ST. LOUIS -- Amid the celebrations of the Cardinals' recent string of success, St. Louis took time to look back on one of the franchise's most memorable seasons.The Cardinals' 1987 National League Championship team has reunited for this weekend's series against the Braves to celebrate its 30th anniversary. The present-day
ST. LOUIS -- Amid the celebrations of the Cardinals' recent string of success, St. Louis took time to look back on one of the franchise's most memorable seasons.
The Cardinals' 1987 National League Championship team has reunited for this weekend's series against the Braves to celebrate its 30th anniversary. The present-day team's recent winning ways provided the perfect backdrop for former players and coaches to look back on a terrific season, in which they defied expectations.
"With the success we had, it was kind of a sleeper year," Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith said. "It was a great year when you look at it. We've had a chance now to look at some of the highlights from the year, and you look at what we were able to do; you know Jack [Clark] had a great year, Terry [Pendleton] had a great year, that was my best offensive year. It was just a fun group of guys to play with."
More than 20 members of the '87 team met in St. Louis and were honored prior to Saturday night's game against the Braves, including manager Whitey Herzog. The team came onto the field prior to the game, with Smith throwing out the first pitch to McGee.
The '87 Cardinals finished first in the NL East for the final time before moving to the NL Central in 1994. They won the division over the 1986 World Champion Mets despite losing multiple players to injury throughout the season, including Clark.
The team went on to face the Giants in the NLCS. Prior to Game 6 of that series, San Francisco had a 3-2 advantage and went into Busch Stadium confident it would come away with the win.
"[The Giants] had their bags packed before that game [in St. Louis]. I prayed, because I thought they needed humbling," said outfielder Willie McGee. "[I was] by my locker [thinking], 'God, if you don't ever let us win another game, let us win this game.' I'll never forget that."
The Cardinals did indeed win that game, as well as the next one to advance to the World Series vs. the Twins. The home team was victorious in every game of the series, with Minnesota taking advantage of its edge at the Metrodome, winning Game 7, 4-2, to claim the title.
"It was just one of those weird years where we probably should have won it, but didn't," Smith said. "It was fun to be a part of that team. ... Our inner core of defense was always there."
Despite the injuries and not having a pitcher win more than 11 games that year, the Cardinals found ways to win, including Smith finishing with a career-high .303 batting average. And there were plenty of memorable moments, such as Tom Lawless' bat flip in dramatic fashion during Game 4 of the World Series.
"[The team] had kind of a Golden State Warriors-type feel to it," said Joe Magrane, rookie pitcher for the Cardinals in '87 and current MLB Network color commentator. "Just the freedom and the speed and the way that we played the game. … [That year] gave me an appreciation for how difficult it is to win. It gave me the appreciation for how difficult it is to get to that point."
Jedd Gyorko was scratched from Saturday's lineup just more than an hour before first pitch due to right knee irritation. Greg Garcia started at third base in his place and batted eighth.
Alaina Getzenberg is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis.