Top 10 Memories from the 1985 Season

Inspired by Larry Underwood’s thought provoking  Top Ten October Memories, plus I-70 Baseball’s coverage of the 25th Anniversary of the 1985 World Series, I started thinking about all of the wonderful memories from the ’85 season.  Here are my top 10 memories of that legendary season.

#10:  May 1 – Los Angeles at St. Louis

Let’s try to forget Neil Allen giving up a walk off home run to the Mets Gary Carter in the first game of the season.   In fact, let’s try to forget Neil Allen’s time with the Cardinals.  OK, it’s not that easy, is it ?  This game is when the frustration with Allen reached it’s peak, and it wasn’t even his fault this time.  Danny Cox and Orel Hershiser battle valiantly for the first 8 innings of this game, each surrendering a single run in the first inning.  The bullpens were just as stingy, taking the game into the 12th with the same 1-1 score we had in the first inning.  In Neil Allen’s third inning of work (remember, he used to be a starter), Ken Landreaux would lead off with a double.  A strikeout and infield ground out would put Landreaux at 3rd with two outs.  All of a sudden, Charlie Williams calls a balk on Allen, allowing the go-ahead and eventual winning run to score.  Cox and Hershiser had been quick pitching all night long, well over the guidelines for coming to a set position with a runner on base.  Williams said that Allen had separated his hands once set, and then went into the pitching motion.  He was the only one that saw it.  The Dodgers would win 2-1, and Allen’s time in critical games would soon come to an end.

#9 July 16

Not a game this time, but rather an event that helped settle down the Cardinals early in the summer.  After a long and frustrating time in St. Louis, General Manager Dal Maxvill finally found a team willing to take Neil Allen.  The Yankees would take Allen in return for a player to be named later, which eventually became cash compensation to help offset the huge amount of Allen’s contract that the Cardinals would pay if the Yankees would just take him off our hands.  On that one day, the Cardinals got much much better.  Not quite a championship team, but significantly better than they were on July 15.

#8: May 21 – Atlanta at St. Louis

In the third inning, young Vince Coleman came up to the plate to face the Braves big right hander, Len Barker.   Coleman turns on an inside pitch and pulls a hard line drive down the right field line.  It is hooking, and looked to be heading foul and out of play.  But the ball kept going and going, and suddenly quit hooking.  It would hit the wall in fair territory over the head of a leaping Claudell Washington.  Coleman never quit running as the play developed and as he headed towards third base, Nick Leyva waved him on home.  Coleman scored easily, without even a play as he crossed home plate about the time Washington’s relay throw got to Gerald Perry.   It was Coleman’s first home run, and fittingly an inside the park variety.  Curiously, it would be the only one he would hit in his career – all of the others, few as they were, left the ballpark.  Rick Horton would pitch 3 2/3 innings for a save, preserving the win for Danny Cox.

#7: June 22 – Chicago at St. Louis

The Cardinals had just swept the Cubs at Wrigley, and this was the middle game of the next series at Busch Stadium.  Bob Forsch and Rick Sutcliffe would be the starters in this game.  Sutcliffe was very good and Forsch worked hard, in trouble most of the night.  In the fifth inning, Forsch’s control problems got the best of him, and Whitey Herzog went to his bullpen for Rick Horton, who would do this type of job all season long.  Horton would battle too, allowing just one run (charged to Forsch as he inherited the baserunner) before turning things over to Ken Dayley.  Dayley was spectacular as he battled future Cardinals closer Lee Smith in extra innings.  In the bottom of the 10th, in a 1-1 tie, Ozzie Smith would lead off with a single.  He would take second base on a wild pitch.  To the plate comes a young Curt Ford, making his major league debut.  With Ozzie Smith breaking for third, Ford hits a line drive to the opposite field for a single, easily scoring Smith with the winning run.  What an amazing debut.

#6: June 8 – St. Louis at New York

John Tudor had just won his second game to go with 7 losses on the season.  In an unexpected pitching duel, Tudor and the big Mets right hander, Ed Lynch did battle for two spectacular hours.  Both pitchers were dominating, Tudor allowing just three hits and Lynch two.  With a scoreless game going into the bottom of the 8th inning, Met’s manager Davey Johnson plays for the win, pitching hitting for Lynch with the go-ahead run in scoring position.  This move backfires when the Mets fail to score.   Johnson went with the left hander, Tom Gorman for the top of the 9th.  He got the first two batters out, but then Tommy Herr hit a line drive that just kept going and going and going……. and gone.  The only run scored in the game.    Tudor retires the side in order in the bottom of the ninth and earns his third win in the season.  More importantly, he has started a winning streak that would be broken just one more time in the regular season.

#5: June 14 – St. Louis at Chicago

The Chicago Cubs had feasted on the Cardinals in 1984, beating them terribly.   This would be the first meeting between the two clubs in 1985.  The Cubs were off to a good start, currently in first place.  The Cardinals had just broken through the .500 mark two weeks earlier.  This game was anything but well played.  The Cubs jumped all over Joaquin Andujar early, but he hung in there long enough for the Cardinals to come roaring back.  And roar they would.  Down 3-0 in the fifth inning, the Cardinals would build a 10-4 lead before the Cubs batted in the seventh.   The Cubs then came back, beating up the dependable Bill Campbell and Jeff Lahti.    The Cards would tack on an insurance run in the top of the ninth inning, one that they would need.    The Cubs would get to within a run, at 11-10 when Herzog went to the bullpen one more time.   With Ryne Sandberg at second base and two outs, Forsch pitches to Keith Moreland and he lifts a pop fly over the head of Jack Clark.  Clark and Tommy Herr converge on the ball but can’t get in position to catch it.   From out of nowhere comes Andy van Slyke as he avoids the Cubs bullpen, slides in between Herr and Clark and somehow catches the baseball.   It was an unbelievable play to an end an unforgettable game.

The Cardinals would go on to sweep the three game series, as well as the next series against the Cubs at Busch Stadium.

#4: May 26 – St. Louis at Cincinnati

Danny Cox had pitched some pretty big games in his career, but this was easily his best.  He was nearly unhittable, literally.  Cox breezed through the Reds, taking a perfect game into the 8th inning.  He would give up 2 singles, but nothing else.   He would beat former Cardinals hero John Stuper with a nifty 2 hit shutout, but was his flirting with perfection that makes this such a memorable game.  A footnote to this game was the offensive barrage by Willie McGee.   Willie would go 3-4 in the game with 2 triples and 2 stolen bases.  Vin Scully once said that McGee turns the opposition’s doubles into singles with his fielding, and his own singles into doubles with his baserunning.  This game he was even better than that.

#3: October 14 – NLCS Game Five

While this game is fondly remembered by Cardinals fans as the Go Crazy Folks game, this was one of the most exciting games of the season.  Ozzie Smith’s heroic home run overshadows a game that has more plot twists than an Agatha Christie novel.

The game got off to a late start due to some rain showers that would reappear several times throughout this contest.  Herzog would make the first gamble of the game, starting Bob Forsch instead of Joaquin Andujar or Danny Cox.  Initially that decision appeared to be the right one as Forsch got off to a great start, in total control for the first three innings.  When the Dodgers got baserunners, they were quickly erased by double plays.

On the other side of the diamond, Fernando Valenzuela struggled throughout the entire game.   The first three Cardinals would reach base on two walks and an RBI double by Tommy Herr.  The Cardinals certainly got a break on a controversial call where it looked like Willie McGee had swung at a 3-2 pitch.  The Dodgers would get their share of calls later in the game, but this turned out to be huge.   In drawing a parallel to something we saw frequently on 2010, Ozzie Smith ran through a Hal Lanier stop sign on the Herr double, easily scoring the second run of the game.

Valenzuela would be in trouble most of the evening, but would surrender no more runs.  Forsch would not be so fortunate.  After cruising through the first three innings, the wheels fell off in the top of the 4th.  A single and 2 run homer by Bill Madlock would tie the game.  Forsch would not retire another batter in the game.  He would give up a walk, and a rare catchers interference would put two runners on base.  The Dodgers appeared poised to break the game open.

In comes Ken Dayley and he gets off to a rough start.  He would throw a wild pitch, but the runners failed to advance – and this is the pivotal moment in the game.   Not the Ozzie Smith home run, the base running error by the Dodgers.  Enos Kabelll would follow this up by hitting into a nifty 5-4-3 double play, ending the inning, and the Dodgers threat.

Ken Dayley would pitch a scoreless fifth and sixth innings, before getting into trouble in the seventh.  With 2 runners on base and nobody out, the rookie closer, Todd Worrell comes in and just overpowers the Dodgers.  Steve Sax was overwhelmed and struck out feebly.  Tommy Lasorda would then make his big gamble, and it would backfire terribly.  Leaving Fernando Valenzuela in the game, the Dodgers pitcher grounds out to Worrell, allowing the runners to move up, but with two outs.  Mariano Duncan ends the inning with a routine fly ball to center field.  In the 8th inning, the heart of the Dodgers order couldn’t do anything against the hard throwing Worrell.  He received a standing ovation as he left the field at the end of the inning.

Worrell would give way to Jeff Lahti, who was just as effective as Worrell and Dayley before him.  5 2/3 innings of relief, no additional runs.

We know how this game ends.  Just seconds after NBC flashed a graphic that Ozzie Smith had never hit a left handed home run, Ozzie pulls a Tom Niedenfuer fastball down the line for the game winner.  Go Crazy Folks, indeed.

#2: October 16 – NLCS Game Six

As exciting as Game Five was, Game Six was even more so.   It didn’t have all of the little twists and turns as the previous game, but the ones it had were monumental.  Joaquin Andujar would face Orel Hershiser, and neither were particularly effective.  Down 4-1 in the seventh inning, looking like there would be a Game Seven, the Cardinals would get to Hershiser, and reliever Tom Niedenfuer.  Two singles and a perfect sacrifice bunt put 2 runners in scoring position.  Willie McGee would follow that up with a single, bringing Cardinals within a run.  It also brought Tom Niedenfuer in to face Ozzie Smith, who victimized him 48 hours earlier.  And he did it again with a triple, scoring McGee with the tying run.

The momentum would briefly shift back to the Dodgers when Mike Marshall led off the bottom of the 8th inning with a home run off Todd Worrell.  Worrell dodged a bullet the previous inning when Mariano Duncan led off with a triple, but was stranded.  This time the hard throwing rookie was not as fortunate.

As before, we know how this game ends.  Down 5-4, the Cardinals would put 2 runners on base and Lasorda chose to let Niedenfuer pitch to Jack Clark, who had struck out in an earlier at-bat.  That decision proved costly as Clark rips a 450 home run well over the head of Pedro Guerrero, who just slammed his glove into the ground in disgust.

What a game, what a game.  But that is not the best game from the 1985 season.

#1: September 11 – St. Louis at New York

This game featured the two best pitchers in the National League – Dwight Gooden for the Mets and John Tudor for the Cardinals, and both brought their A games.  Billed as a pitching duel that might determine the outcome of the Cy Young Award, this one exceeded all expectations.  Neither pitcher gave an inch, taking a scoreless game into extra innings.  With Doc Gooden tiring in the ninth, manager Davey Johnson would to go to his bullpen, and that’s where the game would turn.  Newcomer Cesar Cedeno would hit a home run off Jesse Orosco for the only run in the game.  Determined to finish the game, Tudor struts out to the mound in the 10th inning and finishes the shutout, striking out Darryl Stawberry, who represented the winning run.

If you are a fan of old school National League baseball, this was the game of the season, if not the decade.

Now that I’ve given you my top 10 from 1985, what are some of yours ?   Please let me know.

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2 Responses to Top 10 Memories from the 1985 Season

  1. Kathy Carlgren says:

    Oh thanks for those memories. Of course, my age is showing because I remember those first hand and not because of stories past down. There was just something exciting about Whitey ball and the thought process of “the game was never over” there was always a chance to get back in it and not because of the long ball. I am starting to see small ball coming back to a degree and that excites me. There was just something magical about that era in Cards baseball.


  2. Thanks for the comment, and I completely agree about how exciting that era was. No pitcher was safe once Vince Coleman or Willie McGee got on base, and the pressure they put on the defenses. It was a thing of beauty.

    I hope you are right, that there is a return to small ball fundamentals. I’d sure like to see more hit-and-runs, stolen bases. Turn the page on the steroid era long ball stuff.


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