Leave it to Lou Brock to find a hole in a five-man infield.
Fifty years ago, on June 27, 1972, the Expos put five players on the infield in an attempt to escape a jam against the Cardinals.
Brock did what the Expos hoped he would _ hit a ground ball _ but it eluded the infielders and bounded into the outfield for a game-winning hit.
Stacking the infield
After a loss to Sam McDowell and the Giants dropped their record to 24-32, the Cardinals won six in a row heading into a Tuesday night doubleheader versus the Expos at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.
The Expos’ starting lineup in Game 1 featured a pair of former Cardinals (Tim McCarver, making his second career start at third base, and center fielder Boots Day), two future Cardinals (right fielder Ron Fairly and first baseman Mike Jorgensen) and a St. Louis native (second baseman Ron Hunt).
After the Cardinals came back from a 3-0 deficit and tied the score, the game went to extra innings.
In the 11th, with the bases loaded and one out, Brock came to bat against closer Mike Marshall, who was working his fourth inning. Marshall’s signature pitch was a screwball, which batters tended to hit on the ground.
Hoping for a ground ball to create either a force at the plate or a double play, if Marshall couldn’t get Brock to strike out or hit a pop-up, Expos manager Gene Mauch removed left fielder Jim Fairey and sent utility player Hector Torres to the infield.
Because Brock batted left-handed, the Expos put three infielders on the right side _ first baseman Mike Jorgensen, shortstop Tim Foli (positioned to the right of second base) and second baseman Ron Hunt (stationed between Jorgensen and Foli), according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
On the left side were third baseman Bobby Wine (who had replaced McCarver in the sixth inning) and Torres (positioned to the left of second base).
The two outfielders, Ron Woods in center and Ken Singleton in right, played shallow in case of a pop fly.
Getting it done
Jorgensen at first base moved in a bit from his normal fielding spot so that if Brock did ground the ball to him he could attempt a short throw to the plate. Jorgensen also didn’t want to be too far from the bag in case he needed to beat Brock there to field a relay throw on a double play.
Brock, a spray hitter, did the unexpected, slashing a grounder down the first-base line. The ball zipped past Jorgensen for a single, scoring Scipio Spinks from third with the winning run. Boxscore
“He hit it to the (Expos’) strong point, the right side, and still hit it past them,” Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst said to the Post-Dispatch.
Stunned that Brock, who hit .233 for his career against Marshall, drove the ball where he did, Mauch said, “If I’d have had seven infielders, I wouldn’t have put one right there.”
Brock seemed surprised, too. “It must have been 1967 since I last hit a ball to that spot,” he told The Sporting News.