We have finally reached the end of this lovely little adventure into Cardinals broadcast history! Part 1 (which you can read here) and Part 2 (which you can read here) walked us through some incredible moments, from Stan Musial to Jhonny Peralta. Here is a brief recap of the previous 10 entries:
15. Rick Ankiel’s return home run (Dan McLaughlin)
14. Stan Musial’s 3000th hit (Harry Caray)
13. Jack Clark’s 1985 NLCS Game 7 home run (Vin Scully)
12. Jhonny Peralta go-ahead home run at Wrigley Field (Dan McLaughlin)
11. Mark McGwire’s 70th home run of 1998 (Joe Buck)
10. Adam Wainwright 2006 NLCS game-winning strikeout (Mike Shannon)
9. Mark Whiten’s 4th home run in one game (Joe Buck)
8. 2011 World Series Final Play (Joe Buck)
7. Fernando Tatis’s second grand slam in one inning (Mike Shannon)
6. Mark McGwire’s 62nd home run of 1998 (Joe Buck)
In this third and final part, we discuss the five best broadcast calls in Cardinals history- those that were so well-done and have become so iconic that they stand out above even these previous classics. Plus, stay tuned for a special bonus honorable mention at the end! Sit back, plug in your headphones (if you’re at work), and open up a cold frosty one (probably not if you’re at work, unless you’re Mike Shannon) while we relive these historical Cardinals moments and the calls that accompanied them:
5. David Freese’s Game 6 Walk-Off
- Date: October 27, 2011
- Location: St. Louis
- Broadcaster: Joe Buck & Tim McCarver
- Transcript: BUCK: “Freese hits it in the air to center. We will see you tomorrow night!“……….McCARVER: “How did this happen?“
- The situation: You had to know that Game 6 was going to show up on this list. Any proper list of great Cardinals moments is obligated to mention it. We all know the situation: up by two and one out away from winning the World Series in the bottom of the 9th, Rangers closer Neftali Feliz allowed a fly ball from David Freese that went over the head of Nelson Cruz. Freese’s triple tied the game at 7. The Cardinals could not bring Freese home and the game went into extra innings. In the top of the 10th, Josh Hamilton hit a two-run home run to give the Rangers a 9-7 lead. In the bottom of the 10th, Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay singled, then were moved over to second and third by a sacrifice bunt from pinch-hitting Kyle Lohse. A Ryan Theriot groundout scored Descalso, bringing up Albert Pujols with two outs. The Rangers walked Pujols to bring up Lance Berkman, who on a 2-2 count singled to score Jay and once again tie the game. In the top of the 11th, the Rangers failed to score. That brought up David Freese to lead off the bottom of the 11th against Mark Lowe. Once again, the native St. Louisan Freese played the hero, launching a walk-off home run to center field and sending the series to a seventh game, which the Cardinals would win for their 11th World Series championship in franchise history. Game 6 remains one of the greatest baseball games ever played, and a night we all can look back on and remember exactly where we were.
- What made it so great: For the only time on this list, I include both the play-by-play and the color commentary, because it is truly the shot of Buck’s call and the chaser of McCarver’s comment that brings chills to fans looking back on the moment. As discussed in Part 2, Buck’s call of the 2011 World Series is controversial. Some criticize Buck for sounding lethargic throughout the highly thrilling series. However, as also mentioned in Part 2, Buck had injured his vocal chords earlier in 2011 as a bad reaction to a hair plug treatment (seriously) and was just getting back to normal by late October when this happened. Thus, you can tell his voice is more limited than usual. Here, though, both because of his voice’s limitations and because of what the moment called for, the brevity and simplicity of Buck’s call are artfully done. It was a moment that was so monumental on its own, it did not need a lot of commentary beyond “we will see you tomorrow night” as a declaration that the Cardinals had done it, and this is a perfect example of when to yield to a crowd going wild. As for Tim McCarver, he too has received a ton of criticism over the years, but it is widely agreed that his comment after the long silence was masterful. Game 6 had featured the Cardinals down to their last strike twice with the World Series on the line, and both times, the Cardinals tied the mark and eventually won to keep their hopes alive. McCarver’s comment was the most succinct question possible in that moment. How had it happened? How had they done it when it looked over with twice? Cardinals fans get chills when they think back on the night of October 27, 2011, and the magic of Game 6, and Buck and McCarver’s walk-off commentary has rightfully become a major part of that memory.
4. Matt Adams’s 2014 NLDS Home Run
- Date: October 7, 2014
- Location: St. Louis
- Broadcaster: John Rooney
- Transcript: “Holliday, safe lead at second…Adams swings and hits a drive, deep right field, back to the wall, and it’s a goner! A goner! A 3-run homer from Matt Adams! 3-2 Cardinals in a magical 7th inning!“
- The situation: With so many other classic Cardinals postseason series in this decade, the 2014 NLDS against the Dodgers gets a bit lost in the shuffle, but there is no question that it was an absolute thriller at the time. In Game 1 in Los Angeles, the Cardinals were down early but got to the elite Clayton Kershaw in the 7th inning and wound up winning. Unfortunately, Harold Reynolds ruined that call so it did not make it onto this list. In Game 4, the Cardinals were back home with a 2-1 series lead and a chance to clinch. Kershaw once again unsurprisingly was pitching a gem early on. In the bottom of the 7th, the Dodgers led 2-0. The Cardinals put the first two runners on with Kershaw at exactly 100 pitches. Mattingly stuck with Kershaw against the left-handed Matt Adams, thinking that, despite lefty Matt Carpenter getting to Kershaw in game 1, Kershaw against a lefty is usually a good bet. Mattingly was not rewarded for this choice, as Adams rocked a 3-run home run to right to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. The Cardinals bullpen would hold and they would go on to win by that same score to clinch. The NLCS that followed against the Giants was also a thriller, but the Giants would advance thanks in no small part to what was arguably Mike Matheny’s worst managerial decision of all time.
- What made it so great: There are two broadcasters I really wish I could feature more of on this list. One of them is John Rooney. Rooney joined Mike Shannon on the Cardinals radio team in 2006 after a long career calling games for the White Sox. His jovial demeanor, sense of humor, and higher-pitched Midwestern voice made for broadcasting pair perfectly with Shannon, and they have found a real groove alternating with each other between play-by-play and commentary. Rooney is, in my opinion, the best current Cardinals broadcaster. While he is consistently good, his best moments are his home run calls. Pairing with Shannon’s iconic “get up, baseball!” line is a high bar, but Rooney’s genuine excitement couple with the “it’s a goner” catchphrase meet that bar easily. I mentioned in Part 1 that he had a great home run call of Jhonny Peralta’s dramatic 9th inning home run at Wrigley Field, but the Matt Adams home run call here is my favorite of Rooney’s. Facing Clayton Kershaw twice in one playoff series felt like a monumental task, and fairly so. After the shocking turn of events in the 7th inning of Game 1, when it happened again against Kershaw in the 7th inning of Game 4, it was stunning. Cardinals fans went wild, and Rooney went right along with it. Adding that the 7th inning was “magical” felt correct, and this was for a team that has seen its fair share of magic in recent years.
UPDATE: I felt I should mention that while in the course of writing this article, I had the pleasure of meeting John Rooney. I don’t have much to add except that he was a very nice man and said he was flattered that I was including him on my list. Does that technically mean that this series of articles is endorsed by the radio voice of Cardinals baseball? No, but I’m going to say it is anyway.
3. 1982 World Series Winner
- Date: October 20, 1982
- Location: St. Louis
- Broadcaster: Jack Buck
- Transcript: “Sutter from the belt. To the plate. Swing and a miss! And that’s a winner! That’s a winner! A World Series winner for the Cardinals!“
- The situation: The 1982 World Series was yet another in the long history of Cardinals postseason thrillers. The Cardinals built a 2-1 series lead before the Brewers won the next two. In Game Six, with the championship on the line, the Cardinals trounced Milwaukee 13-1, setting up Game Seven. In the sixth inning, the Brewers took a 3-1 lead, but the Cardinals took the lead in the bottom of the inning thanks to some heroics from Keith Hernandez and George Hendrick. The Cardinals would add some insurance in the bottom of the eighth to set up future Hall-of-Fame closer Bruce Sutter to close out the second inning of a two-inning save. Sutter shut the door on the Brewers, and the Cardinals would win their first World Series title in 14 years, a feat they would then not achieve for 24 more years after that. (DAMN YOU DON DENKINGER)
- What made it so great: My biggest regret of this list is that there was not more Jack Buck. The man was an icon of Cardinals baseball and baseball in general. Over a prolific and storied career, his voice was synonymous with all things Cardinals. Unfortunately, due to his era largely being before my time, I do not know as many deep cuts like I do with Dan McLaughlin or John Rooney, and no great archive of his calls exist, so I am forced to stick only with the true classics. Among those classics, two stick out, and one of those is here. I spoke in some depth in Part 2 about the challenge of calling a championship-winning play correctly. The crux of the analysis is that what you really should aim for as a broadcaster is a sound bite that people can remember. The call here is simply all Jack Buck magic. Going to a catchphrase in a big moment can be risky, but as we also saw earlier in this article with John Rooney during the Matt Adams home run, if done correctly it can create a legendary call. Here, Buck unsurprisingly is able to master this. Of all the times Jack Buck had used his famous “that’s a winner” catchphrase, it had never felt so poignant. Usually that phrase was used for a game winner, but here “winner” meant something different- something much bigger- entirely.
2. Pujols Hits the Train Tracks
- Date: October 17, 2005
- Location: Houston
- Broadcaster: Thom Brennaman
- Transcript: “0-1 to Pujols. In the air, left field, and Pujols has given St. Louis the lead! A dramatic towering three-run home run!…Stunned in disbelief here in Houston.“
- The situation: Ask any Cardinals fan what their favorite moment of this century has been, most will tell you that it was David Freese’s heroics in the 2011 World Series (more specifically, they’ll say “Game 6” and everyone will know instantly what that means) but most will also tell you that The Lidging is not far behind. The Astros led the 2005 NLCS 3-1, and a win in Game 5 would send them to face the White Sox in the World Series. Houston had built a 4-2 lead heading into the 9th and called in their all-world closer Brad Lidge to seal the deal. Lidge was in the second year of one of the most ridiculously good two-year stretches by a relief pitcher you will see, amassing 6.2 fWAR (!!!) between 2004 and 2005. Lidge sealing the deal seemed like a sure thing, especially to everyone in Houston, and especially after he retired the first two batters without allowing a base runner. Shots of the audience leading up to this included Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte celebrating in the dugout, and an excited-looking Nolan Ryan among the thrilled Houston fans ready to explode. This brought up International Grit Icon David Eckstein, who singled to keep the inning alive. Jim Edmonds was next, and he drew a walk. Unfortunately for Lidge, this meant Albert Pujols was up. It feels appropriate that as I write this, Pujols sits at 2,999 hits (editor’s note: congratulations, Albert), on the verge of a much-deserved milestone for this Hall-of-Fame career. Even for those of us with good memories, it is difficult to fathom just how good Albert was during the last decade. Between 2001 and 2010, Albert amassed 77.3 fWAR, an average of almost 8 per season (for those who don’t do sabermetrics, that’s uh, unbelievably good). Not only did Pujols get to Lidge, he massacred the baseball, hitting a no-doubter to the train tracks at Minute Maid Park, drawing an immediate reaction of despair from Lidge and creating about as quick and dramatic of a silencing of a crowd at a sporting event as has ever been heard. It says something about the drama of this moment that it still is held in such high regard by baseball fans now, even though the Astros would win Game 7 anyway and then go on to lose the World Series to the White Sox. Although the narrative that Pujols “broke” Lidge is not really accurate, on this play, when the two giants of the game went head-to-head, Pujols won and won handily. That’s as good as baseball gets.
- What made it so great: Full disclosure, I am not a huge Thom Brennaman fan, but I’ll give him this, when he gets it right, he gets it really right. His calls of the 3 trick plays in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl remain some of my favorite college football calls ever, and the famous Pujols train track home run is the zenith of his baseball career. This was such a stunning moment that it would be easy even for a broadcaster to be shook by it and mess up the call. Kudos to Brennaman, though, as he not only kept his composure, but his tone was an almost movie-like contrast to the air being totally sucked out of the stadium. It is rather risky to call a play “dramatic” as it is happening, because the context is not necessarily there, but in this moment it was so obvious that it was right to say so. The pause after the initial call gave the viewers the sound of utter shock, and returning to the call with “stunned in disbelief” was a perfect description. Although it was not explicitly mentioning Pujols, it was in a way building up what he had just done even more, because it put into context that one man had just silenced tens of thousands of raucous Texans with one swing of the bat. For all his ups and downs, Brennaman’s call here was a work of art, and still brings chills to myself and many others to this day.
1. Go Crazy, Folks
- Date: October 14, 1985
- Location: St. Louis
- Broadcaster: Jack Buck
- Transcript: “Smith corks one into right, down the line, it may go!…Go crazy, folks, go crazy! It’s a home run, and the Cardinals have won the game, by the score of 3-2, on a home run by the Wizard! Go crazy!“
- The situation: The 1985 NLCS, as discussed in Part 1, was really fun if you were a Cardinals fan. The Cardinals and Dodgers entered Game 5 with the series tied at 2-2, making the last game of the series in St. Louis one of critical importance. Coming into the game, everyone expected a low-scoring pitchers duel between two of the game’s best, Bob Forsch and Fernando Valenzuela. They got what they expected in that regard, but what nobody expected was how it ended. The game had been tied 2-2 since the 4th inning, and it became a matter of what gave first. In the bottom of the 9th, looking to send the game into extra innings, the Dodgers called on reliever Tom Niedenfuer, who had enjoyed a phenomenal season. Ozzie Smith at that point, over an eight-year career, had only hit 13 home runs (six of them coming in 1985), and none of them had come batting left-handed. While Ozzie is one of the greatest defensive players of all time, and he would later on enjoy some legitimately pretty good offensive years, he was at that point not known as much of a threat at the plate. Surely, then, nobody expected what happened next. Ozzie, batting left-handed, took the Dodgers’ star reliever deep to the right field seats at Busch Stadium II, winning the game for the Cardinals and giving them a 3-2 series lead heading back to Los Angeles. Ozzie’s home run arguably played a role in Game 6 even beyond that, when Tommy Lasorda foolishly relied on the small sample success of Ozzie against Niedenfuer and intentionally walked him in the 9th inning. This would guarantee that Jack Clark would come to the plate after Tommy Herr, and as we saw in Part 1 of the series, Jack Clark, who unlike Ozzie was not intentionally walked even though first base was open, crushed Niedenfuer’s pitch to left giving the Cardinals the lead and the eventual series win. Between the high stakes, the shock at what Ozzie did given the situation, the role this played in the 1982 championship title, and the general fact that Cardinals Nation still loves Ozzie Smith to this day, this moment is a favorite among Cardinals fans even now over 35 years later.
- What made it so great: Come on, you had to know this would be #1, right? It’s in the title of the series, for goodness sake. Not only is this the best Cardinals call of all time, it’s up there with the greatest calls of all time in American sports. Simply put, everything about it is perfect. If the 1982 World Series winner was Jack Buck magic, this is on another entire level. Buck, first of all, genuinely seems as shocked as everyone else that Ozzie Smith of all people took Niedenfuer deep. A lesser broadcaster would have risked blowing the call out of disbelief, but Buck, in his classical radio man style, turns the shock around and rolls with it. There are so many little flourishes that make the call so memorable. “Go crazy folks” was an original and creative sound bite that fit the mood perfectly and made the moment its own. Today, tell any Cardinals fan “go crazy folks” and even those like myself who were born well after October 1982 know what it is referring to. The other flourish that I love is the “by the Wizard” at the end. The Wizard was a light-hearted nickname for Smith and from a lesser broadcaster, it would have sounded cheesy in the moment, but coming out of Jack Buck’s mouth and as part of his masterfully crafted call, it was fantastic. The call speaks for itself and there isn’t much else to say other than Jack Buck was the best. He was really, truly the best and he left us with a ton of great memories, none greater than when we all went crazy along with him.
That’s it folks, the best 15 Cardinals broadcast calls in history! I’m sure you’ve enjoyed this walk down memory lane. Feel free to leave a com…..wait a second, I promised you all an honorable mention. Here it is, and it’s a good one:
HM: Bob Costas Owns Pedro Strop
I have included a truly one-of-a-kind call by St. Louis’s own Bob Costas at the suggestion of site founder John Fleming. When I mentioned the concept of this article to him for my first one, this was literally the first thing he mentioned. Truly, what a guy. Full disclosure, I’ve always liked Bob Costas. Originally from New York, Costas moved to St. Louis after graduating from Syracuse and got his first break calling games for the long-defunct Spirits of St. Louis of the ABA for KMOX (as discussed in the fantastic ESPN 30 for 30 “Free Spirits”). From his humble beginnings as the voice of the Spirits to his legendary case of pink eye at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Costas has had a lot of memorable moments. His classic radio voice and pleasant, gentlemanly demeanor make him the type of person you can enjoy listening to talk about pretty much anything. That pleasant, gentlemanly demeanor is also what makes this particular call so hilarious. At a Cardinals/Cubs game in St. Louis on June, 27, 2015, the score was deadlocked at 2-2, and reliever Pedro Strop, who came to the Cubs in the ridiculously lopsided Scott Feldman trade that also brought over Jake Arrieta, was pulled by tremendously obnoxious Cubs manager Joe Maddon for Jason Motte. Strop had, suffice to say, struggled during this outing. Strop did his usual tradition of pointing to the sky while exiting the field. Costas noticed the irony in this, and he, uh, well, I’ll let you listen for yourself. I won’t even add a transcript, because you don’t get the full experience unless you hear it in Costas’s voice. This is obviously of a different sort than the other entries on the list, but if you are looking for a call that can truly be described as one-of-a-kind, here it is. (The aftermath was that Costas apologized and Strop readily accepted, so no hurt feelings, which is good because we all know we want to laugh at this.)
NOW we are finally done with this experiment! There is a lot to be discussed and debated with this list, and you may notice some surprising omissions. If you have any thoughts or disagreements, or you just want to tell me how wonderful of a writer I am and how much you are loving this site, feel free to leave a comment, or hit me up on twitter at @turpin4prez! Either way, please check out the rest of the fine #content on this site, keep your eyes peeled for more of said #content from me, and check out my mom’s blog thekitchenwench.com for some fine Midwestern cooking! Thanks for reading, and see you fine folks next time!