The Cardinals tried to beat two teams in one day. Adding to the challenge, they tried to do it against a pair of aces, Sal Maglie and Warren Spahn.
On Sept. 13, 1951, at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, the Cardinals played an afternoon game against the Giants and a night game versus the Braves.
According to The Sporting News, it was the first time since 1899 that a big-league club faced two opponents in the same day.
The Cardinals split the unusual doubleheader, beating the Giants and losing to the Braves.
Thursday, Sept. 13, was supposed to be a day off for the Cardinals, but rainouts changed the schedule.
When the Braves and Cardinals were rained out of a game on June 23, it was rescheduled for the night of Sept. 13.
The Giants got involved when their Sept. 12 game with the Cardinals was rained out. Because the Giants had a day off Sept. 13 and weren’t scheduled to come back to St. Louis, it was proposed that the game be played then.
National League president Ford Frick approved the plan to have the Cardinals take on the Giants and Braves on the same day, but denied a request by Cardinals owner Fred Saigh to have both games played in the evening, the New York Daily News reported.
The start of the game against the Giants was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and the game versus the Braves was given an 8:30 p.m. start.
“To think, this was to have been an open date, a chance to loaf or go fishing,” Cardinals manager Marty Marion said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
St. Louis spoilers
The Giants, 5.5 games behind the first-place Dodgers, were trying to tighten the pennant race. According to the Daily News, they arrived at Sportsman’s Park on Sept. 13 “full of hope” because Sal Maglie was starting for them. Maglie was 20-5 and had won his last five decisions. Cardinals starter Tom Poholsky was 5-12.
To the Giants’ dismay, when the game got under way Maglie “didn’t have control and didn’t have a thing on the ball when he did get it over,” the Daily News noted.
The Cardinals scored six runs in the second inning against Maglie and reliever Monty Kennedy, but the uprising came with a price. Poholsky, whose RBI-single knocked Maglie out of the game, was spiked near the right knee by catcher Wes Westrum when he slid home on Red Schoendienst’s hit and had to leave.
Rookie Dick Bokelmann replaced Poholsky to start the third and was tasked with protecting the 6-0 lead.
An unusual play occurred in the bottom half of the inning. Kennedy threw a pitch behind Vern Benson’s back. In trying to duck the pitch, Benson tilted his bat back. The ball struck the bat and caromed toward the mound.
“For a few seconds, everybody stood still, figuring it had to be a foul ball,” the Daily News reported.
Instead, it was ruled to be in play. Kennedy finally picked up the ball and tossed to first baseman Whitey Lockman for the out. According to the Daily News, “Benson just stood at the plate in bewilderment.”
The Giants scored twice against Bokelmann in the sixth and got two more in the eighth before Gerry Staley relieved and saved the 6-4 victory for the Cardinals. Boxscore
The loss dropped the Giants six games behind the Dodgers and gave Brooklyn a magic number of 10. Any combination of Dodgers wins or Giants losses totaling 10 would clinch the pennant for Brooklyn. “That just about does it for the Giants,” the Daily News declared.
Between games, the Cardinals ate dinner and skipped batting practice. Braves starter Warren Spahn took advantage. He pitched a one-hitter in the night game, a 2-0 Braves victory.
“It was the best game I ever pitched,” Spahn told the Boston Globe.
The only Cardinals to reach base were Chuck Diering on a leadoff walk in the third and pitcher Al Brazle on a bloop single with one out in the sixth. Brazle’s floater fell just beyond the reach of second baseman Roy Hartsfield.
“It was a changeup,” Spahn said. “It was a good pitch, outside, just where I wanted it. He was lucky. I’d throw the same pitch to Brazle nine times in a row under the same circumstances.”
The win was Spahn’s 20th of the season and his fifth against the Cardinals in six decisions. His catcher for the game was the former Cardinal, Walker Cooper.
Spahn survived a scare in the third when he stopped a hard grounder by Del Rice with his hands. The glove and the ring finger of his pitching hand took the brunt of the shock, the Boston Globe reported. Boxscore
What a finish
The Giants recovered from their Sept. 13 loss to the Cardinals and won 12 of their final 13 regular-season games.
They finished in a first-place tie with the Dodgers, who lost nine of their last 17 regular-season games.
In a best-of-three playoff to determine the National League champion, the Giants prevailed, winning Game 3 on Bobby Thomson’s walkoff home run.