1968 and 2006: My Thoughts
I haven’t forgotten that we lost the 1968 World Series, and I don’t need to come back here to Detroit to remind me, either. I look back on that thing, and there are a couple of things that I remember.
The No. 1 thing that I remember is all of the key plays — Lou Brock not sliding; there was a two-hopper that went by my left because I was guarding the line in the seventh inning; a bad hop went over Julian Javier’s head; Curt Flood slips on the ball that Jim Northrup hits. But all of that was fate, in my mind. Prior to that, Mayo Smith in the fifth game, when the Cardinals were up 3-1, let Mickey Lolich bat in the fifth inning when they were down. He got a hit. He was a notorious bad hitter and he got a hit that game. And I think his manager said, "Look, we’re only as good as he is." And he had the confidence in him and left him in there. When we got to the bullpen, we were successful against his bullpen, and we weren’t against Lolich. So that really gave them the momentum, psychologically. I think that was the biggest play in the World Series. Maybe if we hadn’t been up 3-1, it might have been different. But Smith said, "He’s our best, and we’re going with him." When he got the base hit, they came back and they won that game, and the snowball was already headed down the mountain to turn into an avalanche. I still don’t like it, because I could have been in three World Series and won all of them.
The one thing that’s good about it, though, is that that Detroit team would not have been recognized as such a good team if we had beaten them. If we’d won that thing in five games, they’d have never been recognized as such a good team. They were a really good team. They had Al Kaline, they had Northrup, they had Norm Cash, Bill Freehan, Willie Horton. They really had a good baseball team. They had the last 30-game winner in Denny McLain, they had Lolich. All of that would not have been acknowledged, so that is the one good thing.
But in the end, they were better than we were. They won four, and we didn’t.
I think the Cardinals are sitting in the catbird’s seat. The Tigers, they’re the favorite in this World Series, but I think the Cardinals have a lot going for them. No. 1, a lot of people are underestimating them. I don’t think that Jim Leyland and the Tigers are underestimating them, but there’s so much media coverage that this stuff seeps in like osmosis. It gets to the players. Trust me, it does. So I think the Cardinals are sitting in a really good spot.
We’ve got a rookie pitching tonight, and so do they. That’s very unusual. So anything could happen with either one of them. They could throw zeros up there so fast it would make your head spin, or you could have a big explosion. There are so many things that could happen. That’s why it’s going to be really interesting.
I think that our guy, he might go out there and just dazzle them and surprise the dickens out of them. Tony La Russa asked me, he said, "What do you think this guy will do?" And I said, "He could go out there and shut them out for six innings." He’s capable of doing that. We have seen that. And if he doesn’t, then I don’t think he’ll be around in the fifth inning.
The worst team in the history of the World Series from the All-Star break to the end of the year is the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals. But the second is the 2006 Detroit Tigers. But it’s been that kind of a year. This has been one of the most unusual years in the history of baseball. It’s been a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of year. The whole industry has been like that, except for the fans. They’ve loved it, they’ve come out and set all kinds of records. And because of that, you look at the Commissioner of baseball and you have to take your hat off to him. He was the guy that started a lot of this stuff, was innovative and put his head on the line. He had enough intestinal fortitude to make all these decisions, and it’s turned out beyond I think even his expectations. It’s been wonderful.
Usually when you get to the World Series, you have a letdown. But I don’t think you’re going to have it with these two teams, because again, it’s that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing. The Tigers have been sitting around for a week. The Cardinals had to bang it out and go into one of the greatest games of all time in the seventh game at Shea.
In that Game 7, the Cardinals got what I think should be considered one of the greatest performances of all time. I’ve seen better-pitched games numerous times, but I’ve never seen a game that had more tension. And that really makes what Jeff Suppan did so impressive. If he gave just a little bit, he would have been blown right out. There was a stick of dynamite that was lit, and he had to either cut the fuse or submerge it somehow — and it was like that on almost every pitch. It was just unbelievable, and that’s why I say it’s one of the great performances of all time. I don’t know if it will be thought of as that, because if you just look at it on paper, it’s not all that spectacular, but it was really special.
This team coming in has been knocked down and given up for dead so many times by so many different people, but not themselves. When you talk about tenacity, this team probably exemplifies that word. They’ve been knocked down, left in the street dying, and instead of somebody running them over, a guy in a taxi picks them up, and the next thing you know, they’re in a limousine and they’re playing here in Detroit.