St. Louis at New York. Wednesday evening (and Thursday morning).
The 1974 Cardinals were the last St. Louis team to content seriously in the National League East until the Whitey Herzog era. This would also be the first time since 1960 that Bob Gibson that would post a losing record, 11-13. After the middle of these next three games, Gibson would only record 4 more victories before retiring in 1975. Perhaps that makes the middle game of this set all the more precious.
The Cardinals were in the last push of their pennant race, only a few games behind the first place Pittsburgh Pirates. They had played a double header a few days earlier, but a day off gave them a chance to recharge their batteries. They would need it before this series was over.
The game on September 11 featured rookie right hander Bob Forsch. He had made his Cardinal debut two months earlier. Forsch would become a fan favorite, pitching for nearly 15 years as a Cardinal, play in 3 world series, throw not one but two no hitters. He would finish his career in Houston where his older brother began his career. The Forsch’s are the only brothers to have thrown no hitters in the major leagues. Tonight, Forsch would be facing the Mets Jerry Koosman – a tough lefty that would record 222 wins in his 19 year career.
The game would start off innocently. Both teams would score a run in the first inning. The Cardinals would get theirs on a Joe Torre single following walks to Reggie Smith and Ted Sizemore. The Mets would score theirs on a John Milner double after Felix Milan reached on an error by shortstop Mike Tyson and a wild pitch by Forsch. Forsch would throw another one that Simmons couldn’t handle, but no further damage was done.
Both pitchers settled down, allowing a hit or walk here and there, but nothing more happened until the bottom of the fifth inning. Felix Milan would lead off with an infield single and Cleon Jones would hit a 2 run homer to give the Mets a 3-1 lead.
In the top of the seventh inning, Red Schoendienst made a tough managerial decision – one that he might regret in a few innings. With two outs and two runners in scoring position (the slow Ted Simmons on 3rd and speedy Rookie of the Year Bake McBride on second), he went to the bench for light hitting Luis Melendez. Apparently Red didn’t know that Forsch was a converted outfielder and would hit 30 points higher than Melendez in 1974. But that was his call and Melendez struck out to end the inning.
Mike Garman was in to relieve Forsch and keep the game right where it was, until Red could find some offense. Garman was a big strong right hander that was used in exactly these situations. He was the Kyle McClellan of the 1974 Cardinals. He was effective in his two years in St. Louis, although his record was more reflective of the Cardinals offensive ups and downs than his particular performance. Garman was sharp on this night, throwing two innings without allowing a baserunner, striking out two along the way.
Meanwhile, Koosman was shutting down the Cardinal bats, taking a 3-1 lead into the top of the ninth inning. With one out, Ted Simmons would get an infield single. Red makes another move he would soon regret, pinch running for Simmons with Larry Herndon. I guess there’s no reason to worry about the 10th inning when you are still down by two runs in the ninth. Koosman would strike out Bake McBride, but not before allowing Herndon to take second base on a wild pitch. His run meant nothing, or so Yogi Berra and the Mets thought. Down to their last out, trailing 3-1, light hitting Ken Rietz stepped into the batters box. Ken Reitz has always been a fan favorite, but he is known more for his glove work than his bat. Berra decides not to lift the tiring lefty Koosman in favor of a fresh righty/righty matchup. That decision turned out to be a bad one as Reitz hits a 2 run homer to tie the game. One out away from a victory, the complexion of this game has changed dramatically. Obviously frustrated, Koosman gets a bit wild and hits Mike Tyson. Ironically, Red would pinch hit for Garman with Ron Hunt. Hunt, a native of St. Louis, was best known for standing close to the plate and being hit himself. Koosman was not going to extend the inning and he gets Hunt to fly out.
The Mad Hungarian is in to pitch the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Mets go quietly. Berra pinch hit for Koosman, so he goes to his bullpen for this extra inning affair. Fortunately for both clubs, this is after the September callups and the rosters have been expanded. They would need them tonight.
The tall right hander, Harry Parker would take the mound for the Mets in the 10th inning. Parker began his career with the Cardinals and would play for them again in 1975. But tonight he is the opposing pitcher, and he would pitch well in his 3 innings of work. The Cards would have base runners in each inning but fail to drive them in. Hrabosky was just as sharp until being lifted for a pinch hitter in the 12th inning.
The game was now in the hands of Cards lefty Rich Folkers and the Mets Bob Miller. The ironies would continue as Folkers started his career with the Mets and Miller with the Cardinals. Neither pitcher was as sharp as their predecessors. The Mets jumped all over Folkers, but failed to score in the 12th and 13th innings. In the Cardinals 13th, Joe Torre tried to give the Cardinals the lead by trying to score from first on a hit and run, but was thrown out at the plate. If ever there was a time for Red to pinch run, this would have been the time to do it. Torre’s bat was so potent, it would be hard to take it out of a game, even in the 13th inning.
Bob Apodaca, a little right hander, would take over for the Mets in the 14th inning. This was his first full season in the major leagues. Apodaca was a long reliever and spot starter, sort of like Brad Thompson. Apodaca would go three innings and keep the game tied at three.
In the 14th inning, Red would call on Ray Bare. Bare should have been named Rare as he was rarely called into a game. He would get three emergency starts but only throw 24 1/3 innings all season. He would only face two batters tonight. After a leadoff walk to Bud Harrelson, the Mets sacrificed him to second base. With the winning run in scoring position with one out, and the heart of the Mets order coming up, Red makes another tough decision. This one may have been his best of the season. He called on veteran left hander, Claude Osteen. Osteen had been one of the aces of the Los Angeled Dodgers, taking over the top lefty starter role when Sandy Koufax retired. Osteen was one of my favorite pitchers and it was a thrill when the Cardinals acquired him after the waiver deadline to help them in their pennant run. Osteen would not see much action as a Cardinal, but this would be the game of his short Cardinals career. The 35 year old lefty would go 9 1/3 innings on this night. That’s right – 9 1/3 innings. He would pitch until the bottom of the 23rd inning. With two on and two out, he would hand the ball to the 37 year old veteran Sonny Siebert. Siebert would walk the bases loaded, but retire the dangerous Cleon Jones with the winning run 90ft away.
Before going on, we must take one more look at Osteen’s numbers on the night. 9 1/3 innings of relief, only 4 hits with 5 strikeouts. He would also walk two batters. What an amazing performance from the veteran hurler. We had seen him pitch like this against us many times. What a pleasure to see him do it in a Cardinals uniform.
As good as Osteen was, the Mets Jerry Cram has been just as good. The Cardinals had gotten to Cram nearly every inning, but failed to score against the righty. Their best chance came in the 20th inning, but Reggie Smith was picked off second base with nobody out to end what looked like a promising rally.
In the top of the 25th inning, Hank Webb is the new Mets hurler. Fortunately for tiring Cards fans, he would be their last one. Bake McBride would open the inning with a single. Knowing McBride’s speed, he had already stolen one base in this game, Webb attempts a pick-off but the throw goes wild, bounding all the way down the right field line. McBride is able to score from first base, but not without the help of another error by catcher Ron Hodges on the play. At 3am, in the top of the 25th inning, the Cardinals were leading 4-3. There was no more action on this night, err – morning. The Cardinals would win 4-3 and several new entries would be added into the record books.
This is the longest game in major league history. One other 25 inning game was called as a tie due to curfew restrictions. The Mets sent 103 batters to the plate – the only time more than 100 plate appearances have been recorded in a single game. The Cardinals sent 99 men to the plate. Taking away sacrifices, base on balls – a record 175 official at bats were recorded in this game, also a record. Combined, both teams stranded a total of 45 men, also an MLB record.
What a game, and what a performance by Claude Osteen. Sonny Siebert would get the win, but it was Osteen than won the fans on that night/morning. On the other extreme, poor Wayne Garrett. He would wear the collar, going 0-10 on the night.