The New York Yankees’ Mickey Mantle was one such star.1 Considered by many the game’s greatest player during the 1950s, he was now nearing the end of a long, distinguished (and injury-plagued) career. Going into the 1964 World Series between the Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals, Mantle had played in 11 Series (seven of which the Yankees won). He had hit 15 home runs and had 32 runs batted in. He had, though never won a game with a walk-off home run.
Game Three, on Saturday, October 10, was played in a packed Yankee Stadium.2 The Yankees opened the scoring in the bottom of the second on a double by Clete Boyer that scored Elston Howard from second base. The Cardinals countered in the top of the fifth as Curt Simmons, the Cardinals pitcher, legged out an infield hit and his catcher, Tim McCarver, scored from third base. An error by Mantle on a hit by McCarver figured in the scoring sequence. Of that play, Jane Leavy, after interviewing Mantle in 1983, wrote:
“Mantle’s egregious error in the fifth inning had allowed the Cardinals to tie the game. ‘By that time I couldn’t run too much anymore,’ he told me in 1983. ‘They put me in right field and Roger Maris in center. Somebody hit me a ground ball. I nonchalanted it. It went through my legs, and the guy scored.’” 3
The game bumped along scorelessly from that point, and entering the ninth inning it was still 1-1. The Cardinals got two men on in the ninth against Jim Bouton, the Yankees pitcher – McCarver via an error and pinch hitter Carl Warwick on a walk – but Bob Skinner and Curt Flood couldn’t get them home.
Scheduled to hit for the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth were Mantle, Howard, and Tom Tresh. Mantle had doubled in the sixth but was left on base and still felt he needed to atone for his run-producing error. 4
For the ninth, Cardinals manager Johnny Keane brought in veteran relief pitcher Barney Schultz. Schultz was a journeyman reliever nearing the end of his career, but had a baffling knuckleball.5 Pitching in Triple-A, he had been called up by the Cardinals in late July to shore up their bullpen. Schultz had astonishing success down the stretch, saving 14 games during an amazing pennant race that saw the fast-fading Philadelphia Phillies famously blow a 6½-game lead with 12 games to play.6
Schultz was now making his third straight relief appearance in the Series, having earned a save in Game One.7
After watching Schultz take his warm-up tosses, Mantle stood in, the famous switch-hitter now batting left-handed, and awaited Schultz’s first pitch.
It was, not surprisingly, a knuckleball. But Schultz’s knuckler never made it to McCarver’s glove – Mantle turned on it and drove it deep into right field, well into the third deck of Yankee Stadium. It was a towering, majestic home run – and Mantle had won Game Three with one swing of the bat. Jane Leavy wrote:
“The first pitch to Mantle, a knuckler, didn’t dance or flutter or defy expectation. It didn’t do anything at all. ‘It wasn’t thrown,’ McCarver said. ‘It was dangled like bait to a big fish. Plus it lingered in that area that was down, and Mickey was a lethal low-ball hitter lefthanded. The pitch was so slow that it allowed him to turn on it and pull it.’”8
Mantle’s blast was only the fifth walk-off home run in World Series history,9 and it came in Mantle’s final World Series. It was a significant part of his great hitting in the 1964 World Series: .333 with three home runs and eight RBIs in the seven games. Mantle ended his World Series career with 18 home runs, but this was his lone walk-off.
As for Barney Schultz: He “was interested in punching myself in the mouth.”10 He did come back and pitch in Game Six, but ended the Series with an 18.00 ERA, a save, and a loss as the Cardinals defeated the Yankees in seven games.
Despite the Yankees’ loss of the Series, in Game Three it was Mickey Mantle’s star power that took center stage.
1 See Mickey Mantle statistics at http://baseball-reference.com/players/m/mantlmi01.shtml.
2 For the Game Three box score and play-by-play, see http://baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA196410100.shtml.
5 Barney Schultz Statistics at http://baseballreference.com/players/s/schulba01.shtml.
7 For Game One box score and play-by-play, see http://baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN196410070.shtml.
9 Matt Snyder, “A Look at all 15 Walk-off Home Runs in World Series History,” cbssports.com, October 18, 2013. Retrieved from cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/24103066/a-look-at-all-15-walkoff-home-runs-in-world-series-history