As the members of the United Cardinal Bloggers post their top five iconic moments in Cardinals history, Jack Buck’s famous “Go Crazy Folks” call has made more than one appearance. And it should, it is certainly an iconic moment. If you have somehow missed this historic moment, or want to relive it just one more time, take a listen to this.
What the video does not show is the long period of silence following Ozzie Smith’s home run. That might have been the best part of Buck’s call, allowing the moment to play out with the cheering crowd and the sound of fireworks in the background. Obviously captivated by what he just saw, Buck eventually closed it out with recap of the amazing home run.
But it was not just Jack Buck that made this particular home run special. The visuals from that moment are especially powerful. From NBC flashing a graphic pointing out that Ozzie Smith had never hit a home run left handed, the dejected look on Tom Niedenfuer’s face as he walked off the mound, to the faces of the Cardinals fans savoring the victory, the image that is forever burned into our memory is the sight of Ozzie Smith rounding the bases with his fist high in the air.
It is indeed an iconic moment, and I understand why some of the UCB writers have put it on their lists. It is a good, no – it is a great choice. However, from purely a baseball perspective, it is dwarfed in importance by the mammoth home run by Jack Clark in the next game, also surrendered by Tom Niedenfuer. Here’s why.
Momentum in the 1985 NLCS had been very entertaining, and at times frustrating, to watch. The Dodgers looked impressive in the first two games at home, showing that their top two pitchers could match up with the best that the Cardinals had to offer. When the series returned to St. Louis, the running game kicked in and the Cardinals began to take control of the series. After losing Vince Coleman in a terrible pre-game accident, an emotional Cardinals team responded with a blowout, tying the series.
Game Five and been a microcosm of the entire series, with momentum going back and forth. It was with the Cardinals early, but slowly came around to Fernando Valenzuela and the Dodgers. With the game tied at 2-2 in the ninth inning, which happened to be the game score in the series, Ozzie Smith sent the huge St. Louis crowd home in a frenzy.
So far, both teams had won all of their games at home. Now the series returns to Los Angeles and the Dodgers have to like their chances.
In Game Six, the Dodgers got to a struggling Joaquin Andujar early, scoring a run in the first two innings. That lead would extend to 4-1 before Orel Hershiser ran out of gas in the seventh inning. Even with the tying runs in scoring position, momentum was still on the side of the Dodgers. Once again, Ozzie Smith victimized Tom Niedenfuer and the game was tied.
When Mike Marshall led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a solo home run, the momentum swung hard in favor of the Dodgers. They were just three outs away from tying the series and forcing a decisive Game Seven. They would get the first of those two before Jack Clark stepped up to the plate. With runners at second and third, and two outs, Clark guessed fastball and that’s exactly what he got from Niedenfuer. Clark did not miss and he sent the ball 450ft into the late afternoon Los Angeles sky. If you were watching the game, you still remember Pedro Guerrero slamming his glove into the outfield grass as the ball flew high over his head. He did not even turn around to see the baseball land. That moment was not lost on Pete.
Once again, Jack Buck added to the moment with most memorable call.
Adios, Goodbye and maybe …… that’s a winner.
And that describes exactly what happened. The ball came in fast, Clark took a big swing, and the ball left the field of play in a hurry. That one swing of the bat put the Cardinals in the World Series.
So why do we all remember the Go Crazy moment more than the Clark home run ? There are lot of reasons.
- Jack Clark was the Cardinals lone power hitter, and we expect him to hit a home run in that situation.
- Ozzie Smith was the last person you expected to hit a home run in that situation.
- Ozzie Smith’s home run was hit at home (in St. Louis)
- Jack Clark’s happened on the road (in Los Angeles)
- Ozzie’s home run was a walk-off.
- Clark’s home run, while a game and series winner, was not. There was still more baseball to be played, and that took away from the moment.
- Ozzie’s home run caused the huge home town crowd to erupt with noise that went on for several minutes. The sounds of fireworks in the background added to the excitement.
- Clark’s home run silenced the Dodgers crowd and the only excitement was supplied by Jack Buck’s call.
- Ozzie Smith’s home run happened later in the evening, when most TV viewers were home from work.
- Clark’s home run happened during the evening rush hour, and many did not see it happen live.
If Ozzie Smith does not hit that home run, the game goes on. Maybe the Cardinals still win it in extra innings, maybe they don’t. Either way, the series did not come to an end. If Clark does not get a hit in his at-bat, that game also ends and forces a winner take all Game Seven. His home run, not only gave the Cardinals the lead, but also added a much needed insurance run, making it that much harder for the Dodgers to tie or win the game. Ultimately, Clark’s homer sent the Cardinals to the 1985 World Series.
Iconic vs important, Ozzie vs The Ripper. You make the call.
This can also be applied to another item making most of the UCB top 5 lists: Game Six of the World Series. It was surely an exciting game, and a perfect reflection of how the Cardinals had played for the last two months of the regular season. But it was not a good game. Errors on both sides gave up important leads. Both bullpens gave up late leads in the worst possible situations. David Freese’s game tying triple in the ninth inning was just as much Nelson Cruz not going hard into the outfield wall as it was a clutch hit. And what was Ron Washington thinking when he brought Darren Oliver into the game in the tenth inning?
Exciting ? Off the charts. As a baseball game, it was sloppy, sloppy sloppy. If you want to see a great baseball game, go back a couple of weeks to Game Five of the NLDS in Philadelphia. Now that was a nearly perfect baseball game.