The Los Angeles Angels completed their improbable 1964 post season run by humbling the powerhouse St. Louis Cardinals in 5 games to win the world championship. The Cardinals had looked invincible at times in running though the National League championship series with 10 wins against just 2 losses.
But blessings abounded and miracles were aplenty as this scrappy and talented club took it to the Birds and were the better team in this series.
Game one featured Cardinal ace Bob Gibson in a match up that would seem to be heavily favoring St. Louis, as the sometimes flaky but talented Bo Belinsky toed the slab for the Angels. Both starters were sharp early, keeping the game scoreless through the first three. The Angels drew first blood in the fourth, as unheralded Lu Clinton, who had a marvelous post season, hit a two out, none on home run into the left field bleachers. After Belinsky blanked the Cards in the bottom half, the Angels tacked another run on the board, again scoring after two were out and none on. This time Willie Smith singled, advanced to second on a passed ball on a slider that eluded catcher Bob Uecker as Albie Pearson walked, and scored on a Jim Fregosi single.
The Cards got one back in their sixth as Ken Boyer and Mike Shannon singled to start the frame. Dick Groat then hit a bullet right back to Belinsky, who was able to double Shannon off of first, as Shannon slipped trying to get back to the bag - one of those Angels blessings.
Julian Javier then singled in Boyer, but was caught stealing as Uecker was at bat.
That was all the scoring in the game. Don Lee and Bob Lee combined for 3 innings of one hit ball to finish up the contest, with Bob Lee getting credit for the save.
The win set the stage for the Angels to take a commanding 2 games to none lead as the best pitcher in baseball in 1964, Dean Chance was set to face Curt Simmons in game two. But Simmons was tough as well, entering the game 3-0 in the post season with a sub-2.00 ERA.
As Chance was in prime form, mowing the Cardinals down early, the Angels hit the Redbirds for 5 runs in the first 3 innings to pretty much put the game out of reach. You aren’t likely to get 5 runs off of Dean Chance in ’64. With a run in the second, and again the rally starting with two out none on, the Angels really went to work in the third, scoring four runs, again all with two out, although the inning started with Vic Power single. Simmons got the next two hitters, but then gave up four consecutive singles as Buck Rodgers, Jim Piersall, Lu Clinton and Bobby Knoop all came through.
The Cardinals might have lost this series right there, as they managed only 3 hits off of Chance, who went the distance and simply overpowered the home club.
Game three saw a shift in venues to Dodger Stadium, but the outcome remained the same as the Angels won over a shell shocked Cardinal outfit 5-2. The Cardinals had actually tied this one up in the top of the eighth 2-2, as Ray Sadecki had kept the Redbirds in this one. Freddy Newman and Don Lee had been equally tough for Los Angeles, however Tim McCarver coaxed a bases loaded walk off of Bob Lee to plate Curt Flood with that tying run.
Ron Taylor, who pitched brilliantly in the NL championship run, came on for the Redbirds and was lit up for 3 hits and 3 runs in the Angels eighth, which included triples by Rodgers and Bobby Knoop. Bob Lee retired the Cardinals in the 9th to preserve the win.
The Cardinals finally got off the deck in game four, as Bob Gibson came back on short rest to pitch a three-hit shutout while the Cardinals amassed 15 hits in winning 5-0. Bill White had a 4 hit day, while Lou Brock and Mike Shannon got three safeties. Angel starter Barry Latman was the victim of most the damage inflicted by the Cardinal bats.
The Angels came out in game five undeterred, got back to the business of winning a championship, and sealed the deal with a shutout of their own and a 3-0 victory behind the masterful managing of Mr. Zaner. Zaner trotted out no less than five pitchers, as starter Bo Belinsky was forced to leave the game after only an inning and a third and throwing just 22 pitches. While the official word was a blister on his left index finger, rumors circulated that Bo might be suffering the effects of late night carousing, perhaps celebrating the Angels impending title a bit early. He was supposedly seen late into the evening at a couple of Hollywood hot spots including the Whiskey A-Go-Go with the likes of platinum blond bombshell Mamie Van Doren.
On this day it didn’t matter who was wearing the red and navy of the Angels on the mound, the Cardinals just could not get anything going on offense. Meanwhile the Angel offense pecked away at Cardinal starter Roger Craig, getting just enough runs to make it moderately comfortable. They scored one in the third on doubles by Felix Torres and Willie Smith, and two in fifth on a Torres single, a walk to Knoop, and Joe Koppe pinch hit ground out that moved up the runners, a sac fly by Smith and a run scoring single off the bat of Bob Perry.
The Lee boys, first Don and then Bob, pitched the final four innings at two innings apiece to officially close the book on the 1964 tourney.
Crown the Los Angeles Angels as perhaps one of the most unlikely, but certainly a most deserved 1964 World Championship!!
--submitted by “Bike” MIke Roberts--