It’s day two of 101 ESPN Flashback Week, and every day we’re looking back at one of the five most recent decades. I have favorite moments from each, and today we go to the ’80s.
Cardinals win the 1982 World Series: I turned 5 years old the summer of 1967, the last time the Cardinals had won the World Series before 1982. So, Whitey Herzog gave me my real introduction to winning baseball, and I had a front row seat…Literally. I was the first base field guard for Costello Service that whole season and watched Bruce Sutter strike out Gorman Thomas for the final out from about 100 feet away. I’ve been pretty lucky, and it doesn’t get any better than that.
Cesar Cedeno Home Run helps the Cardinals clinch in 1985: 1985 is still my favorite baseball season of all time, in large part because their success was so unexpected. With the Bruce Sutter’s departure and 1984’s struggles, expectations were low. Yet they won 101 games. On the day they clinched the division, Cesar Cedeno…who had hit .241 with three homers in 83 games for the Reds…hit his sixth Cardinal home run. Jack Buck was at the top of his game, and Cubs pitcher Jay Baller knocked Cedeno down with a fastball. Jack said, “Baller just shook up Cedeno.” Then we hear the crack of the bat and Jack says “There’s a shakeup, folks. Knock me down, will ya? Cedeno hits a home run off Baller, and the Cardinals lead 4-to-1.” And awesome call, and a dramatic clincher. What a moment.
The Big Red win vs. Washington: The football Cardinals were a tease in the 80’s, and never more than in 1984. They were 4-3 as the defending NFC Champion Redskins came to Busch, and were down 24-17 when Neil Lomax hit Roy Green for an 83-yard touchdown bomb late in the 4th quarter, but kicker Neil O’Donoghue missed the PAT. The defense stood, and Lomax drove the Big Red to field goal range for a last play try by O’Donoghue, who sparked pandemonium with a 21 yard, game winning field goal, 26-24. After winning one more, the Cardinals suffered three close, devastating defeats in a row, and couldn’t beat the ‘Skins a second time, in Washington in the season finale, to make the playoffs.
Monday Night Miracle: It’s kind of sad that the greatest moment in Blues history came in a series they lost. I was in the rafters, as high as you could sit in the old Arena, and I had given up. I was ready to head downstairs to cover the post mortem to another disappointing Blues season. Down 5-2, Blues captain Brian Sutter scored with twelve minutes left. The Blues made it 5-4 when Greg Paslawski took a pass from Sutter and found the back of the net, and the crowd got back into the game. Paslawski caused bedlam when he scored with 1:17 to go, tying the game at five. And then Doug Wickenheiser, who has been the top pick in the draft for Montreal in 1980 but washed out there, scored 7:30 into overtime to send the nearly 18,000 into a frenzy. To have a moment like this NOT be at the top means it was a pretty amazing decade.
Crombeen winner vs. Pittsburgh: The first truly great Blues team was the 1980-81 edition, which was good enough to win a Stanley Cup. They were the number two seed in the playoffs, and got a scare from #15 Pittsburgh. In the deciding fifth game, the Blues led 3-2 midway through the third period, but the Penguins tied it. The game went to overtime, and then a second overtime, but the Blues couldn’t get the puck past Penguins (and future Blues) goalie Greg Millen. It wasn’t until their 51st shot, at 5:16 of the second overtime by Mike Crombeen, who had hardly played in OT, that the Blues were able to exhale with a 4-3 win. Unfortunately, that series took a lot out of them, and the Blues lost to the Rangers in round two.
With as awesome as the ’80s were, there is one moment that stands out as my favorite…
Ozzie’s home run: My most unexpected, high-impact baseball moment ever. I was in the upper deck in right field at the old Busch Stadium, so I couldn’t see the right field wall. Obviously, Ozzie hadn’t hit a left-handed home run yet in his career, which was in its 8th year. Our group had prepared for extra innings by getting out the rest of the sub sandwiches we had brought in before the game, and when that ball hit the pillar and bounced back, I thought it was off the wall. Only when the umpire signaled home run did we leap from our seats, spreading bread, lettuce, tomato and lunch meat all over the entire section in front of us. And everybody loved it. For a singular moment, Ozzie’s home run can’t be beat for a Cardinal fan in St. Louis.