Larry Jaster

We first took a look at the legend of Cardinals left hander, Larry Jaster in an earlier Where Were You when he took a perfect game against Tom Seaver and the Mets into the bottom of the eighth inning. It was an amazing performance to be sure, but there is something even more unbelievable in the young man’s career.

The story begins on a Friday night in St. Louis. September 17, 1965 to be specific. The second place Los Angeles Dodgers were in town to face the Cardinals. The Dodgers were in the beginning of one of the greatest pennant runs in major league history. A quick sprint had gotten the Dodgers to 20 games over .500, but a month of .500 baseball had put them 4.5 games out of first place, the farthest they would be all season. In the final 16 games, the Dodgers would go 15-1, storming to the first of their consecutive National League pennants. They had done this largely on pitching.  Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale would combine for a 49-20 record. Only two of the remaining pitchers on their staff would finish under .500, and each by only a single game. If you remove the infrequently used relievers and spot starters, nobody had an ERA above 3.50. Yes, they were that good.

How does this all relate to Larry Jaster ? On this evening, Jaster would make his major league debut. One inning of spotless relief against one of the game’s greatest and most intimidating right handers, Don Drysdale. Curt Simmons was the Cardinals starter, and had pitched well in his 5 innings of work. Simmons had pitched as he had for the last four seasons, taking the ball every fifth day and eating up a huge number of innings. What had worked for him in 1963 (15-9) and 1964 (18-9) wasn’t working this year. The terrible Cardinals offense would let Simmons down and he would end up with a 9-15 record. The game tonight was just one more example.

More than Drysdale or Simmons, it was the relief work of Larry Jaster and Nelson Briles that caught the attention of the Cardinals coaching staff and the small crown on hand. Jaster would pitch a perfect sixth inning, and Briles would face the minimum number of batters in his three innings of work, allowing only a single that was erased in a double play.

The legend of Larry Jaster grew as as manager Red Schoendienst gave the lefty three more starts to finish the 1965 season. In those Jaster would go 3-0, completing all of them, and allowing only 5 runs for an eye popping ERA of 1.61. While impressive, this is not the amazing part of the story.

Jaster would earn a spot on the Cardinals starting rotation in 1966, but got off to a rough start, prompting his return to Tulsa to work on his mechanics. But not before Jaster would pitch one of the best games of his young career, shutting out Claude Osteen and the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 25. In that game, Jaster would strike out 7. Jaster’s next break would come in late June when the Cardinals sent Curt Simmons to the Cubs for cash. Jaster would take the veteran’s spot in the bullpen. That would all change on July 3, against the very same Don Drysdale and the Los Angeles Dodgers that he faced in his debut. To say that Jaster eclipsed his one previous inning against Drysdale is an understatement. He would throw a complete game, 3 hit shutout and beat the Dodgers 2-0. Interestingly, the 2 runs Drysdale gave up is exactly the same as in Jaster’s debut. The difference is that this time, Jaster pitched the entire game.

But there’s far more to this story.

Jaster would next meet the Dodgers and Don Drysdale in St. Louis on July 29. Drysdale was a bit less effective, giving the Cardinals 4 runs on the night. Jaster, however, was lights out with another complete game shutout, striking out 8 and surrendering just 5 hits.

The next time Jaster would face the Dodgers would be in Los Angeles on August 19. This time he would face left hander Claude Osteen whom he had beaten 2-0 in April. The results would be nearly the same this time. Osteen would spot the Cardinals 4 runs while Jaster threw another complete game, 5 hit shutout. This time he would strike out 7.

The last time the young lefty would face the Dodgers would be on September 28, in St. Louis. This time it would be future Hall of Famer Don Sutton that would fall victim to the Legend of Larry Jaster. Sutton would pitch brilliantly, but Jaster was just a bit better throwing another complete game shutout.

Let’s put all of this together. Larry Jaster would face the Los Angeles Dodgers 5 times, and shut them out each time. He would also lead the league in shutouts with 5, all against the Dodgers. These same Dodgers were the reigning World Champions and would go on to win the 1966 National League Pennant.   Jaster’s five consecutive shutout victories against one team in a single season is still a major league record.

Simply amazing. Here is the breakdown of Larry Jaster versus the Dodgers.

Date IP Hits Runs Earned Runs Walks Strikeouts HR
April 25 9 7 0 0 0 7 0
July 3 9 3 0 0 1 5 0
July 29 9 5 0 0 2 8 0
August 19 9 5 0 0 3 7 0
September 28 9 4 0 0 2 4 0

The remainder of the staff would go 3-10 against the Dodgers with 2 of those victories by Al Jackson, who was nearly as stingy as Jaster. Bob Gibson and Ray Washburn would combine for an 0-6 record with an ERA over 5.00.

Now you know the Legend of Larry Jaster and his amazing 1966 season.   There is still more to the story, this time in April of 1969.

As a result of his declining performance in 1968, the Cardinals left Jaster unprotected in the 1969 expansion draft. He was claimed by the Montreal Expos and would start their home opener on April 14, 1969. He would face his old team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Lou Brock would start things off with an infield lineout. Curt Flood would follow that with a double to left field, the first official major league hit in Canada. Neither Jaster nor Cardinals starter Nelson Briles was sharp, both surrendering 7 runs in their brief outings. All seven of Jaster’s runs would come in a shaky fourth inning when he would give up a grand slam to the Cardinals eighth place hitter Dal Maxvill and a two run shot to newcomer Joe Torre. Only two of these runs would be earned as Expos errors extended the inning, as they did so many times in his previous season with the Cardinals. Gary Waslewski would eventually take the loss for the Cardinals, giving up the winning run in his fourth inning of relief, a tough luck loss for the big right hander as he’d pitched quite well in the outing. Ironically, Waslewski would be traded to the Expos in June for veteran right hander Mudcat Grant.

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