April 12, 2010; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals hall of famers Ozzie Smith and Whitey Herzog before the game against the Houston Astros for the Cardinals opening day at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

Who am I? Name that Cardinal

The 1982 World Champion Cardinals are placed on a special pedestal in the hearts of St. Louis Cardinal fans.  It was one of those teams that really established a face of its own.  It is a team that others in the franchise will always be compared to.  It was the beginning of the Whitey Herzog era.  It was the birth of Whitey Ball.  It was a team with future Hall of Famers and all time Cardinal favorites; the legends of the franchise.  It exploited an aspect of the game that has truly faded away, the running game.  They were the running Redbirds.  It proved to Major League Baseball that speed kills (the opposing teams).

 

This edition of “Who am I? Name that Cardinal” explores one of those Running Redbirds.  In 1982 when a Cardinal reached base you waited to see not if they were going to swipe the next base, but rather when they were going to take off.  They were a team that truly lacked power for the long ball.  As a team they only hit a combined 67 home runs for the entire season.  “Silent” George Hendrick was their power hitter and he led the team with a whopping 19 homeruns and 104 RBI’s on the year.  They wouldn’t kill you with the big blast but they would run you to death on the base paths.   

The team contained legendary speedsters like Ozzie Smith, Lonnie Smith, Willie McGee and David Green.  As a team they compiled a total of 200 stolen bases for the season.  That ranked them first in the National League.  Keith Hernandez, not known for his speed contributed 19 stolen bases that year.  They also led the National League in triples with 52.  They had to generate their runs.  They had to find other ways to win and they did. 

The 1982 season was like a continuous highlight film for Cardinal Nation.  It provided moments that will always be related to the success of the franchise.  This particular highlight was once again provided by on the of the most unlikely characters on the roster.  It was his career defining moment and concreted his place in Cardinal history.  Who am I?  Here are the clues: 

I grew up in Effignham, Illinois and was a lifetime Cardinal fan.

I was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1974 as an amateur free agent.

Even thought I signed in 1974, I didn’t make it to the major league level until May 25, 1981.

My entire career only lasted for 5 seasons.  I spent four of these with the Cardinals.

After 4 seasons, I was released by the Cardinals and played 1 season with the Texas Rangers.

I was a third string catcher behind Gene Tenace and Darrell Porter

As a part of the Running Redbirds, I contributed 2 stolen bases for the season.

But one of my stolen bases became one of the most memorable in Cardinal History.

My career defining moment came on August 22, 1982.

I surprised everyone with my stolen base.  In interviews after the steal my manger said he didn’t call for the steal and honestly I didn’t know I was going to steal until I was actually up and running.

I was in the game only because Gene Tenace had been lifted for a pinch runner and Darrell Porter had been replaced by a pinch hitter.

We were playing the Giants and Gary Lavelle was pitching.  It was the bottom of the 12th inning, 2 outs and David Green was batting.  Ozzie Smith was on first, Willie McGee was on second and I was on third.  Green had two strikes on him and Lavelle had completely disregarded the fact that I was third.  As he delivered the next pitch I broke for home and slid under the tag of Milt May to win the game.  There has been argument that the pitch thrown by Lavelle was actually the third strike but the umpire was so shocked that I stole home, he forgot to make the call. 

Who am I? Click here for the answer.

 

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Tags: Darrell Porter David Green Featured Gary Lavelle Gene Tenace Glenn Brummer Keith Hernandez Lonnie Smith Milt May Ozzie Smith Popular Redbird Rants St Louis Cardinals Stealing Home Whitey Herzog Willie McGee

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