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1946, 1967, 2004 and 2013: The Sox and Cards do battle again

Oct 21, 2013, 8:55 AM EDT

Slaughter Mad Dash

While I’m sure many Red Sox fans were looking forward to a rematch of the 1916 World Series with the Brooklyn Robins (what, you don’t remember that?), the Red Sox are matched up with their historically most familiar World Series rival: the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s the fourth matchup between these storied franchises. They met in the days of Williams and Musial, of Gibson and Yaz and of Ortiz and Molina. Now they meet in, er, the days of Ortiz and Molina.

Obviously what happened in 1946, 1967 and 2004 has nothing to do with what will happen this year, but let’s take a walk down memory lane at the three past St. Louis-Boson Fall Classics:

1946: Slaughter’s Mad Dash

Here’s one familiar thing: in 1946 the Cardinals beat out the Dodgers for the pennant and the Sox beat out the Tigers. One difference: the base running here was way, way better than anything we saw from Prince Fielder the other night. Indeed, one of the most famous base running plays of all time occurred in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game 7 of this series when Cardinals outfielder Enos Slaughter scored from first base on a Harry Walker double. Slaughter was running with the pitch and, well, just watch:

Slaughter ignored his coach’s stop sign at third base and kept running. Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky either clutched or brain-locked or, well, something, and hesitated throwing home for a second before gathering himself and rushing his throw to the plate.  Slaughter’s run made it 4-3, which would be the final score and which would give the Cardinals the World Series.

Stan Musial and Ted Williams were the big stars here, but neither would ever see the World Series again. The Cards wouldn’t win another pennant until 1964. Boston wouldn’t return to the Fall Classic until 1967. But when they did, it was to face a familiar foe.

1967: The Impossible Dream Deferred

The Cardinals were in the middle of a mini-dynasty, the Sox were dreaming an Impossible Dream. World champs in 1964, the 101-Cardinals had just won their second of three pennants in the 1960s. The Sox, on the other hand, experienced their first winning season in nine years. And it wasn’t some “they finally got over the top” kind of thing either. In 1966 and 1965 they finished in ninth place out of ten AL teams. In the five seasons before that they were eighth, seventh, eighth, sixth and seventh. The Sox really came out of nowhere and — once again — beat out the Tigers in a legendary pennant race which came down to the last day.

The Sox were led by triple crown winner Carl Yastrzemski, who did his part, batting .400 while hitting three homers in the series. The Cardinals ace Bob Gibson, however, was too much to overcome. Gibson struck out ten batters in Game 7 and added a home run of his own. He tossed a complete game too — his third of the series — but that was just what aces did back then, right?  The Cardinals’ win gave them their eighth World Series title.

St. Louis would be back to try for nine the very next year. The Sox wouldn’t be back until 1975. Then 1986. Then, as the 90s and early 2000s wore on, their playoff legacy began to morph from one in which “Impossible Dreams” were dreamt into one of only nightmares. But then 2004 happened, and the “sad sack Sox” cliche would be banished for good.

2004: Breaking the Curse

I feel like hindsight has made the 2004 Red Sox into some dominant Team of Destiny. The team which Broke the Curse and which exemplified a decade dominated by titanic battles between the high-payroll Sox and Yankees. Meanwhile, I feel like that same hindsight has transformed the Cardinals into some sort of sacrificial lamb which meekly and unquestionably played its role in banishing 86 years of Boston demons.  The fact that the Sox easily swept this series just bolsters this meme.

Except that really wasn’t the meme at all at the time. The Cardinals won 105 games in 2004 and were led by the most dominant hitter on the planet in Albert Pujols. The Sox, meanwhile, were the AL wild card winners, having finished three games back of the Yankees. Sure, they were seen as the second strongest team in the AL — the Angels and Twins weren’t exactly scaring anyone back east — but after a devastating 2003 ALCS loss and a 2004 ALCS win which seemed more the product of divine providence than dominance, the Sox’ 2004 championship was not thought of as a foregone conclusion at all. Indeed, this felt more like the Impossible Dream Redux.

Of course it turned out differently. The Cardinals didn’t hold a lead in any of the Series’ four games. The Sox played sloppy baseball for the first couple of games and won anyway. Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe dominated Cardinals bats in Games 3 and 4 and that, as they way, was that.

2013: The Titans Meet Again

The Cardinals would win the World Series two years later. The Sox would win it again the season after that. St. Louis would get yet another championship in 2011. Neither of these teams have been strangers to winning for most of the past decade, and even though there are only two remaining players from the 2004 series — David Ortiz and Yadier Molina — both of these teams feel more like continuations of quasi-dynasties than Impossible Dreams or winners of any kind of Mad Dash.

This is no underdog story. Check your “no one believed in us” propaganda at the door. It’s the best vs. the best. Two massively popular teams with passionate fan bases. Two teams near the top of baseball’s historical marquee meeting, once again, for a World Series title.

Here’s hoping for even more history.

  1. rambo888 - Oct 21, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    Go Cardinals

  2. cohnjusack - Oct 21, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    Ahh, the 2004 World Series…how brutal you were.

    The worst memory: Jim Edmonds hit 42 HRs, hit an outlandish .301/.418/.643. Scott Rolen hit 34 HR and hit .314/.409/.598.
    They went 1-30 combined in that series.
    …and that one hit was on a bunt single by Edmonds in game 1.

  3. ptfu - Oct 21, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    Barry Bonds, not Albert Pujols, was the most dominant hitter on the planet in 2004. Bonds hit .362/.609/.812, while Pujols hit “only” .331/.415/.657. This takes nothing away from a fantastic Pujols season…but Bonds’ season was even better.

    • dan1111 - Oct 21, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      Pujols put up Hall of Fame quality numbers, yet Bonds managed to get on base 50% more often than Pujols. Yeah, inflated by steroids, we know, but it still blows the mind how dominant Bonds was during this period.

      • aceshigh11 - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:21 AM

        His OBP and OPS insanity was based on an absolutely INSANE walk rate because he scared the shit out of every pitcher who faced him.

        For god’s sake, the man “ONLY” got 135 hits in 617 AB, and 232 WALKS. HOLY SHIT.

        And of those 135 hits? 85 were extra base hits.

        That’s just inhuman.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      Bonds OBP was higher than any NL player’s slugging percentage since 2009.

  4. Jack Marshall - Oct 21, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    The 2013 Sox have one thing in common with the 1967 crew, known in Boston as “The Cardiac Kids” (and one of the youngest teams aver to win a pennant): for both, just getting to the Series is the over-riding achievement. There won’t be any of the silly breast-beating and tragic wailing from Sox fans if the Cards prevail this year: the 0-3 comeback against the Yankees paired with the sweep of St. Louis in 2004 exorcised the demons injected by Aparicio’s slip, Bucky’s blast, and Mookie.

    This was just a wonderful year to be a Red Sox fan, just like 1967 and 1975. Nothing can spoil it now.

    • aceshigh11 - Oct 21, 2013 at 10:05 AM

      Very true.

      If the Sox lose, they can still hold their heads high. It’s been a magical year…I’d be disappointed, sure, but on balance, I’m already on cloud nine with this team.

  5. rmdiv - Oct 21, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    Is it just me, or does that post-war World Series team look like it couldn’t even give the 2013 Astros a run for their money?

    • aceshigh11 - Oct 21, 2013 at 10:08 AM

      You’re talking about a gap of about 70 years in terms of advances in sports medicine, cardio conditioning, weightlifting, nutrition, supplementation, etc.

      I think the 2013 Astros WOULD beat that team. You just can’t compare the two…it’s a totally different game today.

      You want to see an even bigger gap in performance? Look at old NFL footage versus the two-legged rhinoceroses in the league today.

  6. yankeepunk3000 - Oct 21, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    I’m pretty happy with how the playoffs have turned out and its the top two teams in the league facing off. Yankees didn’t make it but this has been some of my favirote playoff baseball in the last decade or so. Only better was 09 for me haha. Hate that the WS is still 3 days away why in the world is there so much time off?

  7. philsieg - Oct 21, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    …even though there are only two remaining players from the 2004 series — David Ortiz and Yadier Molina…

    Not exactly. The Cards starting catcher in three of the four games was Mike Matheny. I believe he’ll be in the St Louis dugout Wednesday night, too.

  8. shawndc04 - Oct 21, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    I’m not sure that the story about Slaughter running through a stop sign is accurate. The third base coach, Mike Gonzalez, later said that he told Slaughter to go and the video seems to show the Sox third baseman deking Slaughter while Gonzalez is backing up and waving him in, not trying to stop him.

  9. jachaiss - Oct 21, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    This series should go all 7 games, both have incredible pitching and bats that can light up the sky. But the Sox could also sweep the cardinals in 4 since they were top in offense as long as the JLs of the post season show up and not the JLs of the regular season

    • gloccamorra - Oct 21, 2013 at 4:02 PM

      Okay for all but the 7 games part. Game seven is on Halloween, and I’m going out with my granddaughter as Beauty And The Beast.

    • tridecagon - Oct 22, 2013 at 2:10 PM

      I think the Cards have too much pitching for the Sox to sweep. They’d be lucky to get out of Boston up 2-0, going against Wainwright and Wacha backed by the fireballing StL bullpen. They might win either of the first two games, but winning both is a lot to ask.

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