Prior to the start of tonight’s game the 1967 St. Louis Cardinals were honored to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that team winning the World Series.
“I think it was the best team that I played on from the mere fact, we didn’t beat ourselves too much,” stated Bob Gibson earlier in the afternoon. “We made mistakes–physical, but not mental. And I think a lot of times when you lose games it’s from mental mistakes.”
“It was a smart team,” echoed Tim McCarver. “We learned a lot from Lou Brock about how to run the bases, we weren’t naturally as fast as Lou. But he taught us daring on the bases and we didn’t make mistakes on the bases.”
The 1967 St. Louis Cardinals finished with a record of 101-60 and beat the Boston Red Sox 4-3 in the World Series.
“We had 25 players–the most competitive, self-starting, and everybody was pretty much their own critic,” said Ray Washburn, who won 10 games that year. “Self-disciplined themselves. Management didn’t have to, it all came within the players. If you made a bad play or bad decision on the bases, you heard about it but not from the manager or press or anybody. You heard about it from your own players. That’s really how that team survived. We had a lot of clutch players.”
“Perhaps the most viciously, competitive individuals of any team that I was ever a part of,” added McCarver. “And I mean that collectively and individually. A ruthless, competitive team.”
“100%,” agreed Orlando Cepeda. “I played with so many great players, but I’ve never seen a group of people stick together and come to play everyday.”
After hitting .325 with 25 HRs and 111 RBIs, Cepeda won the National League Most Valuable Player award that season. He also remembers a particularly long stretch of the schedule, which saw the Cardinals play 49 games in the course of 48 days.
“We had a meeting before the first game, right after the All-Star game, and said ‘well, go ahead and do it,” recalls Cepeda. The team responded by going 31-18 over that span and increased their lead from 4.0 games to 11.0.
“That shows what kind of team we had,” he continued. “We did it. We complained at the beginning–too many games, but we got to do it and we took off. Great team.”
Also noteworthy, the Cardinals played that stretch without Gibson–who suffered a broken leg on July 15th. He stayed in the game to pitch to a pair of batters but then was out of action until Labor Day.
“No, no doubt whatsoever,” said Gibson of his return. “In fact, I started working out with my leg in a cast. I started throwing from the mound with my leg in a cast. We had a guy named Johnny Lewis, who was an ex-Cardinal player and he worked in the front office. Left-handed hitter. He used to go out every afternoon, we’d go out and I’d throw to him. When it came time to take the cast off, my arm was in good shape. Leg was a little weak, but the arm was in good shape.”
Gibson threw three complete-game victories in the 1967 World Series, but takes even more pride in his performance at the plate.
“Home run, of course,” said Gibson with a smile. “I threw a lot of complete games. The home run. You can’t do that in a World Series–a lot of guys play in the World Series and never do it. I did it twice.”
“That’s not a carry-over from anything,” said Gibson. “It’s happenstance. Sometimes a bunch of players, a bunch of people that think alike, that have the same goals, they get together. I don’t know that you could even go out and try to find them and put them together. It just happened. We just had some of guys that thought a lot alike. We still think alike! We still hang out. I run into these guys all the time. We go sit and have dinner, have a drink and just laugh about old times.”
“Great team, great teammates, great ballplayers–everything was great,” said Cepeda. “When you’re a big league player, you know what you should do. No one has to tell you, you’ve got to do this or you’ve got to do that. You go there everyday, you put on your uniform, and you take care of business. That’s what we did. Everyone had a different role, but we knew what to do.”
“It really came together as a team,” said Washburn. “Everybody respected everybody. Everybody picked everybody up, but then everybody knew when they messed up and if somebody said something, well then I’ve got to pick it up or I’ve got to do this a little bit better.”
Appearing as part of the pregame celebration were Red Schoendienst, Dick Hughes, Larry Jaster, Ray Washburn, Ted Savage, Bobby Tolan, Ed Spiezio, Julian Javier, Mike Shannon, Tim McCarver, Steve Carlton, Orlando Cepeda, Bob Gibson, and Lou Brock.