(BaseballStL) -- “Any women in the room?” Cardinal great Bob Gibson asked as he pulled on his number 45 Cardinal jersey and took his place with the other assembled members of the 1964 St. Louis Cardinal World Championship team.
Hear from three Cardinal legends: 1-on-1 interviews on the historic 1964 championship.
Assured there were not, Gibson uttered a playful epithet to which outfielder Carl Warwick deadpanned, “Well, that sounds familiar.”
Like they had never been apart, the playful teasing and inside jokes filled the room as 15 members of the world champions of that year gathered in the pressroom of Busch Stadium Monday to relive the improbable season, culminating in a seven-game World Series in which they defeated the New York Yankees.
Gibson won two games in that series as well as many crucial games down the stretch in one of the most dramatic and improbably late-season runs in baseball history.
On August 23 of that year, the Cardinals had fallen 11 games behind the seemingly invincible Philadelphia Phillies who led the National League most of the year. So disappointing was the Cardinal performance to that point that owner August Busch fired General Manager Bing Devine in early August and was about to fire manager Johnny Keane but relented, fearful it was too much disruption for a team already underperforming.
Instead, Busch made a verbal commitment to Leo Durocher to manager the Cardinals in 1965 and word got out that Keane was a lame duck.
The Cardinals reeled off a six-game winning streak immediately after that and continued to play well in September. But catching the Phillies seemed impossible.
On Sept. 20, with a dozen games left in the season, the Cards and the Cincinnati Reds were tied for second, six and half games behind the Phils.
But the Phillies were slumping, beset by fatigue and injuries, especially to their pitching staff. As two starters went down with injuries and another slumped badly, Phillies manager Gene Mauch used pitchers Jim Bunning and Chris Short on short rest six times down the stretch. The Phillies lost all six games.
The Phillie Phold started in earnest on September 21 when they lost to the Reds 1-0 on a steal of home. The Reds swept them as did the Cardinals in a crucial late season series. The Phils lost 10 in a row while the Cards won 8 straight, pushing them into first place with just three to play.
While the Cards lost two of those last three, they managed to win on the final day of the season while the Phillies took two of three from the Reds. Had the Cards lost that last game, there would have been a three-way tie with the Cards traveling to Cincinnati for the first play-off game.
The World Series saw the Cards split the first two at Busch, win two of three at Yankee Stadium, including a 10-inning game in which the Redbirds scored three in the 10th and Gibson pitched a complete game.
But it was the seventh game that goes down in baseball lore as one of the greatest achievements in World Series history.
Gibson, pitching on just three days rest after throwing 10 innings in New York, threw another complete game as the Cards held on for 7-5 win and a championship.
Cardinal shortstop Dick Groat recalled virtually every inning of the stretch run Monday, the ups and downs of the pennant chase and the glory of winning the World Series.
“We just didn’t quit,” Groat said, voice shaking a little. “I’ll never forget these guys.