There was not much tension in the air as the New York Mets concluded a series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on September 2, 1962. The Mets had long since secured their place in baseball lore as a truly horrific enterprise. Coming into the game, their record stood at 34-103 and they were 55½ games and seven years removed from first place. Their current losing streak was at five games. The Cardinals were in fifth place, 15½ games out of first place. They were two key players away from being a contender.
On this day, the Cardinals were pinning their hopes for a win on right-hander Ernie Broglio. Broglio had labored in the minor leagues for six seasons before a trade at the end of the 1958 season brought him and Marv Grissom to the Cardinals from the Giants organization. In his first three seasons with the Cardinals, he had gone 37-33, including a breakout season in 1960, when he went 21-9 and finished third in the Cy Young Award balloting. He came into the September 2 contest with a record of 10-7 in 1962.
The Mets pitcher was Alvin Jackson, called “Little Al” by Mets announcer Bob Murphy. Jackson had been chosen off the roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates by the Mets in the expansion draft and was one of the team’s better pitchers despite a 7-17 record.
The size of the crowd, 9,169, was consistent with the perceived importance of the game, but by day’s end, although the Mets announcers would be doing their 35th “happy recap” of the season, Cardinals fans had witnessed a moment of greatness.
After a scoreless first inning, the Mets broke into the scoring column when Frank Thomas led off the second inning with his 30th home run of the season. Jackson kept the Cardinals from scoring in the first two innings, stranding two runners. He was aided in the second inning when center fielder Jim Hickman gunned down Charlie James, who was trying to advance from first to third on a single by Jimmie Schaffer. The Cardinals tied the score in the third inning. After Jackson hit Curt Flood with a pitch, Julio Gotay slammed a double that plated Flood.
Next, second baseman Rod Kanehl grabbed Bobby Gene Smith’s grounder and threw late to first baseman Marv Throneberry. Smith’s single advanced Gotay to third base. Throneberry felt that the throw had beaten the runner and began to discuss his feelings with umpire Shag Crawford. As the two argued, Gotay took the opportunity to run home from third. However, home-plate umpire Ed Vargo ruled that time had been called and sent Gotay back to third base. Cardinals manager Johnny Keane lodged a protest. With runners at the corners, Jackson retired Bill White and Ken Boyer to prevent further scoring.
Jackson and Broglio dueled for the next three innings and the score was still 1-1 as the Mets came to bat in their half of the seventh inning. Clarence “Choo Choo” Coleman, one of four Mets catchers who saw action in the game, led off with a single and advanced to second base when Charlie Neal successfully executed a sacrifice bunt to the right side of the infield. Hickman’s single brought home Coleman with the lead run but there was no further scoring as Kanehl and Jackson grounded out. The lead was short-lived. Schaffer led off the Cardinals’ half of the inning with a single and left for a pinch-runner, Bob Gibson. Gibson advanced to second on a sacrifice by Dal Maxvill, who was pinch-hitting for Broglio; went to third on Coleman’s passed ball; and scored on a single by Flood.
Bobby Shantz came on to pitch in the eighth inning for St. Louis and the Mets mounted a rally against him in the ninth to regain the lead. With one out, Hickman singled and Kanehl reached on a bobble by Cardinals second baseman Gotay. The runners advanced to second and third when Jackson executed a sacrifice bunt. Richie Ashburn then walked to load the bases for Joe Pignatano, who had replaced Coleman behind the plate.
Pignatano, who had put on his first professional uniform in 1949, was batting .235 and Mets manager Casey Stengel was looking for more firepower. He called on Joe Christopher who, like Jackson, had been plucked off the roster of the Pirates. Although he was batting only .201 at the time, 13 of his 38 hits had been for extra bases. Christopher hit the third pitch from Shantz into left field, driving home two runs, before Shantz struck out Throneberry for the final out of the inning.
The Cardinals were down two runs as they came to bat in the final inning. But not for long. Gene Oliver led off with a homer off Jackson and the Cardinals were within one run of tying things up again. It was Oliver’s eighth homer of the season, but his first of the year at home. Jackson retired Fred Whitfield and Shantz was due up. Shantz was not a bad hitter. Coming into the 1962 season, he had a .202 batting average with 104 career hits. In 1961, he had batted .438 (7-for-16) with the Pirates. But Johnny Keane had a fellow on the bench with 3,515 hits.
Stan Musial was called upon to keep the hopes of the Cardinals alive. Musial singled and was accorded a hero’s ovation when he was removed for pinch-runner Julian Javier. The single was Musial’s 3,516th career hit and moved him past Tris Speaker into second place on the all-time hit list. The day before, when he went 1-for-3 against New York, he had tied Speaker. Regardless of how he was performing against the rest of the league, Musial had always loved his trips to New York. It was in Brooklyn that he had first been called “The Man.” When New York rejoined the National League in 1962, Musial went 21-for-46 against the Mets. He had slugged four homers against the Mets in 1962. The four homers, all at the Polo Grounds, came in as many at-bats as he homered in his last at-bat on July 7, and had three homers and a walk in his first four plate appearances on July 8.
Stengel, displaying the sort of genius that won him 10 pennants in 12 years with the Yankees, switched catchers. He summoned strong-armed Chris Cannizzaro (a.k.a. “Canzineri” in Stengelese) to take over for Sammy Taylor, who had taken over for Pignatano, who had taken over for Coleman. With Flood at the plate representing the winning run, Javier took off for second base, hoping to get into scoring position. Shortstop Felix Mantilla covered the base and took the throw from Cannizzaro. Mantilla applied the tag and the Mets were one out away from the win. Could Jackson retire the red-hot Flood? Curt already had two hits in the game and was in the midst of a hitting streak, having gone 7-for-12 in the three games with the Mets, but he grounded harmlessly to Kanehl at second and the game was over.
National League President Warren Giles disallowed the protest filed by the Cardinals, although it is conceivable that Throneberry had not called time out before engaging in his discourse with Crawford.
The Mets win was their fifth in 18 games against the Cardinals in 1962.
Jackson’s victory was his eighth win of the year and his 11th complete game. It was his last win of a season in which he finished at 8-20. He continued to pitch through 1969 and became a pitching coach after his playing days.
Shantz was charged with the loss. The 36-year-old, who had won the American League MVP award in 1952 with a 24-7 record, pitched two more years before calling it a career after the 1964 season.
Broglio had a 12-9 record in 1962 and followed it up with a stellar 18-8 in 1963. In 1964, he was 3-5 with the Cardinals in June when he was dealt to the Cubs in the trade that sent Lou Brock to St. Louis.
Flood, who made the game’s last out, would go on to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. The following year he won the first of seven consecutive Gold Glove awards. At the end of the 1969 season, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and refused to report, setting off a challenge to baseball’s reserve clause. Although he was unsuccessful in his challenge, he paved the way to a stronger baseball union and the reserve clause was ultimately overthrown.
Musial retired at the end of the 1963 season with 3,630 hits and more than a half-century later was still in the top five on the all-time hit list, trailing only Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, and Hank Aaron.
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.
The author used Baseball-Reference.com, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Tuckner, Howard M. “Bases-Filled Hit Tops St. Louis, 4-3,” New York Times, September 3, 1962: 18.