Despite losing two of its best players in recent days, the St. Louis Cardinals still had enough firepower left to beat the New York Mets, 6-4 before a crowd of 25,540 fans (17,857 paid) at Busch Stadium.
Cardinals pitching ace Bob Gibson had suffered a broken leg on July 15 and Curt Flood suffered an ankle injury on July 6. Manager Red Schoendienst was going to have to find someone to fill the void, but Gibson's spot in the rotation wasn't up yet. Dick Hughes started on the mound for the Cardinals and Bobby Tolan was filling in for Flood in center field. The Mets, managed by Wes Westrum, had Don Cardwell starting on the mound.
Mets second baseman Jerry Buchek, a St. Louis native, got things rolling in the second inning. He doubled with one out and scored on a single by catcher Jerry Grote to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. The Cardinals tied it up in the bottom of the second after catcher Tim McCarver singled and scored on a double by third baseman Mike Shannon.
The fourth inning was the big one for the Cardinals. McCarver, who would go 4 for 4 in the game, led off with a single and Shannon followed with his seventh home run of the year. Second baseman Julian Javier singled and shortstop Dal Maxvill followed with another single that Javier was able to come all the way around to score on. Don Shaw came in to relieve Cardwell and got out of the inning.
New York got two runs back in the fifth. Shaw drew a two-out walk and shortstop Bud Harrelson singled. Center fielder Larry Stahl doubled to score Shaw and Harrelson. But left fielder Tommy Davis struck out to end the inning.
St. Louis kept its attack going. Right fielder Roger Maris singled and McCarver singled him over to third. Shannon hit a sacrifice fly to score Maris. It was now 5-3 St. Louis.
In the sixth, the breaks kept coming for the Cardinals. Maxvill hit a liner to center and Stahl tried to make a diving catch on it, but missed it, and the ball rolled all the way to the wall in dead center, 412 feet away. Maxvill made the full circuit for what would be his only home run of 1967. It was Maxvill's first homer since 1962. He would just six in his whole career, in which he just .217 in 1423 games.
The Mets threatened twice more. In the sixth, first baseman Ed Kranepool singled and third baseman Ed Charles doubled, but Hughes retired the next three batters to get out of the jam. Then in the ninth, Buchek led off with a home run. Pinch hitter Tommie Reynolds reached on an error by Shannon with one out. With two outs, Harrelson singled and Schoendienst called on Joe Hoerner to relieve. Westrum countered with pinch hitter Bob Johnson, who singled to load the bases. Cleon Jones ran for Johnson. Nelson Briles came in to pitch and he was able to get Davis to foul out to end the game.
The Cardinals and Mets were nearly mirror images of each other in 1967. St. Louis won the pennant easily with a 101-60 record. New York finished in last at 61-101. The Cardinals would win the World Series over the Boston Red Sox in seven games with Gibson winning three games and Briles winning the other.
Cardinals first baseman Orlando Cepeda won the MVP award, batting .325 and leading the NL in RBI with 111. McCarver, who was leading the league in hitting on July 17 at .355, wore down as the season went on and batted .295. Shannon would hit just 12 home runs. Hughes led Cardinal pitchers in wins with a 16-6 mark. Hughes would suffer an injury in 1968 and never pitch in the majors again.
While the Mets had gone through another bleak season, help was on the way. Tom Seaver won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1967 with a 16-13 record, 2.76 ERA, and 170 strikeouts. Jerry Koosman would get called up at the end of the year. Grote would bat .195 in 1967, but in 1968 he improved all the way to .282 and was establishing himself as one of the top defensive catchers in the game. Toward the end of the year, Westrum was fired and Salty Parker finished the season. Gil Hodges would take over as manager in 1968. And by 1969, the fortunes of the two franchises would change.
Sources: Retrosheet, Baseball-reference.com, New York Times