Major League Baseball

Another favorite moment

AP Photo/Lennox McLendon

It POURED on the morning of October 14, 1985.  Game five of the NLCS between the Cardinals and the Dodgers didn’t start until late afternoon, but in the morning, it was raining hard.  I remember because I had to go downtown to work for something early, at about 9:00, and I got a flat tire.  I had a 1984 red Honda CRX, a tiny little car, and somehow on 40 near McKnight my right front tire went flat.  So, I pulled over, changed it, got soaked, and went on my merry way.

I had to go home and change clothes and then pick up my then girlfriend (now wife), and her brother and fiancé.  We made sure to get downtown early for the game, at about 11:30, and parked in Stadium Garage west.  Union Station had just been renovated for the first time and opened that summer, so we walked down there for lunch and picked up sandwiches from a place called Jerry’s Sub Shop.  We all ate at Union Station, but the sandwiches were huge, so we all put the other half we had in a bag and walked down to the ballpark.

As we strolled down Market street and then over to Walnut toward Busch Stadium, the crowd was large and apprehensive.  After losing the first two games in L.A., the Cards had won the next two…but everyone knew they didn’t want to return to Dodger Stadium down 3-2.  We saw the relatively new Channel 5 sports anchor Mike Bush (who I didn’t know yet) and meteorologist Bob Richards standing outside the KSDK building on the other side of the street.  That’s a vivid memory.  In those days, they didn’t care what you brought into the ballpark.  There was no security.  So, when we walked in with our sandwiches and fountain drinks, nobody said anything.

The sun broke through when we got to our seats in the upper deck in right field at the old Busch Stadium.  The game was close and tense, and since it was about a 3:00 start, afternoon turned into early evening as the game unfolded.  The Cards scored two in the first off Fernando Valenzuela on a Tom Herr double that scored Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith, and we felt really good.  But L.A. came back with two in the fourth…a two-run homer by Bill Madlock, and it was 2-2.  The next four innings were torture.  The Redbirds put runners in scoring position in the 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th innings and couldn’t put one across the plate.  Whitey Herzog took Bob Forsch out in that fourth inning, and the Cardinal bullpen allowed just three Dodger baserunners in 5 2/3 innings.

The way things were going when we got to the bottom of the ninth, it seemed like extra innings were inevitable.  Fernando went the first eight for the Dodgers, and they had a good bullpen.  The Cardinal bullpen had been magnificent all year long, and they still had more to get from Jeff Lahti, who had pitched the top of the ninth, plus Bill Campbell and rookie Rick Horton, who both could give multiple effective innings.

So as the bottom of the ninth opened, we started getting our sandwiches from beneath our seats.  Tom Niedenfuer came on for L.A., and got Willie on an easy popup to the third baseman.  We were hoping Ozzie could get on and do something, with Herr and Jack Clark…both hitting well over .300 in the series…behind him.  The four pitches seemed to take forever. Ozzie was hitting lefthanded.  He rarely hit home runs, but little did I know at that point that he had NEVER hit one while batting lefty.  He swung hard at the first one.  Foul ball.  He swung hard at the second.  Foul ball.  He was going to strike out, right?  We all had giant half-sandwiches on our laps as Ozzie took ball one.

Then it happened.  Smith corked one into right down the line.  Remember, we’re in the upper deck in right field.  We couldn’t see that the ball bounced off a column above the yellow line, so we thought it was a double as it bounced back to the field, and Dodger shortstop Mariano Duncan tried to play the ball as it was thrown back in.  Everyone in my group instinctively shot up…tossing roast beef, lettuce, tomato, bread and other items all over the people in front of us.  I saw second base umpire Dick Stello signal a home run and heard the entire ballpark go, well, crazy.

It was unbelievable.  A 3-2 win.  The entire crowd stayed in the stadium and kept cheering until Ozzie returned minutes later for a curtain call.  The exhilaration was unbelievable.

When we finally DID get back to our car and out onto 8th street, everyone was honking their horns.  And the at-bat was playing on the radio.  When we got to the point of Ozzie’s homer, all the horns stopped.  And for the first time, we heard The Call.  To this day, Ozzie says Jack Buck helped is career immensely because of the “Go Crazy Folks, Go Crazy” call.

What an incredible day, and what an amazing memory.  And if you happened to be in the upper deck in right field for the Go Crazy game and got sandwich fixings all over you, now you know who did it, and I apologize.  One of my favorite memories from the business.  And I still get chills when I hear the call.