June 2, 1963: Say Hey times three: Willie Mays has a day at Busch Stadium

This article was written by Alan Cohen


“Those homers all felt good. They all do. That second one was one of the hardest I’ve ever hit, and it came off a curve ball!” Willie Mays.1

 

On the first Sunday of June in 1963, 22,857 fans arrived at Busch Stadium to see their second-place Cardinals try to tie the visiting Giants for the league lead. The Cardinals had won five games in a row, including the first two of the three-game series against the Giants. The defending National League champions had their ace, Juan Marichal, on the mound and the Cardinals countered with Ernie Broglio and his 5-1 record. The game-time temperature of 88 degrees was an indicator that summer had arrived in the Gateway City.

The Giants wasted little time scoring. Harvey Kuenn led off the game with a single to left. After Chuck Hiller flied out, Willie Mays slammed his eighth homer of the season to give the Giants a 2-0 lead. It was the 376th career blast for Mays, who earlier in the season had moved past Gil Hodges into the all-time lead for homers by a right-handed batter in the National League. Mays, a notorious streak hitter, had not homered since May 17, and prior to the series with the Cardinals had been in an 0-for-16 slump that brought his season’s batting average down to .236. His bat got healthy in St. Louis. The first-inning homer was his fourth hit in his first seven at-bats during the three games.

Marichal kept the Cardinals in check and the Giants added to their lead in the third inning. Kuenn, in his second at-bat, once again led off an inning with a hit, this time an infield hit that Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer was unable to convert into an out. Hiller bunted Kuenn to second base and Orlando Cepeda singled him home to make the score 3-0. Two innings later, the Cardinals thwarted an attempt by the Giants to extend their lead when Hiller was gunned down at home trying to score on a double by Cepeda.

The Cardinals finally broke through against Marichal in the fifth. Julian Javier led off with a double to left, his second double of the game. Against conventional wisdom, he advanced to third base when Tim McCarver grounded out to shortstop Jose Pagan. The daring baserunning put him in position to score on a groundout by pinch-hitter Carl Sawatski (batting for Broglio) and give the Cardinals their first run.

Bob Humphreys took over for Broglio and stifled the Giants for two innings with his “tick-tock” pendulum windup delivery.2 The eighth inning was Humphreys’ undoing. After retiring Hiller on a fly ball, Humphreys surrendered back-to-back homers to Mays and Cepeda. The shot by Mays was a monster blow off the scoreboard in deep left-center field. Cepeda’s blast, which landed on the right-field roof, was his 10th homer of the season and temporarily put him one up on Mays. After Humphreys walked Ed Bailey, he was removed and Ed Bauta was able to get the Cardinals out of the inning. However, they trailed by four runs as the game went to the bottom of the eighth.

Marichal needed some eighth-inning defensive help after giving up singles to McCarver and Charlie James. With runners on first and second, second baseman Hiller, who had recently returned from the DL after breaking his left wrist on May 1, fielded Curt Flood’s grounder, tagged James, and threw to first base for the Giants’ first double play in 71 innings. McCarver advanced to third but was left stranded when Marichal got Bill White to ground out to end the inning.

The Giants led 5-1 as the Cardinals brought in Bobby Shantz to pitch the ninth inning. With two out and none on, Mays came to the plate for the fourth time in the game and slammed his third homer. It was the third time in his career that he had hit as many as three home runs in a game. With Marichal pitching, the Giants seemed to have the game secured with a five-run lead.

However, the Cardinals were able to mount a rally. Dick Groat, in his first year with the Cardinals after nine seasons with the Pirates, led off with a triple. Stan Musial, playing left field for the Cardinals, singled in Groat. Musial, who had been playing with a pulled muscle, ruptured a blood vessel in the back of his right knee running out his single, and had to come out of the game. Ray Sadecki went in as a pinch-runner. After Boyer fouled out, George Altman doubled to right field and the Cardinals, trailing 6-2, had two runners in scoring position. Julian Javier delivered both runs with his third double of the game, a shot past Mays in center.

The tying run came to the plate in the person of McCarver, batting at a torrid pace that had produced six hits in 12 at-bats over the prior three games. Giants manager Alvin Dark decided that Marichal, who had yielded four ninth-inning hits (three for extra bases), had had enough. He brought in hard-throwing Bobby Bolin. Bolin retired McCarver on a fly ball and struck out pinch-hitter Leo Burke to end the contest and gain the save, his sixth of the season. Marichal, with the win, saw his record go to 8-3, tying him for the team lead in wins with Billy O’Dell. Broglio’s record, with the loss, went to 5-2.

The Cardinals and Giants remained in contention for most of the season, but fell short of the pennant as the Dodgers, with their great pitching, outdistanced the second-place Cardinals by six games. The Cards were within one game of first place in mid-September but lost eight of their last 10 games, including three in a row to Los Angeles. The Giants were within three games of first place in mid-August before fading to third place, 11 games behind the Dodgers.

Mays left St. Louis with a .254 batting average, having raised it 18 points during the three games against the Cardinals. He also left town with his first multi-extra-base-hit game of 1963. By season’s end, the average was at .314 with 38 homers.  Marichal would compile a record of 25-8, leading the National League in wins and innings pitched (321⅓).

After the game, Dark, happy that his team could salvage the finale and leave town with a two-game lead, was highly respectful of the Cardinals. He thought that the acquisition of Groat was a major factor in the team’s success. “Groat adds tremendously to the ballclub. He already has made a much better player out of Julian Javier. Groat has helped Javier in the field and I’m sure that has also made Javier a better hitter.”3

The Cardinals, one year later, would make another key trade and that trade involved Broglio. He compiled an 18-8 record in 1963 and tied Bob Gibson for the staff lead in wins. His 2.99 ERA was second best on the team to Curt Simmons (2.48). But in June 1964, the Cubs were in need of a starter. Broglio by then was 3-5, and was expendable. Furthermore, the Cardinals needed an outfielder. At the end of the 1963 season, Musial retired and Altman was traded to the Mets. They needed an outfielder to complement Flood and Mike Shannon. The Cubs had a surplus of power in their lineup, making outfielder Lou Brock expendable.

Brock joined the Cardinals on June 15, and showed a new dimension. With the Cubs, he had stolen 50 bases in 327 games. With the Cardinals, he stole 888 bases over the course of 16 seasons, leading the league on eight occasions and stealing more than 50 bases in 12 consecutive seasons. Broglio, on the other hand, would not be the answer for the Cubs. In parts of three injury-ravaged seasons in the Windy City, he struggled to a 7-19 record and pitched his last game in 1966. 

At the time of the game, Cepeda, who delivered an RBI single and a double before homering behind Mays in the eighth inning, was embroiled in a lawsuit against Look magazine.4 An article in the magazine had taken issue with his ability to hit in the clutch, and implied that his selfishness caused him to put his own interests ahead of those of the team. It would take a trade, not a lawsuit, to silence his detractors. Despite a Rookie of the Year award in 1958 and a 1961 season in which he led the league in homers (46) and RBIs (142), it wasn’t until he was traded to the Cardinals early in the 1966 season that the Baby Bull showed the leadership qualities that took the Cardinals to the National League pennant and world championship in 1967 and earned him the only MVP award of his Hall of Fame career.

 

This article appears in “Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis: Home of the Browns and Cardinals at Grand and Dodier” (SABR, 2017), edited by Gregory H. Wolf. Click here to read more articles from this book online.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources included in the Notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com.

 

Notes

1 “Willie: Sure Home Slump’s Over,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 3, 1963: 51.

2 Bob Stevens, “Willie Shakes Slump – And ‘Tick-Tock’; Giants Win 6-4,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 3, 1963: 51.

3 Neal Russo, “Giants Don’t Quite Lay Egg, So Dark Drops Hard-Boiled Act,” St. Louis Post Dispatch, June 3, 1963: 34.

4 Charles McCabe, “Who’s Cepeda REALLY Suing?” San Francisco Chronicle, June 3, 1963: 51.

Additional Stats

San Francisco Giants 6
St. Louis Cardinals 4


Busch Stadium
St. Louis, MO

 

Box Score + PBP:

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