St. Louis Cardinals: Revisiting “The Call” 35 years later

Don Denkinger’s missed call in the 1985 World Series gave the Royals momentum to win Game 6, but that’s not why St. Louis lost. Missed opportunities, a lack of offense, and a Game 7 to forget doomed the ‘85 Cards.

We all know what happened that infamous night in Kansas City on October 26th, 1985. Brian Harper came off the bench to give the St. Louis Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the 8th inning. Todd Worrell was on the mound to get three outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Jorge Orta hit a high chopper to the right side of the infield. First baseman Jack Clark fielded the ball as Worrell raced to cover the bag. The throw was a bit wide to Worrell’s left but still caught for out #1.

Except…Denkinger inexplicably ruled Orta safe.

Make no mistake about it. It was a brutal missed call in the biggest of moments. It stole momentum from the Cardinals. Sure enough, everything snowballed. Jack Clark missed a foul pop fly off the next pitch, Worrell and catcher Darrell Porter got crossed up on a pitch, and Dane Iorg’s base hit scored the game winning runs. A brutal loss that will never be forgotten.

Even though Denkinger missed the call, it was not why the Cardinals lost. We could still have closed out the game with Worrell still on the mound.  There was still a Game 7, with Cy Young finalist John Tudor was on the mound.

It was not to be, as Bret Saberhagen pitched a brilliant complete-game shutout. An embarrassing 11-0 loss, where Whitey Herzog and Joaquin Andujar both got ejected in a heated bottom of the 5th.

You could even make the case the series should not have reached Game 6. After taking a 2-0 series lead heading into Busch Stadium, the offense only scored five runs total in games 3, 4, and 5. Before the Internet began to make “blown 3-1 series lead jokes,” the Cardinals had a chance to win the series in St. Louis with Bob Forsch starting Game 5. Alas, they lost 6-1.

Don Denkinger’s safe call was an egregious call, but it was not the reason St. Louis fell short of winning. An exciting offense based on speed and small-ball tactics only scored thirteen runs in those seven games. A poor performance in Game 7 where much of the Cardinals energy was directed at the umpires sealed the deal.

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In the end, Denkinger’s call should have just been a mere footnote in the 1985 World Series, as Cardinals simply squandered a series they should have won.