When the pitcher isn’t a pitcher

The gray sky over downtown St. Louis today matches their fans’ mood after last night’s game – a 17-5 loss, against the Cubs, which makes it completely embarrassing. Cubs fans will never let us live down last night’s game. The Cardinals are definitely not playing like a team who won the National League pennant last year. There’s an old saying that goes, “You have to hit bottom before you can get back up.” Hopefully, last night’s game was the bottom and the Cardinals will regroup and figure out what’s going wrong. It’s still early in the season, but the problems need to get fixed now before they get even worse. The Cards did make some roster moves today, putting last night’s starter, LHP Tyler Lyons, on the DL with a left shoulder strain (hmm, could this be why 7 runs were scored off him?), optioned RHP Eric Fortunato to Memphis, and recalled LHP Sam Freeman and RFP Jorge Rondon from Memphis.

There are many reasons for the Cardinals’ implosion, and they are being covered very well by my fellow Cardinals bloggers. But this post isn’t about that. Daniel Descalso was brought into the game to pitch last night, and it reminded me of a time when another utility player was brought in to pitch.

On May 14, 1988, the Cards played the Braves at Busch Stadium II. The game was tied 5-5 when manager Whitey Herzog brought in utility player Jose Oquendo (a/k/a “The Secret Weapon”) to pitch in the 16th inning after running out of pitchers. Amazingly, Jose pitched 3 scoreless innings before being tagged for a 2 run double by Ken Griffey, Jr. in the 19th inning, and he took the loss. Jose was the first non-pitcher in 20 years to get a decision. His pitching line was 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 1 SO. This was also one of Whitey’s many games where he pulled a double switch and had a pitcher play in the outfield, who in this case was Jose DeLeon. You can read more about this game in greater detail at the link here.

I remember this game well.  It was a Saturday night, and I was at a bar called Gilligan’s (which was not named after the TV show) shooting darts with my then-boyfriend Andrew and our buddy Gene. I looked up at the game on the bar’s TV to see how the game was going and was shocked to see Jose on the mound. I turned to Andrew and said, “Have I drunk too many beers or is that Jose Oquendo pitching?” My eyesight had not failed me, nor had I had too much to drink; it was indeed Jose on the mound.

My hubby (who was just a friend then; we didn’t start dating until 1990) was at the game that night with another friend of ours and her boyfriend. He made the mistake of mentioning before the game that he had never been to an extra inning game before. Bad move there, Mike!

Tomorrow is the 26th anniversary of the game in which Jose was called on to pitch. Will fans be saying 26 years from now, “Remember that horrible 17-5 loss to the Cubs when Daniel Descalso was brought in to pitch?” Probably not. Adam Wainwright is the starter tonight, and hopefully he will be able to turn the floundering S.S. Cardinals around and keep it from sinking.

Thanks for reading! See you next time!

Diane

Bibliography:

“Jose Oquendo,” Wikipedia,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Oquendo

Los Angeles Times, “St. Louis’ Oquendo Pitches 4 Innings, Loses in 19th,” http://articles.latimes.com/1988-05-15/sports/sp-4246_1_st-louis-cardinals

The Hardball Times, “25th Anniversary:  The Jose Oquendo Game,” http://www.hardballtimes.com/tht-live/25th-anniversary-the-jose-oquendo-game/

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