Tudor was next, in the 11th game of the year. Four days after that, second baseman Tommy Herr, then second in the league with 15 RBTs, tore a groin muscle while running to first after singling against the Cubs. He, too, went on the DL. But his replacement, Jose Oquendo, had been on a tear. He was hitting .448 in 13 games when...uh, oh...he strained a muscle in his rib cage on April 28. Talk about April showers. "We come in two pitchers short," Herzog says, "then we lose a catcher we just got, our No. 1 starter, our No. 1 second baseman and our No. 2 second baseman. T can't figure it out. I've never had stuff like this happen to me before." Shortly after that, outfielder Tito Landrum broke a bone in his left foot. And Herzog's litany does not even include the various minor injuries that have afflicted everyone in the starting lineup except Pendleton, who himself has been playing every day with a lingering case of the flu.
"It's definitely got me puzzled," says Herzog. "Players today are all in such good condition. When I played ball, spring training was just a time to get in shape. Now they work out all year long and come to spring training already in shape. And then, when the season starts, they go out and pull muscles all over the place. And it's not like we've been having 30-degree nights, either. We've had good weather. I don't know the answer."
But as Smith so sagely says, "You don't worry about what you don't have; you get the most out of what you do have." The Cardinals have. Steve Lake, hitting .315, and Tom Pagnozzi have been capable substitutes for Pena, who meanwhile has kept his throwing arm in shape by playing catch one-handed before games. Relievers Ricky Horton and Pat Perry, who have appeared in 29 games between them, have picked up the slack in the bullpen, particularly since 1986 Rookie of the Year Todd Worrell and Bill Dawley have started slowly. "Thank God for Horton and Perry," says Herzog reverently.
In fact, the lefthanded Tudor hasn't really been missed. When Lyons ran him down, he had an atrocious 6.06 earned run average in three starts. Joe Magrane, a 22-year-old lefty who came from Louisville on April 24, moved into the rotation and has been outstanding.
A former All-America from the University of Arizona, Magrane is in only his third professional season. But in his first three starts with the Cardinals he won two games and allowed only three earned runs. After St. Louis suffered two humbling losses to the Giants early last week, Magrane got the team back on track with a 3-0 shutout of San Diego on Wednesday. That was the first complete-game shutout by a Cardinal pitcher since Tudor defeated Philadelphia 5-0 on Sept. 26, 1985.
Another newcomer from Louisville, utility man Skeeter Barnes, has replaced Landrum. The 30-year-old's previous major league experience had consisted of parts of two seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. But in his very first at bat of the season, last Thursday, he hit a three-run homer against the Padres in a wild 17-10 Cardinal victory.
In a way, the new faces have proved refreshing, none more so than Rod Booker's. Booker came from Louisville on April 27 and entered his first major league game two days later against San Diego as a replacement at second for the injured Oquendo. He got a hit, scored two runs and stole a base in a ragged 10-6 Cardinal win that went to Perry in relief of an ineffective Worrell. The next day, Booker was the star of the game, going 2 for 3, driving in two runs and making an Ozzie-esque backhand stab of a sharp ground ball up the middle. The Cards won again 5-4, with Perry getting the save.
Booker stood before his locker in full uniform, cap and all, for 45 minutes after that second game, introducing himself to a local media hungry for tidbits on this newest mystery man. At 28, Booker is no starry-eyed youngster. He was drafted by Minnesota out of the University of California in 1980 and bought by the Cardinals in '83. For seven discouraging years he labored in the minors, mostly at the Double A level. A smooth fielder who primarily played shortstop, he never hit above .273 with one team in a full minor league season. But he was batting .362 in 12 games at Triple A Louisville when, out of desperation, the Cardinals summoned him.
In his overlong apprenticeship, Booker never lost hope. "I didn't want to be a quitter." he said, recognizing that most career minor leaguers his age see the handwriting on the wall. "I always had it in the back of my head that I'd be up here sometime. The one thing I learned after seven years in the minors was that the good times come and go and so do the bad, and neither lasts very long. Being up here is everything I thought it would be and much more. When I got my second hit, I found myself standing on first base and saying, 'Man, you got two hits today.' I'm riding on a cloud. I can't remember being this excited. They've told me that when everyone gets well, I'll probably be going back down. I'm going to try my best to change their minds about that."
This is the sort of spirit that has buoyed Herzog in the face of his many troubles. That and his abiding detestation of the team from New York. It doesn't matter especially that, as he says, "we haven't played well against anybody but the Mets," because the Cards have beaten the defending world champions five games out of six. His pitching staffs 4.38 ERA bothers him because, "that's way too high in a big ballpark like ours." But the fact remains, the Cardinals are still somehow in first. "You don't cry about the injuries," says Herzog, "because if you do, the people around you, the players, will have a tendency to feel sorry for themselves. Besides, we've had troubles before. In '82 David Green got hurt, so we brought up Willie McGee, and his play sparked us to the World Series. In '85 they said we couldn't win without Bruce Sutter, and without him, we had the best bullpen in the game."