It has been, by any criteria, a remarkable comeback and yet one for which there is no ready explanation. To the mystification of even their own front-office executives, the Cardinals were as outwardly buoyant and cheerful in defeat as they now are in victory. Even when the flames were rising all around them, there was never a suggestion of panic.
"The atmosphere here," said star slugger Joe Torre, sweeping the clubhouse with an appreciative glance, "was the same when we were five and 20 as it is now when we are in first place."
This insouciance may be attributed to the firm belief, as articulated by Second Baseman Ted Sizemore, that "we knew at the time we were a better ball club than we were showing," or possibly to a certain infectious maturity that allows them to regard both fortune and misfortune realistically.
The Cardinals are blessed with a corps of intelligent veterans—Torre, 33, Leftfielder Lou Brock, 34, Catcher-First Baseman Tim McCarver, 31, and Pitcher Bob Gibson, 37—and their influence on the younger players is profound.
"A team needs people like us," says Gibson. "Not so much to teach the young guys about baseball as to teach them about life."
The grace under pressure shown by the players had its effect on the front office as well, although the executives cannot be faulted for suggesting that perhaps peace of mind originated there. No dramatic trades were contemplated, no exhortations on behalf of God and franchise were made during those long weeks.
"Bing was impressed by the fact that although the team's record was lousy, nobody on the field seemed to know it," says Toomey, himself an unflappable.
"I think the players were trying to convey to me that there was nothing to get excited about," says Devine, "so I figured if they could live in a fool's paradise, more power to them."
Although the Cardinals are more inclined to think they simply played their way out of the slump, they do willingly credit Manager Red Schoendienst with at least one particularly astute move, a move prompted, nevertheless, as much by accident as design.
Late in April, Second Baseman Sizemore, who unlike so many of his teammates was off to a good start, pulled a hamstring muscle. He was placed on the disabled list, where he remained until May 17. On May 2 Mike Tyson, a stocky, red-haired rookie from North Carolina, was installed as Sizemore's replacement.