Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma trips to see the Cardinals were always a special occasion. Load up the car and make the six-hour road trip to see the Arch and of course Busch Stadium. This was well before Ballpark Village. The draw was the stadium and baseball itself.
May 9th, 1992 was a game we greatly looked forward to attending in our early teens. My best friend was a Cardinals fan, but his family had grown to love the Atlanta Braves. They invited me to join them along the trip to St.Louis.
The Braves were the darlings of baseball. They went from finishing 26 games back of first place in 1990 to winning the National League and playing the Twins in the 1991 World Series. This was the first of 14 straight division titles for the club from Atlanta.
John Smoltz was starting for the Braves that day, opposed by French Canadian Rheal Cormier. The Cardinals lineup consisted of future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, a must see for any Cardinals fan in the 80’s and 90’s. The Braves had former Cardinal, and future most valuable player, Terry Pendleton at third base. The stage was set for Cardinals and Braves fans alike to enjoy their trip to the ballpark.
This is where the story gets a little more juice. After two quick runs by Atlanta in the first inning followed by six runs in the third, Smoltz seemed to be cruising. After adding another run in the fourth, the Braves had handed a 7-0 lead to the Hall of Fame starter.
Realizing we had a six-hour drive back to Oklahoma, the adults started to get a little antsy in their seats. The Cardinals scored two runs in the fourth to buy us at least another inning, but the Braves countered with two more in the fifth to really hasten the packing of the bags.
Future Brave and current Cardinal, Brian Jordan tripled in the second run of the fifth inning. Which is still the most impressive display of running from a human being that large I’ve ever seen. After just the two runs in that frame, the Cards now trailed 11-5.
Heading back out for the sixth, Smoltz looked to be in complete control. It sounded that way really, since we were already out of our seats and heading back to the van. Dreading the thought of the return trip home and against the wishes and loud protests of my buddy and myself, the adults had given up on our Redbirds.
The KMOX radio signal was now our only outlet for the remainder of the game as we were already on the interstate back to Tulsa- the smooth tones of Mike Shannon describing the easy work put in by Smoltz in that scoreless sixth inning.
If you’ve made it this far, the seventh inning turned out to be the most memorable on the field, and the beginning of an eventful trip home.
It all started with a Felix Jose lead off double that sparked a four run rally, and chased John Smoltz from the game. We will hear more from Mr. Jose in the next inning. The tally now being an 11-9 Braves lead.
The atmosphere in the automobile started to get a little dicey. We couldn’t have left the site of one of the classic Cardinal comebacks could we? The early nineties were lean years for a Cards fans. A come from behind win in this fashion was comparable to clinching a division.
Making quick work of the Braves lineup in the eighth, the Cardinal had all the momentum heading to the bottom half of the inning. The van became completely silent other than a few snarky remarks from the younger Cardinals fans in the backseat.
Expecting the best, which was actually the worst in our current situation, Ozzie worked a lead off walk to start the inning. Felix Jose followed with, you guessed it, a two run bomb to tie the score at 11-11. I can still see and hear my buddy swinging his arms like it was fifteen minutes ago.
After a Brian Jordan double, the winning run was standing at second base. Luis Alicea played the role of hero, driving in Jordan to win the game and complete the Cardinals comeback.
There was no confetti dropped in the van, although objects and a few curse word were hurled toward the front seats of an automobile doing 70 plus miles per hour.
Looking back on it, I’m not sure if the comeback in person would have been nearly as entertaining as watching my friends anger toward his loved ones in that car. This was a second family to me , and I love them dearly for allowing me to tag along on these adventures.
My only advice is it to play it safe and not leave any sporting events early.
As always, Thank you for reading. I’ll have more current content as we get in to Spring Training.