While it is hard to look past the contributions of David Freese in the 2011 post-season, a singular award for outstanding performance makes it far too easy to overlook some unbelievable contributions of his teammates, and at times, those of the competition. With that as an introduction, I offer up the Cardinals post-season Massively Valuable But Overlooked Performances – the MVBOPs.
1964 – St. Louis vs New York (Yankees)
Bob Gibson was a very deserving World Series MVP. He entered the fall classic with a growing reputation of being a big game pitcher, and he did not disappoint in his 3 starts. He would win two of those games, including a thrilling ten inning performance in Game Five. Along the way, he would set a record for strikeouts in a World Series by fanning 31 Yankees.
Tim McCarver should have been the MVP. The young catcher would hit .478 – yes, that’s hit .478 (11 for 23). Add another five walks and his OBP rose to a lofty .552. In those 11 hits, three would be for extra bases (a double, triple and home run). Three of McCarvers five RBIs came in one swing of the bat, making Gibson a Game Five winner in extra innings. If that was not enough, McCarver would steal home, as part of a double steal with Mike Shannon, giving the Cardinals an important early lead in Game Seven.
Honorable mention should go to the NL MVP, Ken Boyer. He hit a pair of home runs, including a grand slam that turned the series around in Game Four. In addition, he was a walking highlight reel on the field. In nearly every game, he made a spectacular play to save a run. One of those even saved the head of NL President, Warren Giles, as Boyer reached far into the seats to make an amazing catch.
For the Yankees, Mickey Mantle and Tom Tresh were downright scary in their production. Mantle would hit 3 home runs and drive in 8 runs. Tresh hit a pair and drove in seven.
1967 – St. Louis vs Boston
By this time, the Bob Gibson’s reputation was firmly established. For him to win another MVP award, he would have to pitch some of the best baseball of his career. And he did just that. This was a preview of what the National League would see throughout all of 1968.
In three starts, Gibson would pitch all 27 innings, allowing just three runs. If you do the math, that is an eye-popping ERA of 1.0. Add 25 strikeouts and just 14 hits allowed for a WHIP of .704. Thanks to a less demanding end to the regular season, the Cardinals were able to set up Gibson’s starts so that he could dominate, and he did.
Lou Brock was just as important as a catalyst at the top of the order. He would go 12 for 29 in the series, including two doubles, a triple and home run. The Cardinals stole 7 bases in the series, all belonging to Brock. Brock set the table, and …..
Roger Maris cleared it. While the Boston pitchers largely silenced the Cardinals bats, Maris just gave them fits. He would collect 10 hits, including a double and home run. That was good for seven RBIs, leading the team. But it went much farther than that. He would only strike out once, meaning he was putting the ball in play. When you have Lou Brock and Curt Flood on base in front of you, balls in play lead to runs in bunches. And they did in every Cardinals win.
Julian Javier, known more for his defense, also had a very good World Series. He managed the lone hit against Jim Lonborg in Game Two and broke open Game Seven with a big home run. Cardinals fans were thrilled to see Javier have a good series since he missed most of 1964 with an injury.
For the Red Sox, Jim Lonborg matched Bob Gibson until running out of gas in Game Seven. He was simply brilliant, nearly throwing a no-hitter in Game Two. With the exception of Bob Gibson’s three starts, and a sparkling performance from Nelson Briles, the Red Sox were able to hit the rest of the Cardinals pitchers with alarming frequency. Carl “The Mayor” Yazstrzemski led the offensive charge as an extra base hitting machine, slugging a mighty .850.
1968 – St. Louis vs Detroit
Mickey Lolich was the World Series MVP, pitching nearly as well in this series as Gibson did the previous year. Going into the series, Denny McLain was the concern, but Lolich was able to exploit a major weakness in the Cardinals batting order – they just could not hit lefties. And he did so brilliantly.
Bob Gibson’s 1968 was at least as good as that of Lolich. Gibson also threw three complete games, but the difference was a loss in Game Seven. Gibson gave up the same number of runs, allowed fewer hits and walks and set a new major league strikeout record for 17 in a game and 35 in the series. While it would have been very hard not to recognize Lolich’s 3-0 record, it is easy to forget how dominating Gibson was in that series. The difference was one pitch to Jim Northrup.
Also lost in the box score was another great performance from Lou Brock. He would improve on his 1967 numbers, going 13 for 28, with three doubles, a triple and pair of home runs. He would also match his seven stolen bases from 1967. Unfortunately for Brock and the Cardinals, the heart of the batting order was held in check and all those hits and stolen bases largely went for nothing. Lou Brock had truly become the Cardinals “Mr. October”.
Next time we will look at the 1980s and 2000s postseasons, where the MVP selections were a bit more controversial.