From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, October 12, 1964
EARLY LAST WEEK JUDITH ANN SHANNON, MOTHER OF FOUR, BEGAN TO NOTICE that her husband was acting strangely. Normally attentive, 25-year-old Mike Shannon, rightfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, was wandering through the house with his eyes focused on infinity and his mind in the same general vicinity. Nothing Judy said seemed to get through. But she was not unduly disturbed—she had seen the symptoms before. Last year, when St. Louis won 19 of 20 games to pull within one game of the Dodgers with only 10 remaining, Mike was just a spear carrier, but even then he was restless; he smoked too much and he kept scratching his head. Now, in the early fall of 1964, the Cardinals were a game and a half away from the first-place Reds and a half game behind the second-place Phillies with six games left. And this time Mike Shannon was a central figure.
Everyone in St. Louis felt good about Shannon; a St. Louis boy, he was a high school All-America in football and all-state in basketball.
A week ago, when Mike jumped into his Chevy station wagon for the 20-minute drive to Busch Stadium, where the Cards were to play the Phils in the first of a three-game series, he said, "Big one tonight, baby. We can't afford to lose." In the second inning, after first baseman Bill White singled and second baseman Julian Javier sent White to third with another single to right center, Shannon came to bat facing Chris Short, Philadelphia's best lefthander. The crowd of 24,000 gave Mike a big hand, and he drove Philadelphia's Wes Covington back to the leftfield wall to send White home. With a 3--1 lead in the eighth inning the Cardinals got going again, and Shannon singled home two runs to make the final score 5--1. The Cards had jumped over the Phillies in the standings and were a game away from first place.
The team clattered up the stairs to the dressing room, and Mike Shannon turned on the tape player over his locker. A rollicking number called Our Old Home Team filled the room. Far down the hall from the noise, manager Johnny Keane heard a knock on a door. Butch Yatkeman, the clubhouse man, found a grimy key and opened the door, and in swept Branch Rickey, the 82-year-old "special consultant" who, many believe, had had Cardinals general manager Bing Devine fired six weeks ago and does not want Keane to return in 1965. Rickey grabbed Keane with both hands and said, "Johnny Keane, you are a gosh-dang fine manager." Then he was gone, the door closing behind him.
The next evening Lou Brock, the swift leftfielder, was the first Cardinals regular in uniform, and he got Dave Ricketts to pitch to him for half an hour. Brock did nothing but bunt. Then in the very first inning, with Curt Flood on first base, Brock placed a perfect sacrifice bunt on the grass between the pitching mound and first, and he was just beaten by pitcher Dennis Bennett's throw. Brock's extra practice paid off when Dick Groat doubled Flood home, and the Cardinals added two more runs in the second. Starting pitcher Ray Sadecki was having trouble, however, and when the Phils started a rally in the seventh, Keane took him out and brought in 38-year-old knuckleballer Barney Schultz, and Schultz stopped the Phils cold to save a 4--2 win.
The reporters crowded around Schultz in the dressing room, and as they did, catcher Tim McCarver and Sadecki began scrambling through the bottom of McCarver's locker. McCarver put a rubber horror mask—the Werewolf—over his face, folded up a piece of paper and stood in the back of the group of reporters. Months ago McCarver and Sadecki had walked all over Chicago to find the masks. McCarver bought the Werewolf, and Sadecki got one of Quasimodo. On this night two masks that had been getting laughs all year really broke up the clubhouse. The Cards were happy and loose. Just before leaving the field they had heard that Cincinnati had lost to Pittsburgh 2--0, and now the Cardinals were tied for first.
Captain Ken Boyer sat on a stool and covered his face with his hands and whispered, "This is the closest I've been to playing in a World Series."
Philadelphia's fall had been a brutal thing. Manager Gene Mauch said it was "like watching someone drown." In the last of the three-game set the Phillies played a game that no member of the team will ever forget. They made four errors in the first four innings while St. Louis scored eight runs and had 11 hits en route to an 8--5 victory.
Afterward the Cardinals hung on in their dressing room, listening to the 16-inning game between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, which the Pirates finally won when Jerry May squeezed home the only run of the game. Not long after it was over, the phone rang in the motel room where Groat and Cardinals outfielder Bob Skinner live. Both are former Pirates. The call was from current Pirates Bill Virdon and Bill Mazeroski. "Dick," said Virdon to his old roommate, "you shouldn't need much help now."