St. Louis Cardinals: Remembering the 1982 indispensable bench

Dane Iorg, Gene Tenace, Steve Braun, and Jim Kaat all played indispensable bench roles for the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals. It’s 80s week, so let’s give them their due.

Any major league club needs a strong bench if they expect to contend for the postseason. Whether it’s for defensive needs at the end of the game, a bat to pinch-hit, or a flexible pitcher who can fill many roles coming out of the bullpen, a good bench is indispensable. The bench for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982 turned out to be a particularly strong one.

Primarily constructed by Whitey Herzog after his arrival in St. Louis, it was a flexible bench, which allowed the Hall of Fame manager to use his strategic skills freely during this memorable season.

Dane Iorg, Gene Tenace, Steve Braun, and Jim Kaat are just some of the names which formed the core of this indispensable bench. Many Cardinal fans may have forgotten or maybe never even heard of these players. Nevertheless, without their contributions, the Cardinals may have fallen short of the 1982 World Championship.

Let’s look at all four of these former Cardinals and the key roles they played in 1982.

Dane Iorg

Dane Iorg is probably one of my all-time favorite bench/role players. If not for the fact he played in St. Louis at the same time as Keith Hernandez, he may have been an everyday player at first base for the Cardinals.

Whitey Herzog inherited Dane Iorg when he became the Cardinal manager in 1980. Iorg had arrived in St. Louis in 1977 in a trade with the Phillies and proved to be a versatile role player for the Cardinals. The left-handed bat could play both of the corner outfield positions and first base.

During the 1982 season, Iorg’s role was primarily as a corner outfielder, a pinch hitter, and on occasions filing in for Hernandez at first base. He hit a slash line of .294/.352/.361 with 34 RBI in 102 games. However, his most effective role was as a sub brought in during the game. In this role, his slash line was .351/.415/.351 in 35 games, with an OPS+ of 115.

But it was in the 1982 World Series vs the Milwaukee Brewers where he proved his worth. The entire 1982 Series was played under American League rules and Dane Iorg was the Cardinals primary DH. In five games the 6’0” 180 lb California native hit a slash line of .529/.529/.882 with an OPS of 1.412. He also had two doubles and a triple in the pivotal game six.

Gene Tenace

While Cardinal fans debate who should be the primary backup to Yadier Molina in 2020, the 1982 Cardinals had three-time World Series catcher Gene Tenace. The right-handed bat came to St. Louis in a trade before the 1981 season.

Tenace had been a member of three consecutive World Series Championship teams (72-74) while a member of the Oakland A’s. During his years in Oakland, he played both first base and catcher, winning the 1972 World Series MVP Award as a catcher.

During the 1982 season, he split the catching duties with Darrell Porter, primarily playing vs left-handed pitchers. Herzog’s platoon system worked well, with Tenace hitting a slash line of .258/.436/.500 and an OPS+ of 161.

Because of Darrell Porter’s postseason heroics in 1982, Tenace saw little action in the NLCS and World Series. Nevertheless, Tenace’s leadership in the clubhouse provided the Cardinals a much-needed voice during the entire 1982 season.

Steve Braun

Steve Braun was the quintessential pinch hitter if there ever was one. It was certainly the role Whitey Herzog had Braun fulfill in 1982 for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Braun had a journey man’s career that started in 1971 in Minnesota, with stints in Seattle, and Kansas City, before landing in St. Louis in 1981. Used as a pinch hitter and DH in his previous stops, Braun was the go-to left-handed bat off the bench for the Cardinals in 1982.

The 5’10” 180 lb Braun, had a PH slash line in 1982 of .293/.383/.366 with a .749 OPS and a 108 OPS+ in 47 games. This complemented his total 1982 slash line of .274/.384/.339 with a 104 OPS+ in 58 games.

During the 1982 World Series, his RBI pinch-hit single in the eighth inning of Game 7 helped secure the 6-3 victory and the Cardinals 9th World Series title.

Jim Kaat

The left-handed Jim Kaat was the ideal bullpen weapon for Whitey Herzog. He was a versatile pitcher who could eat up innings as either an occasional starter, long reliever, left-handed specialist, or even a closer.

Kaat, in 1982, had a 5-3 record with a 4.08 ERA in 75 innings pitched. He was also 43 years old in 1982 and was third on the team in innings pitched and appearances behind Bruce Sutter and Doug Bair. Also, did I mention he was 43 years old?

Herzog brought Kaat out of the bullpen for two starts during doubleheaders in 1982. The first one was against the Chicago Cubs on June 26th where he pitched for six innings and gave up one run in a 2-1 Cardinal victory. The second was a key three-inning start against the New York Mets in an eventual 6-2 Cardinal victory on September 18th.

Finally, during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 2nd in a 12-inning game, Kaat pitched the last six innings to save an overworked bullpen. Although the Cardinals eventually lost the game, Jim Kaat only gave up 2 ER and allowed the bullpen a needed rest.

There were others….

Of course, there were others on the bench who made contributions in 1982, such as outfielders Tito Landrum and David Green. Also, there was the versatile infielder Mike Ramsey who led the bench with appearances in 112 games and 290 times at the plate.

Finally, most of us won’t forget third-string catcher Glenn Brummer who stole home in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the Cardinals a 5-4 win over the San Francisco Giants. This was one of his four career steals.

Next: The 26-man roster will come with a catch

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To conclude, any championship team needs a strong bench. Like in 2006 and 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals of 1982 had a strong bench. While we always remember the players who played every day, stole bases, drove in runs, recorded the most victories or the most saves, it’s the guys on the bench who often save the day.

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