

Now that the managers have been decided the lineups and matchups are coming up next. At catcher for the Cardinals is Tim McCarver with Bill White at first, Julian Javier at second base. The shortstop was Dick Groat and Ken Boyer completed the infield at third base. The “Redbirds” outfield had Lou Brock in left field, Curt Flood in center field and Mike Shannon in right field. The Cardinals and Keane would be picking from Bob Gibson, Curt Simmons, Ray Sadecki and Ernie Broglio to face the Yankee lineup. The Yankees would send up Thurman Munson as the catcher, Chris Chambliss at first base, Willie Randolph at second base, Bucky Dent at the shortstop position and Graig Nettles at third base. The Yankees outfield would have Lou Piniella in left field, Mickey Rivers in centerfield and Reggie Jackson in right field. The Yankees rotation choices would be as follows: Ron Guidry, Ed Figueroa, Dick Tidrow, Jim Beattie and Jim “Catfish” Hunter.

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Starting off with the position of catcher for the 1964 Cardinals Tim McCarver was the main catcher having 9 home runs, 52 RBIs and a .288 batting average. When he was behind the plate in 1964 he made 11 errors in 816 chances for a .987 fielding percentage. He made the National League All Star team in 1966 and 1967 and was a member of the 1967 Cardinals that would beat the “Impossible Dream” Boston Red Sox for the World Series title. He would later go on to announce ball games on television and was the 2012 recipient of the 2012 Ford C Frick Award for broadcasting. The Yankees in 1978, had behind the plate one of their most beloved players in history Thurman Munson. Munson during the 1978 season hit 6 home runs, had 71 RBIs and a .297 batting average. Behind the plate Munson made 11 errors in 771 chances for .986 fielding percentage. He was an integral part of the 1978 Yankees who also were known as “The Bronx Zoo” for their antics both on and off the baseball field. Munson during his career was Rookie of the Year (1970), a 7 time All Star, the 1976 American League MVP, who would later have his #15 retired after tragically passing away in an airplane crash August 2, 1979. Munson gets the nod here even though the numbers are close between he and McCarver. He was the Yankees leader on and off the diamond and never failed to give 110% on the field no matter how bad he was hurting.

First base for the 1964 was former National League president Bill White. In the 1964 season White hit .303 and had 9 home runs and 102 RBIs. While at the first base post for St Louis White made only 6 errors in 1,513 chances for a .996 fielding percentage. White was a 5 time All Star, and a 7-time Gold Glove Award winner during his career. He also spent time in the New York Yankees announcing booth with Frank Messer and Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto. Chris Chambliss was the Yankee first baseman in 1978 and went on to hit 12 home runs, had 90 RBIs and a .274 batting average for New York in the 1978 season. In the field, he was pretty good too as he made only 4 errors in 1,481 chances for a .997 fielding percentage. Chambliss was Rookie of the Year in 1971, an All Star in 1976 and a Gold Glove Award winner in 1978. He is most known for hitting one of the most memorable home runs in Yankee history, when in 1976 his ninth inning home run against the Kansas City Royals gave the Yankees their first American League pennant since 1964. These men like the catching position are closing matched however the edge here goes to White and the Cardinals by the smallest of margins. Either of these two players could be an asset for any baseball team. They just went about their jobs every day with no pomp and ended with very successful careers.

At the second base position for the 1964 Cardinals was Julian Javier. During the 1964 season, the Dominican born second sacker hit 12 home runs with 65 RBIs and a .241 batting average. Javier in 1964 made 27 errors in 788 chances for a .966 fielding percentage. Javier would make the National League All Star squad in 1963 and 1968 and was also a member of the 1967 World Champion Cardinals. For New York in 1978 was Willie Randolph who went on to hit 3 home runs, have 42 RBIs and a .279 average in 1978. With the glove Randolph made 16 errors in 712 chances for a .978 fielding percentage. During his playing career Randolph was a 6 time All Star who later went on to coach the Yankees and then went on to manage their crosstown rivals the New York Mets. Randolph, a lot like Munson was a silent leader on the ballfield who was steady with the glove and the bat, therefore he and the Yankees hold the advantage.

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Shortstop of the 1964 Cardinals was Dick Groat who hit 1 home run with 70 runs batted in and a .292 batting average white at the plate for St Louis. In the field with the glove Groat made 40 errors in 788 chances for a .949 fielding percentage. Groat was a 5 time All Star and the National League MVP for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960. Bucky Dent, forever known as “Bucky F*#%ing Dent for his home run against the Boston Red Sox in a one game playoff for the American League East title in 1978 was the 1978 Yankees shortstop. He would hit 5 home runs during the season, have 40 RBIs and a .243 batting average. He was a 3 time All Star who while in the Yankees infield in 1978 made 10 errors in 981 chances for a .981 fielding percentage. Advantage Dent on fielding prowess.

Now moving on to the hot corner 3rd base the Cardinals had Ken Boyer who during the Cards 1964 World Series winning season had 24 home runs, 119 runs batted in and a .295 batting average. With a glove on his hand during the “64” season Boyer made 24 errors in 492 chances for a .949 fielding percentage. Boyer was one of three brothers to play in the majors (Cloyd and Clete). He was a 7 time All Star who won the National League MVP award during the 1964 season. Yankee 3rd baseman in 1978 was Graig Nettles who during the 1978 season hit 27 home runs with 83 RBIs and a .276 batting average. Nettles was known as a sort of vacuum cleaner (ala Brooks Robinson) at third base and during the 1978 season he would make 11 errors in 475 chances for a .975 fielding percentage. He was a six time All Star in his career as well which spanned from 1967 to 1988. Both men had good seasons for their World Series winning squads but based solely on being the MVP in 1964 advantage goes to Boyer and the Cardinals.

Now to the outfields for both squads that will be done as a group. The 1964 Cardinals outfield had Lou Brock (12 HRs, 44 RBIs, .348 average, 33 stolen bases-fielding stats, 11 errors in 196 chances for a .944 fielding percentage.), Curt Flood (5 HRs, 46 RBIs, .311 batting average-fielding stats, 5 errors in 41 chances, .988 fielding percentage), and Mike Shannon (9 HRs, 43 RBIs, .261 average-fielding stats, 2 errors, 116 chances, .983 fielding percentage). The 1978 New York Yankees would have as their starting outfield Lou Pinella (6 HRs, 69 RBIs, .314 average, – fielding stats, 7 errors, 229 chances, .969 fielding average), Mickey “Mick the Quick” Rivers ( 11 HRs, 48 RBIs, .265 average-fielding stats, 8 errors in 395 chances for a .980 fielding average) and finally the man known as “Mr. October” because of his hitting 3 HRs in 3 at bats in game 6, Reggie Jackson ( 27 HRs, 97 RBIs, .274 average-fielding stats, 3 errors in 216 chances for a .986 fielding average).

The outfield St Louis was a grand combination of speed (Brock) and finesse with Flood who was a great outfielder a fact put on the back burner for his fighting baseball’s reserve clause. Shannon was just a steady ballplayer. For the Yankees, they had the more well-known names with Pinella, Rivers and of course Jackson. If these two played and the outfield matched up with the overall playing ability of both outfields considered, I must say it’s a draw, they are that close. Factoring everything in there just is not a clear-cut winner in the outfield.

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In talking about the pitching, remember this is a one game series for advancement to the next round. The Cardinals would have their pick of Bob Gibson 19-12 245 strikeouts, 3.01 ERA-Curt Simmons 18-9, 104 strikeouts, 3.43 ERA, or Ray Sadecki 20-11, 119 strikeouts, 3.68 ERA. The New York Yankees had Ron Guidry 25-3, 248 strikeouts, 1.74 ERA, Ed Figueroa 20-9, 92 strikeouts, 2.99 ERA or Jim “Catfish” Hunter 12-6, 56 strikeouts, 3.58 ERA. This one for one game would be a battle of the strikeout pitchers which means it would probably be Bob Gibson against Ron Guidry. Gibson was a master of intimidation on the mound, not afraid to put a batter on his butt if the situation warranted it. Guidry was a bit more of a finesse pitcher who had one of the finest seasons around in 1978. Both men were big game pictures and if either got into trouble the Cards had some good bullets in the gun to load up for the rest of the game. The only thing here is Guidry had such a devastating slider and had such a great year that it would give him the advantage, but the game also could go extra innings and it could be true that the Yankees given the bullpen depth could maintain their advantage.

The deciding factor in the game could possibly be with the manager and Bob Lemon was able to press the right buttons all season for New York in that “Bronx Zoo” situation. So, taking all these factors into account the winner of this one game series would be the 1978 New York Yankees.

Kevin Larkin

Kevin Larkin has been going to minor league and major league baseball games since 1967. He has been to numerous major league and minor league parks and describes himself as a "baseball fan" who likes the Yankees. He enjoys researching, writing and reading about about baseball and will talk for hours on end about his favorite sport.
He is in love with the history of the game, having written three books about his beloved sport. They are "Baseball in the Bay State" a history of baseball in the state of Massachusetts. Then he wrote Gehrig:Game by Game, a history of all of the major league ballgames including All Star games and World Series games as well as regular season that the "Iron Horse" Lou Gehrig played in. The third book "Baseball in the Berkshires" a history of baseball in Berkshire County co written with three others, Tom Daley, Jim Overmyer and Larry Moore. As a result of this book Larkin and the other three gentlemen have put together a museum exhibit that is now permanently housed at the Berkshire Mall in Lanesboro Massachusetts.
Larkin also does fact checking and writing for the Society for American Baseball Research or SABR and has had numerous articles published there as well.
He lives in Great Barrington Massachusetts, in the heart of Red Sox country and is involved in a number of projects. He also is a security guard at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington after having been a police officer for 24 years in his home town