July 3, 1967


Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis

The only thing hotter than the temperature in St. Louis was the battle for the 1967 National League pennant, which had suddenly become a three team race. The visiting Cincinnati Reds had led the league for most of the season, but the Cardinals kept pace, never falling more than 4 1/2 games behind. It had been a two team race until the Cubs went on a tear, winning 16 of their last 19 games, including a 3 game sweep of the Reds. That knocked the Reds out of first place and put the Cubs into contention for the  first time in a couple of years.  At the start of this series, the Cardinals and Cubs were tied for first place and Cincinnati was starting to fade, now 5 games behind. The Cubs would give back nearly all of the ground they gained over the next two weeks, but it is this Independence Day series between the Cardinals and Reds that will set the tone for the remainder of the 1967 season.

The Cardinals seemed to be in good shape entering the series. Orlando Cepeda (.348) and Tim McCarver (.346) were chasing Roberto Clemente for the batting title, and were second and third in the league, respectively. Curt Flood was also in the mix, batting .306 at the time. Lou Brock, Roger Maris and and Julian Javier were also flirting with .300, each hitting .294.

If that wasn’t enough for the Reds to deal with, the Cardinals starter on the night was Bob Gibson (9-6). But it wasn’t just any Bob Gibson. This was Gibson at his absolute meanest, and that meant trouble for the Reds. Gibson was coming off the worst outing of his career, giving up 9 runs in just 2/3 of an inning against the San Francisco Giants. When he took the mound, it looked like he had something to prove – we just didn’t quite know what it was.

Facing the Cardinals was veteran right hander, Milt Pappas. Pappas had recently come over to the National League after an impressive record with the Baltimore Orioles. This was his 9th consecutive season with more wins than losses, and 10th if you are willing to include his rookie season where he went 10-10 as a 19 year old. In spite of all of his success, he seemed to have trouble with the Cardinals.

Gibson made quick work out of the Reds in the top of the first, as he would do for most of the game. A strikeout, an infield ground out and another strikeout and it was the Cardinals turn to hit.

And did they hit. And hit. And hit.

Lou Brock would lead off with a double, followed by singles by Curt Flood, Roger Maris and Orlando Cepeda. Before Pappas could even work up a sweat, the Cardinals had a 2-0 lead and were threating for more. Tim McCarver would hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Maris for the 3rd Cardinals run. Infield singles by Mike Shannon and Julian Javier would load the bases and end the day for the Reds starter. Don Nottebart, a former starter turned long reliever, would take over and he would be greeted rudely by light hitting Dal Maxvill who would clear the bases with a loud double in the right field gap. An errant throw allows Maxvill to score and the Cardinals now had a commanding 7-0 lead, with still only one out. Bob Gibson would extend the inning with a single.

What happens next united a team that was lacking a bit of identity, and they would need that over the coming months as they faced enough adversity to demolish a lesser team.

Lou Brock would make the second out of the first inning with a fielders choice, forcing Gibson at second base. There was no chance of doubling up the speedy Brock, fortunately for the Cardinals. With a 7 run lead, Brock attempts to steal second base and is thrown out, ending the inning.  And upsetting the Reds in the process.   Apparently the Reds did not appreciate Brock running in that situation, and would soon retaliate.  Not once, but twice – and that was one too many.

Gibson would shut down the Reds quickly in the second and third innings, striking out seven of the first nine batters he faced. The Cardinals would go quietly in the second, but started another rally against Nottebart in the third. Tim McCarver and Mike Shannon would start the inning with singles, putting runners at the corner. Deciding this was the time to make a statement, Nottebart brushes back Julian Javier, inviting the ire of Cardinals fans that remember Javier paying a similar price in 1965. Javier would ground into a fielders choice with McCarver being thrown out at home. The inning would end without a further incident, but tempers were clearly heating up.

In the fourth inning, Gibson would strike out two more Reds, bringing his total to 9. He was also throwing a perfect game, retiring the first 12 Reds rather quietly.

Nottebart would again voice his displeasure of Brock’s running in the first inning by hitting the Cardinals left fielder to start the home half of the 4th inning. If he had not dusted Javier in the previous inning, that might have passed without a response. One was OK, but two batters could not be tolerated.

A message was clearly delivered in the top of the 5th. Gibson would throw one of his best fastballs behind the head of Tony Perez, one of the leaders of the young Reds team. Just because he didn’t hit Perez didn’t mean he wasn’t sending a loud and unambiguous message: this ends here and now. But it didn’t. Far from it.

Tony Perez would fly out, but while heading back to the dugout he yelled something at Gibson. There are two things you can’t do to Bob Gibson: cheat on the inside of the plate and bark at him. Perez and Gibson would share several verbal exchanges, both men getting more animated as they went on. Orlando Cepeda comes over from first base to try to intervene, according to Cepeda’s version of the story.  This move is misinterpreted by the Reds reliever, Bob Lee who comes running in from the Cincinnati bullpen.  Lee is a mountain of a man, listed at 6ft 3in and 225 pounds, but he looked much bigger at that particular moment.   Both teams ran out on the field and punches were thrown, hard and repeatedly.   The scrum moved quickly into the Reds dugout and players started jumping in just as quickly as others were being thrown back onto the field of play.   Even some fans got in on the conflict, helping out the home team.  St. Louis police officers were soon dispatched to break up the fight, and they were eventually able to restore order.    Unfortunately, not before several players were hurt, as was one of the officers.  The Reds manager had to be treated for lacerations from being spiked.  The Reds reliever, Don Nottebart, received several facial cuts, but would stay in the game and pitch the bottom of the inning.    Bob Gibson would jam the thumb on his pitching hand and it would bother him later in the game, prompting a call to the bullpen in the 8th inning.   The most humorous of the injuries was to Tommy Helms, who broke a tooth – presumably the result of a Gibson punch.  Helms would end the night 0-4 causing a sports writer to note that Gibson got more hits on Helms than Helms did on Gibby.

When play resumed, only one player was ejected: Bob Lee.   While his actions had led to the escalation, the reason for his ejection was that he had entered the field of play illegally.

The game would continue, but it was clear that the fight had taken a toll on both teams.  The Reds went quietly until the top of the 8th.  Gibson was starting to struggle with his control, and the Reds started hitting him hard.  After giving up 3 runs, manager Red Schoendeinst would go to his bullpen and Nelson Briles would quickly shut things down.  Perhaps this was an omen as Briles would be called on to fill the spot in the rotation when Gibson lost two months to a broken leg.

The Cardinals would end up splitting the 4 game series, winning the first and last games while dropping the middle two.   More important than this series, something had awakened in the Cardinals clubhouse.  In a few weeks, Orlando Cepeda would stand up on a trunk and proclaim “Viva el Birdos”, and the Cardinals would go on to win the pennant and defeat the Red Sox in the fall classic.  Looking back at the season, that bird might have taken flight in the 5th inning of this game.  July 3, 1967.

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One Response to July 3, 1967

  1. Steve Garcia says:

    I see no one has commented on this.

    I will.

    This is a pretty accurate account of this game. I was there, in the left field corner. I still remember it all. It’s hard to forget! I was just out of high school, one month to the day. Gibby put the ball behind Perez’s ear and it was SO cool. He flied out to Maris in RF, and as he rounded first, and since the Reds dugout was on the 3B side, Perez had to circle past the mound. But even as he turned at first, he was giving Gibson some what for. When he was about halfway there, Cepeda came toward the mound, too. I saw a blur to me left, and there came Lee, rushing in toward the infield.

    As all brawls do, it was hard to know WTF was going on exactly, but there were people fighting from over near 1B all the way to the dugouts. I do recall Gibson going into the Reds dugout, where I later found out that Alvin Jackson was getting double-teamed on the bench there. Gibson punched out whoever was there.

    The cop who got hurt got a broken arm.

    I was also at the White Sox-Tirgers triple-header brawl in April 2000, which is the only brawl that I’ve ever heard of that matches the Gisbson-Cepeda-Perez brawl. See “Detroit Tigers vs Chicago White Sox Brawl 4/27/2000” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1-pc9JdJg4, if the link still works. I was sitting above 3rd base, with a bird’s eye view of the whole thing.

    People were bleeding that day, too. 16 fined, 9 ejected. #1 started in the 6th, when Jeff Weaver (DET) hit Carlos Lee between the shoulder blades. It went downhill from there. Top of the 7th, Jim Parque (WS) got Dean Palmer (DET) up and in hitting his lead shoulder. Palmer rushed the mound, and all hell broke loose. The pile pushed out to shortsop, then groups broke off toward 2B. Magglio Ordoñez (WS) got caught between two Tigers at 2B, one pinning his arms, and the other coming in to deck him. Maggs kicked out high trying to keep the guy from getting closer (for which he got ejected). There were TWO groups fighting in RIGHT FIELD. BIG fights! Keith Fowlke (WS) was bloodied but unbowed. Palmer got tossed, as did Leland. Robert Fick was an especially criminal dude that day and also got ejected. As he left the field he taunted the fans by the tunnel in RF, and got a beer shower for his middle finger he’d given them.

    The 3rd brawl that day was in the top of the 9th. The White Sox still owed a beanball, and I was saying, “Well, they’d better do it soon, if they are going to.” I no sooner had it out of my mouth than Bobby Howry (WS) plunked Shane Halter, and it was on again. I clearly saw Dean Palmer – ejected earlier – come racing out from behind the dugout. It wasn’t as wild as the earlier ones, but it was a goody.

    Seriously, any “Best of BB BRaws” list has to have both these games in the top five or they aren’t close to being legit. People BLED. It wasn’t just pushing and shoving. I would estimate anywhere from 25-50 punches were thrown in each game.

    GO CARDINALS!

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