Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Tony La Russa career highlightsPosted by Chris Jaffe
You’ve probably already heard the news. Fresh off claiming his third world title, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa has decided to call it a career after five decades and 5,000-plus games as a dugout general.
La Russa, calling it a career.
This captures the best games and greatest moments, as well as oddest events. Also listed are some of the most impressive moments by his best players—so expect to read the words "Pujols" and "McGwire" a few times.
Its not meant to cover everything—that would take too long—just the most important parts.
Below, for your perusal, is a look back at some of the highlights of his career, both as player and manager.
May 10, 1963: At age 18, La Russa makes his major league debut as a member of the Kansas City A’s. He appears as a pinch runner in the top of the eighth and is stranded at first base.
His first plate appearance won't come until Aug. 15, in his 15th career game.
Sept. 6, 1963: A teenaged La Russa plays in a 14-inning game that ends in a walk-off HBP. Since 1950, it’s the longest game to end in a bases loaded HBP. The Los Angeles Angels top the Oakland A’s, 4-3.
Aug. 10, 1969: For the first time, La Russa appears in a game alongside a man he came up with in the A’s minor league system: Dave Duncan.
La Russa is 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter, and Duncan goes 0-for-4 as a catcher. Duncan, of course, will spend half his life in dugouts working alongside La Russa as his pitching coach.
(In May, 1970, they’ll appear in the starting lineup together for the first time in the majors, batting back-to-back, and just before Tito Francona, father of Terry Francona).
Duncan has always been around La Russa.
July 3, 1970: Clyde Wright no-hits the A’s. La Russa pops up in the sixth inning as a pinch hitter.
July 9, 1971: It’s an all-time classic pitchers duel as the A’s defeat the Angels 1-0 in a 20-inning marathon. Oakland’s Vida Blue and California’s Rudy May both have triple-digit Game Scores.
La Russa enters the game in the 10th and fans in his only plate appearance before manager Dick Williams yanks him for a pinch hitter in the 14th inning.
(As it happens, La Russa is lifted immediately after Duncan is pulled for another pinch-hitter).
Aug. 28, 1971: Now an Atlanta Brave, La Russa doesn’t play today, but that’s OK because the big news is a pre-game ceremony.
At Ron Santo Day at Wrigley Field, the veteran third baseman gives a speech in which he first publicly states he’s diabetic.
April 6, 1973: Now a Cub, La Russa goes out like he went in, appearing as a pinch runner in his final career appearance. Oddly, it’s Opening Day—a strange time for a last game.
Actually, it’s a nice pinch run stint. The Cubs enter the bottom of the ninth trailing 2-1, and La Russa scores the game-winning walk-off run while he appears as Santo’s legs.
Chicago White Sox managerial tenure
Aug. 3, 1979: La Russa manages his first game, taking over from Don Kessinger, the last player-manager in AL history. Chicago tops Toronto, 8-5.
Aug. 15, 1979: Chicago loses a heartbreaker to Baltimore, 2-1, when Eddie Murray steals home for the winning run in the 12th inning.
June 22, 1980: It’s one of baseball’s most bizarre fights. Detroit pinch-hitter Al Cowens leads off the 11th against Ed Farmer by grounding out—and takes the opportunity to charge the mound. The last time Cowens and Farmer faced each other (when Cowens was a Royal and Farmer a Ranger), Farmer broke Cowens’ jaw with a pitch, and this is attempted payback.
Oct. 4, 1980: At the behest of owner Bill Veeck, La Russa uses Minnie Minoso as a pinch-hitter, making him baseball’s second five-decade player.
Sept. 27, 1981: It’s a game that cuts completely against La Russa’s managerial reputation, as he leaves a relief pitcher in the game for nine innings, something that’s only happened twice in all of baseball since then. Against Chicago, the A’s lead off the game with eight consecutive singles. La Russa brinks in La Marr Hoyt to pitch the rest of the way, and behind him Chicago rallies from a 5-0 deficit to a 9-5 win.
July 7, 1982: Chicago’s star outfielder Harold Baines belts three home runs in three successive at-bats, including a grand slam. He has six RBIs in Chicago’s 7-0 win over Detroit.
Aug. 6, 1983: A 6-4 Chicago win over Baltimore gives La Russa a 295-294 career record. From this moment forward, it will always be over .500.
Sept. 29, 1983: The White Sox have already clinched the AL West title, but that still doesn’t mean they like it when A’s rookie Mike Warren no-hits them in a 3-0 decision. Even with this loss, the White Sox go 29-6 over the final weeks of the season.
Oct. 8, 1983: ALCS Game Four: The Orioles clinch the pennant by winning this game 3-0 in 10 innings over the White Sox.
Chicago’s moment to rue comes in the seventh inning where bad base running by Jerry Dybzinski costs them a run and the game. He’s on first with teammate Vance Law on second when Julio Cruz singles. Dybzinski overruns second, apparently not realizing Law is perched on third. Law ends up moving toward home, where he’s thrown out, while Dybzinski flees back to second.
April 7, 1984: In Chicago’s third game of the season, the White Sox are no-hit by Detroit’s Jack Morris. Detroit improves to 4-0 en route to a 35-5 start.
May 8-9, 1984: It’s the longest game in American League history. The White Sox top the Brewers, 7-6, on a walk-off home run by Harold Baines in the bottom of the 25th inning.
June 22, 1984: Prior to the day’s Twins-White Sox game, there’s a tearful pregame ceremony where Twins owner Calvin Griffith officially signs the team over to new owner Carl Pohlard, ending nearly 75 years of a Griffith family ownership share in the franchise.
June 24, 1984: For the second straight game, the Twins hit an inside-the-park home run against La Russa’s White Sox. Yesterday it was Randy Bush and today it’s Tim Teufel.
June 27, 1984: It’s not the sort of game one brags about, as a White Sox batter is picked off base in four consecutive innings by the Seattle Mariners. Officially, one is a caught steal at home, but that’s just because runner Vance Law makes a break after getting picked off at third. Vance Law, Rudy Law, Tom Paciorek, and Julio Cruz are the embarrassed runners. Chicago wins anyway, 9-7.
July 19, 1985: It’s something that happens only three times in the 20th century. Two Hall of Fame starting pitchers go the distance against each other in a 1-0 game in which the only run comes when a Hall of Famer slugs a home run. Chicago’s Tom Seaver tops Minnesota’s Bert Blyleven thanks to a Carlton Fisk home run.
May 12, 1986: La Russa manages his 1,000th game. He’s 506-491 in his career so far.
May 28, 1986: Chicago starting pitcher Joe Cowley becomes the first man in the 20th century to begin a game by fanning the first seven batters he faces. Despite that, he doesn’t get out of the fifth and loses.
June 19, 1986: Chicago beats the Twins 9-8 to improve their record to 26-38, but it’s too little and too late for team GM Hawk Harrelson. He fires La Russa after the game. It’s the only time La Russa is fired as manager.
Oakland A’s managerial tenure
July 7, 1986: La Russa takes over as A’s manager, and they win 6-4 over Boston. The A’s were 31-52 before he appears but will go 45-34 under him the rest of the way.
Big Mac has been with La Russa nearly his entire time in the majors.
Aug. 28, 1986: In the second game of a doubleheader, Earl Weaver’s Orioles run all over Oakland catcher Mickey Tettleton, going 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts.
It’s the only time a Weaver-led team will steal more than five bases in a game. The A’s win anyway, 8-7, on a walk-off triple by Carney Lansford.
April 25, 1987: Dennis Eckersley, in his first month with La Russa’s Oakland club, gets his first career save since 1976. He won’t get another one until June but then becomes the game’s elite closer.
July 26, 1987: Milwaukee’s Paul Molitor steals second, third, and home in one inning against La Russa’s A’s.
July 3, 1988: A’s relief pitcher Gene Nelson enters the game as a pinch runner and steals a base. He’s the first AL pitcher to steal since Blue Moon Odom did it in 1973 (also for the A’s).
Sept. 23, 1988: In the first inning against Milwaukee, Jose Canseco steals second base, creating the 40 steals / 40 homers club. He’ll later get his 41st home of the year as the A’s top the Brewers, 9-8 in 14 innings.
Oct. 5, 1988: ALCS Game One: The A’s top the Red Sox, 2-1, to begin a sweep in the ALCS. There is controversy as star slugger Canseco has to deny a report made by Washington sportswriter Tom Boswell that he’d used steroids. Boston fans will heckle him for it during the first two games of the ALCS.
Oct. 15, 1988: World Series Game One: It’s one of the most famous games in World Series history. Kirk Gibson belts a pinch-hit home run off A’s uber-closer Dennis Eckersley for the walk-off, 5-4 Dodger win over the A’s. This will key a five-game massive upset by the Dodgers in the World Series.
Oct. 18, 1988: World Series Game Three: Though largely forgotten, the A’s win Game Three of the World Series on a walk-off home run by Mark McGwire, 2-1. Thus, the 1988 Fall Classic becomes the first postseason series to feature two walk-off home runs. It’s the only time one of La Russa’s four 100-win teams ever win a World Series game. The A’s lose the Series two games later, though.
July 11, 1989: The first All-Star Game managed by La Russa is a memorable one, as Bo Jackson begins the game by launching a mammoth home run shot.
July 29, 1989: While facing a young Randy Johnson of the Mariners, the A’s steals eight bases. Five steals come from Rickey Henderson, his personal best. Henderson gets his steals despite zero hits on the day. (He walks four times).
Oct. 17, 1989: World Series Game Three: What’s probably the most boring postseason in recent decades receives a jolt in the worst possible way. Just before Game Three between the A’s and Giants begins, an earthquake rocks the Bay Area. The game will be played ten days later, and the A’s sweep the Series for La Russa’s first world title.
April 20, 1990: Seattle’s Brian Holman is one out from a perfect game against the A’s when pinch-hitter (and former Mariner) Ken Phelps swats a home run.
May 9, 1990: The A’s top the Yankees, 2-1 in 11 innings, on a walk-off walk to Rickey Henderson.
June 11, 1990: Nolan Ryan tosses his sixth career no-hitter and becomes the oldest person ever to toss a no-hitter (a record he’ll later break on his own) when he beats the A’s, 5-0. Ryan walks Walt Weiss in the third and Mike Gallego in the sixth while fanning 14.
June 29, 1990: For the first time ever, a La Russa pitcher tosses a no-hitter. Dave Stewart no-hits the Blue Jays, fanning a dozen while walking three.
Aug. 1, 1990: According to Game Score, it’s the best pitchers duel of the 1990s. The A’s top the Mariners, 1-0, in 11 innings. Dave Stewart picks up the win with his complete-game effort, the last time any pitcher has retired over 30 batters in a game. His Game Score is 89 while Seattle’s Erik Hanson has a mark of 99. He pitches 10 innings of two-hit ball, only to see reliever Mike Schooler allow three hits and a run while retiring one batter.
Aug. 15, 1990: Mark McGwire belts a walk-off grand slam, guiding the A’s to a 6-2 win over Boston in 10 innings.
Oct. 10: 1990: ALCS Game Four. The A’s finish their sweep of the Red Sox, in part thanks to Roger Clemens, who loses his mind. In the second inning, he starts screaming and swearing at the home plate umpire, earning an ejection. Oakland wins, 3-1.
Oct. 17: 1990: World Series: Game Two: The Reds come back from a 4-1 deficit to top Oakland, 5-4, in extra innings. It puts Cincinnati up two games to none, and they will sweep the heavily favored A’s in a big October upset. It’s the second time in three years La Russa’s team has lost a World Series they were widely predicted to win.
May 1, 1991: He is the greatest. Oakland’s Rickey Henderson breaks Lou Brock’s all-time stolen base record with his 939th swipe.
May 28, 1991: For the third time in his career, Mark McGwire lays down a sacrifice bunt for La Russa. He’ll never do that again. In the same game, he has one of his eight career caught stealings.
July 14, 1991: An A’s victory gives La Russa a career record of 1,000-845.
May 1, 1992: He’s still the greatest. Exactly one year after becoming the all-time stolen base king, Oakland’s Rickey Henderson steals his 1,000th base.
June 30, 1992: La Russa helms his 2,000th game. His record: 1,083-914.
Aug. 5, 1992: Oakland slugger Jose Canseco draws a walk in his seventh consecutive plate appearance, a new record.
Oct. 11, 1992: ALCS Game Four: In an often tightly-fought ALCS, it’s the closest game of them all. The A’s lead 6-1 after seven innings only to see the Blue Jays storm back to tie it and force extra innings. Toronto scores in the 11th for a 7-6 win. They’ll win the series in six games. It’s the end of a great run for Oakland.
April, 13, 1993: The A’s toss 263 pitches in their 20-4 loss to the Tigers. That’s the most known pitches one staff has thrown in a nine-inning game.
July 5, 1993: Rickey Henderson has a nice day, belting homers to lead off both ends of an A’s-Indians doubleheader. The teams split the games.
July 19, 1993: It’s certainly original. The A’s have a large quantity of pitchers but very few they can count on for long outings, causing La Russa and his forever pitching coach Duncan to implement a revolutionary plan.
They’ll have four teams of three pitchers assigned to work in tandem each day, throwing 40-60 pitches each per game. On Day One of the brave new pitching world, the A’s lose 4-2 to the Indians. The A’s soon scrap the plan, partially due to hostility of the pitchers towards the scheme.
July 20, 1993: La Russa loses his 1,000th game as manager. His career record is 1,173-1,000.
Aug. 30, 1993: Oakland’s aging reliever Rich Gossage breaks his wrist when he trips over the ball bag.
June 23, 1994: Oakland’s Bobby Witt comes incredibly close to a perfect game. He fans 14 and walks none, but surrenders a bunt infield single to Kansas City’s Greg Gagne in the sixth inning.
Aug. 11, 1994: The A’s lose 8-1 to Seattle. Their night game is the last one to be complete that day and, thus, when the game ends, the 1994 players’ strike begins.
May 9, 1995: Rickey Henderson has one of his most clutch moments at the plate, belting a pinch-hit, three-run homer for a 7-5 Oakland victory over Seattle.
June 11, 1995: Mark McGwire blasts three homers against the Red Sox, giving him five in two days, tying a big-league record.
June 30, 1995: Mark McGwire belts the second walk-off grand slam of his career, giving the A’s an 8-5 win over the Angels.
St. Louis Cardinals managerial tenure
April 1, 1996: La Russa's NL debut doesn't quite go according to plan. On Opening Day, his team takes a 6-0 lead against the Mets only to blow it, losing 7-6.
Oct. 13: 1996: NLCS Game Four: It’s the high water mark for LaRussa’s first season in the NL. The Cardinals overcome a 3-0 deficit to the Braves to win, 4-3. They lead the NLCS three games to one but will be destroyed by Atlanta, who outscore them 32-1 in the three remaining games to claim the pennant.
April 19, 1997: With San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium undergoing renovations, the Cardinals and Padres play in the first major league regular season game in Hawaii. St. Louis sweeps a doubleheader, 1-0 and 2-1.
May 16, 1997: It’s one of the toughest losses for any La Russa team. With two outs in the ninth, Alan Benes has a no-hitter in a 0-0 game when Atlanta’s Michael Tucker doubles. Four innings later, Atlanta scores for a 1-0, extra-inning win.
McGwire and Sosa in the best of times.
May 16, 1998: Mark McGwire crushes a 545-foot home run, the longest of his career.
Aug. 1, 1998: The Braves and Cardinals play a game in throwback Negro Leagues uniforms. The Cards wear the St. Louis Stars uniforms and the Braves wear the Atlanta Black Crackers old duds.
Sept. 8, 1998: Mark McGwire bashes his 62nd home run, becoming the new single-season home run record holder.
The day before he belted his 61st home run—on his dad’s 61st birthday. Both games come against the Cubs. McGwire will end the year with 70 homers.
April 14, 1999: LaRussa manages his 3,000th game. He’s 1,569-1,428 for his career.
April 23, 1999: St. Louis’ Fernando Tatis has the greatest inning of his life, becoming the first big leaguer to swat two grand slams in one inning. Both shots come off the same pitcher, Chan Ho Park.
May 31, 1999: Baseball is still years from approving umpires using replay on home run calls, but ump Frank Pulli in today’s Cards-Marlins game use it anyway.
It’s a good thing for LaRussa, too, as they nullify a would-be Cliff Floyd home run. St. Louis wins, 2-1.
June 25, 1999: Jose Jimenez becomes only the second La Russa pitcher to toss a no-hitter when he blanks Arizona in a 1-0 win.
The hard-luck loser is Randy Johnson, who begins a stretch of pure hell. This is the first of four straight games Arizona is shut out when he pitches, with their hitters getting only six hits in the game. Johnson will fan 54 in 32 innings with a 1.41 ERA—and a 0-4 record.
On July 5, Jimenez will again beat him, 1-0. Johnson will survive, but Jimenez will be in the minors by the end of the year.
July 3, 1999: The Cardinals top the Diamondbacks 2-1 in 10 innings on a walk-off walk to Mark McGwire.
Aug. 2, 1999: For the first time in 11 years and 5,764 PA, McGwire legs out a triple.
Aug. 5, 1999: McGwire joins the 500 home run club.
May 25, 2000: Twenty-year-old super-prospect Rick Ankiel throws 120 pitchers, earning a concerned call from his agent Scott Boras to the St. Louis front office. It’s a key moment in the rise of pitch counts.
July 4, 2000: In his first big league at-bat, Keith McDonald of the Cardinals hits a pinch-hit home run.
Oct. 3, 2000: NLDS Game One: The Cardinals top the Braves, 7-5, despite the complete meltdown by starting pitcher Rick Ankiel, who tosses five wild pitches in the game. He’ll appear twice more in the postseason and toss four more wild pitches. After a fine rookie season, he’s never the same. He appears through until his unlikely return as an outfielder.
April 2, 2001: On Opening Day, Albert Pujols makes his debut, going 1-for-3. In his first time up, he grounds out against Mike Hampton. Four days later he belts his first homer.
June 16, 2001: Against the White Sox, Pujols lays down what’s still the only sacrifice bunt of his career.
Aug. 15, 2001: For the first time in 72 at-bats, Mark McGwire connects for a non-homer hit. He singles against Cincinnati.
Aug. 20, 2001: St. Louis loses to Cincinnati, 5-4 in 11 innings, on a walk-off, inside-the-park home run by Ken Griffey, Jr.
Sept. 3, 2001: St. Louis prospect Bud Smith tosses a no-hitter against the Padres.
Oct. 14, 2001: NLDS Game Five: St. Louis loses the final game of the NLDS to Arizona, 2-1, on a walk-off RBI single by Tony Womack.
June 22, 2002: Today’s scheduled Cubs-Cardinals game is postponed due to tragic news. That morning, start St. Louis pitcher Darryl Kile is found dead in his hotel room of a heart problem.
Sept. 6, 2002: It’s a brotherly day in the Cubs-Cardinals game as St. Louis’ Andy Benes starts against Chicago’s Alan Benes. St. Louis wins, 11-2.
Sept. 14, 2003: LaRussa wins his 2,000th game. He’s 2,000-1,784 for his career.
July 20, 2004: Albert Pujols enjoys his best game under LaRussa, going 5-for-5 with three homers and a double. His efforts help turn a 7-1 deficit to the Cubs into an 11-8 win.
Oct. 18, 2004: NLCS Game Five: St. Louis and Houston play one of the most underrated postseason games of all-time. It’s 0-0 with dueling one-hitters heading into the bottom of the ninth. In that frame, Jeff Kent belts a three-run, walk-off homer for a Houston win.
Oct. 20, 2004: NLCS Game Six: For the second consecutive game, there’s a walk-off homer in the NLCS. St. Louis wins this one on a Jim Edmonds blast in the bottom of the 12th for a 6-4 win. There are only two postseason series in baseball history featuring a pair of walk-off homers, and LaRussa managed in both of them.
Oct. 23: 2004: World Series Game One: St. Louis falls behind 7-2 early to Boston, but rallies to tie it, 9-9. It’s all for naught as Boston wins, 11-9, and goes on to sweep the World Series.
April 23, 2005: Mark Mulder becomes the first St. Louis pitcher in 20 years to toss a complete-game, extra-inning shutout when he beats Roger Clemens and the Houston Astros, 1-0 in 10 innings.
May 2, 2005: St. Louis scores seven runs in the top of the ninth for a 10-9 win over the Reds.
Down to their last out, David Eckstein singles, Jim Edmonds walks, and Albert Pujols hits that moon shot that still hasn’t landed for the win.
Oct. 19, 2005: NLCS Game Six: In the last game at old Busch Stadium, the Astros clinch the pennant, topping La Russa’s Cardinals, 5-1.
April 16, 2006: Albert Pujols has one of his greatest games, driving in five runs on three homers in a 8-7 win over the Reds.
Pujols’ last homer is a walk-off blast immediately after a pinch-hit single by Jason Marquis. That’s right, the pitcher, Marquis, pinch-hit in the ninth inning with St. Louis down a run.
May 3, 2006: Hector Luna hits the 10,000th home run in St. Louis Cardinals history. (This includes the AA years in the 19th century and so likely differs from the team’s own official tallies, but this is more correct).
Aug. 22, 2006: The final score is New York Mets 8, Albert Pujols 7, as the star slugger drives in all seven runs for La Russa’s team in their defeat. The Mets win on a two-run Carlos Beltran walk-off homer.
Sept. 28, 2006: After a 9-4 loss to the Brewers, the Cardinals lead the division by only a half-game. Eight days ago they led by eight games. St. Louis will win their next two games to clinch the division.
Oct. 19, 2006: NLCS Game Seven: A supposedly overmatched Cardinals team pulls off the upset against the New York Mets in the NLCS. Despite winning 14 fewer regular-season games, St. Louis triumphs 3-1 in an exciting series finale, with the winning runs scoring on a ninth inning homer by Yadier Molina.
Oct. 22, 2006: World Series Game Two: In the first inning, Cardinals hitters claim the ball is doing weird things when Detroit pitcher Kenny Rogers throws it. La Russa doesn’t formally request an inspection but does get the umps to ask Rogers to wash his hands, which he does.
Detroit wins 3-1, but it’s their only win of the World Series. Five days later, LaRussa enjoys his second world title, joining Sparky Anderson as the only managers to win it all in both leagues.
April 29, 2007: St. Louis relief pitcher Josh Hancock dies in a drunk driving incident.
April 30, 2007: LaRussa lodges his 2,000th loss as manager. He’s 2,307-2,000 and counting.
June 8, 2007: It had to happen eventually. LaRussa calls on a relief pitcher for the 10,000th time in his career when he inserts Kelvin Jimenez in the ninth inning for St. Louis. LaRussa will end his career with 12,236 relievers called on.
July 10, 2007: LaRussa makes a memorable move while managing the All-Star game— or rather, a memorable non-move. His NL squad trails 5-2 entering the bottom of the ninth only to stage a memorable two-out rally. Five straight men reach base, scoring two and loading the bases. With Pujols still held in reserve, LaRussa opts not to use him, and instead Aaron Rowand flies out to end the game.
July 26, 2008: Skip Schumaker laces out six hits for the Cardinals. He becomes the first St. Louis player since 1935 to accomplish this feat.
May 13, 2009: In a Cardinals-Pirates game, for the first time since the adoption of the home run replay rule in 2008, umpires overrule their initial home run call. St. Louis benefits, as the officials negate a would-be homer by Adam LaRoche.
June 21, 2009: Tony LaRussa wins his 2,500th game as manager. He’s only the third person to do that, alongside Connie Mack and John McGraw.
Sept. 5, 2009: In the seventh inning, Pittsburgh’s Ross Ohlendorf strikes out the side against St. Louis on the bare minimum nine pitches. He fans 11 in eight innings, but St. Louis wins, 2-1 in 10 innings.
Oct. 1, 2009: LaRussa manages his 4,770th game, passing John McGraw for second place on the games managed list.
Oct. 8, 2009: NLDS Game Two: The Dodgers defeat the Cardinals, 3-2, in what turns out to be an NLDS sweep. St. Louis enters the bottom of the ninth of this one ahead, 2-1 but blows it in heartbreaking fashion.
After retiring the first two batters, St. Louis commits an error, walks a batter, allows an RBI-single to tie the game, allows a passed ball, then another walk, and finally a bases-loaded single to put the game out of its misery.
May 21, 2010: St. Louis pitcher Brad Penny belts a grand slam. In the process, he tears a muscle and will miss the season. Fortunately, no similar injury will happen next year when St. Louis pitcher Jake Westbrook hits a granny of his own.
Aug. 10, 2010: The Reds and Cardinals engage in a big, nasty base-brawl during a game. Ejections and suspensions ensue. The Cardinals win 8-4 to tie the Reds in the division, en route to a sweep of Cincinnati. The Reds have the last laugh, as they win the division.
Sept. 7, 2010: Against St. Louis, Milwaukee Brewers reliever Trevor Hoffman records his 600th save, becoming the first pitcher to reach that plateau.
June 1, 2011: In the bottom of the 11th inning, the Giants are one out from victory against the Cardinals when a bank of lights go out, delaying the game for 16 minutes. When it turns back on, it takes just one pitch to end things for a 7-5 San Francisco finale.
June 5, 2011: Albert Pujols hits a walk-off home run for the second consecutive day. Both come in extra-innings against the Cubs, giving St. Louis 5-4 and 3-2 wins. They are his ninth and tenth career walk-offs. The all-time record, if you’re curious, is ten.
June 10, 2011: La Russa manages his 5,000th game, something only Connie Mack has previously done.
July 4, 2011: The Reds-Cardinals game becomes the 200,000th major league contest of all-time, if you include the National Association as a major league. La Russa has personally managed in one of every 40 of those games. Really.
July 6, 2011: The Cardinals show a lot of moxie but ultimately come up short against the Reds. Cincinnati cruises out to an early 8-0 lead, only to see the Cardinals rally back and tie in the bottom of the ninth. The Reds recover and win, 9-8 in 13 innings.
July 26, 2011: In the bottom of the ninth inning, St. Louis closer Fernando Salas fans three Houston hitters—three Houston pinch hitters, that is.
Aug. 23, 2011: Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday has to leave the game for an odd reason; a moth has lodged itself in his ear.
Aug. 24, 2011: St. Louis loses to the Dodgers 9-4, and their season appears over. They trail the Brewers by 10 games in the NL Central and are 10.5 games behind the Braves in the NL Wild Card.
Sept. 22, 2011: With every game a seeming must-win during a frantic stretch run for the Wild Card, the Cardinals suffer what appears to be a crushing loss to the Mets. St. Louis blows a 6-1 lead, allowing one run in the top of the eighth and six runs in the ninth thanks in part to a trio of errors. Obviously, they rebound.
Sept. 28, 2011: Chris Carpenter tosses a complete game, two-hit shutout of the Astros on the last day of the season. Between that and an Atlanta loss that night, the Cardinals have their surprising Wild Card berth.
Oct. 7, 2011: NLDS Game Five: St. Louis advances to the NLCS, defeating the Phillies, 1-0, behind Chris Carpenter, who tosses a complete-game, three-hit shutout.
Oct. 20, 2011: World Series Game Two: St. Louis leads 1-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth but loses, 2-1, when Texas scores a pair of runs. Albert Pujols is the center of controversy for his fielding in the final inning as well as for his refusal to speak with the media after the game.
Oct. 22, 2011: World Series Game Three: Maybe it isn’t wise to make Albert Pujols mad. He leads the Cardinals to a 16-7 bombardment over the Rangers by belting three home runs and two singles and collecting six RBIs. It’s the first time all year anyone has 14 total bases in a game; not just the first time in the postseason, the first time all of 2011.
Oct. 27, 2011: World Series Game Six: It’s one of the greatest games of all time. The Cardinals rally from a 7-4 deficit to tie it in the ninth, knot the score again after trailing 9-7 in the tenth, and win it 10-9 in the 11th on a David Freese walk-off home run. You already saw it, so there’s no sense recapping it in much detail. Besides, there are too many details to recap in such short space and still give the game justice.
Oct. 28, 2011: World Series Game Seven: La Russa manages his last game, though no one knows it at the time. The Cardinals top the Rangers, 6-2, to become world champions. La Russa becomes the first manager to retire on top.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.