This day in baseball history — Ken Boyer’s clutch grand slam

On October 11, 1964, the New York Yankees hosted the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the World Series. The Yankees led the Series by two games to one.

St. Louis called on Game 1 starter, Ray Sadecki. New York’s Game 1 starter, Whitey Ford, was unavailable due to injury. In fact, he was out for the remainder of the World Series.

However, the Yankees’ fourth starter, lefthander Al Downing, had a better ERA for the season (3.47) than Sadecki (3.68). Downing had led the American League in strikeouts, but also in walks.

Sadecki failed to make it out of the first inning. Phil Linz hit a lead off double. Despite having stolen only three bases in seven attempts on the year, Linz attempted to steal third. Tim McCarver’s throw arrived well ahead of Linz, who started back towards second base. Ken Boyer slipped as he threw to second, and the resulting bad toss enabled Linz to reach third.

Bobby Richardson doubled home Linz, and Maris knocked Richardson in with a bloop single. Mickey Mantle followed with a single, driving home Richardson and sending Maris to third. However, Mantle was thrown out by Mike Shannon trying to advance to second.

This would be the only out credited to Sadecki. Manager Johnny Keane relieved his 20 game winner and brought in Roger Craig, a veteran of three World Series with the Dodgers, but also the loser of 46 games in the past two seasons with the Mets.

Elston Howard greeted Craig with a single, the fifth consecutive Yankees hit. This drove in Maris. Craig then retired Tom Tresh and Joe Pepitone to end the inning.

Downing, meanwhile, was brilliant through five innings, giving up just one hit and one walk, and striking out five. Craig was quite effective himself, and managed to keep the Yankees off the board.

He helped his cause by picking Mantle off of second base in the third inning. Dick Groat set up the play by engaging “The Mick” in conversation. First, he congratulated Mantle for his game-winning home run the previous day. Then, he began to imitate his own right-fielder Mike Shannon ridiculously attempting to decoy Mantle into thinking that his monumental blast would stay in the park. As the distracted Mantle chuckled, Groat snuck in behind him for the pickoff.

As noted, Mantle had also been thrown out at second base in the first inning.

In the top of the sixth, pinch hitter Carl Warwick led off the Cardinals’ inning with a single, his third pinch hit of the Series so far. Curt Flood followed with another single. After Lou Brock flied out, Dick Groat hit a tailored-made double-play grounder to Bobby Richardson, who in 1964 would win the fourth of five straight Golden Gloves for fielding excellence.

Richardson failed to play the ball cleanly; it stuck in his glove. His throw to second pulled Linz away from the bag so that the Yanks could not get even a force out. The bases were loaded with one out.

This brought Ken Boyer to the plate. At age 33, Boyer had been in slight decline the previous two seasons, but rallied in 1964 to lead the National League in RBIs (119). He thus became the first National League third baseman to lead the league in this category since Heine Zimmerman did it in 1917. But so far in the World Series, he was 1 for 13.

For his second pitch to Boyer, Downing, who arguably possessed the best fastball in the American League, shook-off Howard’s sign for the heater. He threw Boyer a change-up, instead. Boyer deposited it in the left field stands. Just like that, the Cardinals went from down 0-3 to up 4-3.

Ken Boyer’s brother Clete was playing third base for the Yankees. He allegedly threw pebbles at his brother’s feet as Ken reached third. Clete would later say that he was thrilled for Ken, who had never played in a World Series. This one was Clete’s fifth.

For Downing, this would end up being his second most famous home run allowed. The most famous occurred 10 years later when he gave up the homer with which Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record.

With Craig out of the game for Warwick, Ron Taylor took over on the mound. The 26 year-old from Canada had endured a tough season (4.62 ERA), and would endure two even worse years before finding a home with the New York Mets, for whom he was a key player in their miracle championship run of 1969.

Taylor was brilliant on this day, his first appearance in a World Series. He shut out the Yankees for four innings without allowing a hit. Mickey Mantle, who walked with two out in the eighth, was his only base runner. Taylor stranded Mantle by striking out Elston Howard.

After leading off the game with five straight hits, the Yankees had added just one more.

The Series was now level at two games apiece, thanks to Richardson’s error and, above all, Boyer’s grand slam.

You can see Boyer’s home run, and learn more about the Cardinals’ captain, in this video.

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