Friday, June 27, 2008

Stop Crying Cardinals Fans

It is inter-league time and the Royals and Cardinals are playing the second installment of the 2008 I-70 Series. Each year when Kansas City and St. Louis hook up many Cardinals fans and announcers begin what has become a yearly ritual, whining about how a blown call cost their team the 1985 World Series. The mention of umpire Don Denkinger still sends many of the Cardinals faithful into a rage. What most of these fans refuse to understand is the missed call by Denkinger didn't cost the Cardinals the World Series. In the interest of setting the story straight this entry is going to revisit Game 6 of the 1985 World Series and show the Cardinals fans they have no one to blame but their own team for not winning the title.

Game 6 was played at what was then called Royals Stadium. Pitchers Danny Cox of the Cardinals and Charlie Liebrandt were both outstanding and the score was tied at 0-0 as the game headed into the 8th inning. In the 8th inning former Salt Lake Bees manager Brian Harper hit an RBI single and the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead. The lead was still 1-0 when the Royals came to bat in the bottom of the 9th. Jorge Orta led off the 9th hitting a ground ball to Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark. Clark fielded the grounder and flipped the ball to Cardinals pitcher Todd Worrell covering first. The ball was there on time and even Royals fans will agree that Jorge Orta should have been called out. But umpire Don Denkinger missed the call and Orta was safe at first base. Even though Orta was on base because of a missed call this did not cost the Cardinals the game. The chain of events that followed provided the Cardinals with opportunities to over come the call and win the game.

Steve Balboni followed Orta and hit a routine foul pop up between home plate and first base. Jack Clark and Darrell Porter converged on the ball but for some unknown reason neither of them made the catch and the ball harmlessly hit the ground. Cardinals fans I have spoken with about Game 6 have forgotten this play. Even though a high school junior varsity team makes the catch on that foul ball 100% of the time two Major League players on a team that is three outs from winning the World Series let it drop. Can't blame that on Don Denkinger Cardinals fans. Instead of one out and a runner on first there are no outs and Balboni was still at the plate. Taking advantage of the second life Balboni singled and the Royals had runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs.

Catcher Jim Sundberg was up next and he laid down a sacrifice bunt. Worrell fielded the ball and threw to third to nail Orta. Sundberg's bunt was not a good one and Worrell made a nice play to get the lead runner. The Royals gave up an out without moving the runners and there was one out with runners still on 1st and 2nd with Hal McRae the hitter.

The Hal McRae that stepped into the batters box that night was not the same Hal McRae that was one of the American Leagues more dominating players of the 1970s and early 80s. He was in the twilight of his career and he had only hit .259 in 1985. McRae was still a hitter to be feared but he was also a double play candidate and a double play would end the game and give the Cardinals the championship. McRae never got to swing the bat because Todd Worrell uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the runners to advance to 2nd and 3rd. With runners on 2nd and 3rd Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog had Worrell intentionally walk McRae. The wild pitch was a killer for the Cardinals and it was not the fault of Don Denkinger. This is another play in Game 6 that Cardinals fans fail to remember while they are claiming they were robbed.

With the bases loaded and one out Royals manager Dick Howser sent Dane Iorg to the plate to pinch hit for Dan Quisenberry. Dane Iorg was 35 years old and only batted 130 times for the Royals in 1985 hitting a weak .223. He wasn't a hitter to be feared but in this game Iorg was better than Worrell. Iorg hit a soft line drive to right field that scored two runs and giving the Royals an unbelievable victory. The Royals had staved off elimination and forced a deciding Game 7! Game 7 was anti-climatic as the Royals steamrolled the Cardinals 11-0 for their only World Championship.

Cardinals fans are still bitter and claim they were cheated out of the 1985 World Series. But the blown call at 1st base in the 9th inning of Game 6 did not decide the game or the World Series. A foul ball that wasn't caught, a wild pitch, and a complete meltdown by the entire St. Louis Cardinals team and manager in Game 7 were key factors that caused the Cardinals to lose. St. Louis fans need to stop playing the role of victim and blame their own team for not finishing off the Royals and winning the series.

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