St. Louis Cardinals: Four unsung World Series heroes
On every World Series Championship team, there are heroes who are remembered. But, in time, there are also some heroes who are forgotten.
The same is true in St. Louis Cardinals lore, where there are World Series heroes we remember quite well. Usually it’s the MVPs from a particular series such as Bob Gibson from 1967, Darrell Porter from 1982, David Eckstein from 2006, and, of course, David Freese from 2011. Sometimes it’s others like legendary players such as Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Scott Rolen or Albert Pujols.
But on every Cardinals World Series championship team there are heroes we may have forgotten. Maybe because their careers weren’t particularly memorable, or their stint with the Cardinals wasn’t very long.
These unsung heroes may have only been important in one or two games in a series, but their contribution made an impact. In fact, without their contribution, the Cardinals may not have had 11 World Series victories.
There are four I have identified from each of the last four World Series the Cardinals have won. Additionally, I examine why their contribution was indispensable to those championships.
Julian Javier (1967)
Javier was a staple at second base during most of his 12 years with the Cardinals, earning two All-Star appearances and a member of three World Series teams. He played more games at second than other player in franchise history, a list which includes Rogers Hornsby, Frankie Frisch, Red Schoendienst, and Tommy Herr.
After two subpar years in 1965 and 1966, Javier had a comeback year in 1967, slashing .281/.314/.404 with 14 home runs, 64 RBI, and a 105 OPS+. Finally, he was one of four Cardinals players to finish in the top ten of the Most Valuable Player balloting.
However, it was in the deciding Game 7 of the World Series against the Boston Red Sox where Javier’s right handed bat made him the unsung hero of 1967. In the sixth inning, Javier hit a three run homer against Red Sox ace Jim Lonberg, which led to a Cardinal 7-2 win and their 8th World Series championship.
Javier continued to be the Cardinals primary second baseman through 1970. After splitting time at second with Ted Sizemore in 1971, Javier asked to be traded, and was sent to the Cincinnati Reds in 1972. The Dominican Republic native retired after the 1972 season.
John Stuper (1982)
When the Cardinals came out of Spring Training in 1982, nobody would’ve forecast Stuper, an 18th round pick by the Pirates in 1978, as a World Series hero. After a poor showing in Triple-A in 1981, and a poor Spring Training in 1982, he was optioned to the minors to start the season.
However, Stuper excelled at Triple-A Louisville and was called up by the Cardinals on June 1. The right-hander was inserted in the Cardinals rotation and went on to go 9-7 with a 3.36 ERA in the 1982 regular season.
The Pennsylvania native continued to impress in the postseason, pitching in three games with a 3.32 ERA. But it was in Game 6 of the World Series vs the Milwaukee Brewers which made Stuper a World Series hero.
The Cardinals had come back to St. Louis down 3 games to 2 to the Brewers and looking at elimination. Manager Whitey Herzog called upon Stuper and the 25-year-old threw a complete game on the way to a 13-1 win. Stuper at one point in the game had retired 13 batters in a row, tying a rookie record set by Dickie Kerr of the White Sox in 1919.
Stuper’s win, not only put the Cardinals in Game 7, but also gave the bullpen a rest and allowed Herzog to use Bruce Sutter in a 2 inning save.
Stuper was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on September 9, 1984, and retired after the 1985 season. He has been the head baseball coach at Yale University since 1993.
Jeff Weaver (2006)
When Jeff Weaver arrived in St. Louis via a trade on July 5, 2006, he was a mess. The 29-year-old right-hander brought with him a 3-10 record with a 6.29 ERA. His first few outings as a Cardinal wasn’t encouraging either. By August 2, his ERA soard to 6.70 after allowing seven earned runs in just 3.1 innings against the Phillies.
Nevertheless, after working with Cardinals pitching coach, Dave Duncan, Weaver began showing gradual improvement, and by the end of the regular season had lowered his ERA to 5.76. The Weaver acquisition was paying off by the postseason.
He started – and won – Game 2 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres. He also started two games, pitching 11.2 innings and going 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA in the NLCS against the New York Mets.
But Weaver’s biggest contribution to the Cardinals 2006 World Championship was his World Series performance in Game 5 against the Detroit Tigers. The California native pitched 8 innings, gave up 4 hits and one earned run as the Cardinals won 4-2, clinching their 10th Championship.
Jeff Weaver signed with the Seattle Mariners in 2007, and finished his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010.
Allen Craig (2011)
David Freese’s heroics in the 2011 World Series, unfortunately, has made it easy to forget about Allen Craig. Nevertheless, Craig’s heroics during that series shouldn’t be overlooked.
Craig went into the 2011 postseason with a slashline of .315/.362/.555 and a 151 OPS+ while hitting 11 home runs and 40 RBI in just 75 games. During the NLCS against the Milwaukee Brewers, his right-handed bat was just warming up when he had the go-ahead pitch hit single in Game 6, to send the Cardinals to the World Series.
During the World Series against the Texas Rangers, Craig was a standout pitch-hitter for manager Tony La Russa and the Cardinals. The 26-year old hit go-ahead pitch hit singles in Games 1 and 2, and the go-ahead home run in Game 7. That home run tied a World Series record Kiki Cuyler and Hank Greenberg with three game winning RBI.
For that memorable World Series, Craig had 3 home runs and 5 RBI with a .737 SLG and an OPS of 1.154. Finally, most will remember Allen Craig catching the last out in the series.
Craig had two more very productive years for the Cardinals in 2012 and 2013, but unfortunately, injuries caught up with him by 2014. He was eventually traded to the Boston Red Sox and retired in 2019. He is now in the San Diego Padres front office as an advisor to Baseball Operations.
To wrap up…
Let’s be clear, I’m not advocating that Julian Javier, John Stuper, Jeff Weaver, and Allen Craig were more deserving of the World Series MVP than Bob Gibson, Darrell Porter, David Eckstein or David Freese. Nor am I trying to convince anyone they were more valuable than Lou Brock, Keith Hernandez, Scott Rolen or Albert Pujols.
I’m also not advocating there are not other ‘unsung’ heroes on those teams. You may remember other players who made a difference, but have been forgotten.
What I am advocating is that without the Javier’s sixth inning bat in Game 7 in 1967, or Stuper’s complete game in Game 6 in 1982, or Weaver’s Game 5 in 2006, or Craig’s home run in Game 7 in 2011, maybe we’re not looking at 11 World Series Championships.
When we remember those World Series, let’s not forget, these four Cardinals not only contributed to those championships, they also made a difference.