ST. LOUIS — Thirty-three years ago Wednesday on Oct. 21, 1987, a Cardinals folk hero was born.
Light-hitting utility infielder Tom Lawless stepped to the plate against Minnesota Twins ace Frank Viola in Game 4 of the 1987 World Series with the game tied and two men on.
What happened next earned Lawless a place in Cardinals, and baseball history.
Lawless only had one career home run to his name before that night in nearly 400 Major League at-bats. He was only in the lineup for Game 4 against the Twins after regular third baseman Terry Pendleton hurt himself in batting practice and couldn't swing from the right side against the left Viola.
Then in the fourth inning, Lawless sent a Viola pitch out to deep left field and over the wall for a three-run home run that gave the Cardinals the lead. They'd go on to win Game 4, 7-2, before eventually falling in 7 games.
But it wasn't the home run that got the attention. Lawless watched his shot fly over the fence while strolling to first base, before an emphatic bat flip that dwarfs some of the flips we see from players today.
"That is hard to imagine," Jack Buck famously said of the improbable home run.
"And I told him, 'boy are you lucky'," Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog recalled telling Lawless after the celebration.
The home run and bat flip made Lawless a household name among Cardinals fans for generations, and the former big leaguer told 5 On Your Side recently that all it takes is a chance for anyone to have a moment like he did.
"I've coached baseball, I've managed baseball in the minor leagues and even in the Major Leagues for a little bit. And that's what I tell all the kids. When you walk up to home plate, you have a chance. If you have a bat in your hands you have a chance," Lawless said.