Ken Boyer

June 16, 1964: Ken Boyer hits for the cycle and Lou Brock makes his first start for the Cardinals

Off to a slow start to the 1964 season, the Cardinals had to do something.

For manager Bing Devine, that meant making one of the most famous deals in baseball history, trading Ernie Broglio, Bobby Shantz, and Doug Clemens to the Cubs for Lou Brock, Jack Spring, and Paul Toth.

For Ken Boyer, that meant wearing his lucky sport coat prior to the Cardinals’ June 16 game against the Houston Colt .45s.

“I hadn’t worn it at all on this trip, so I figured I might break our bad luck if I put it on,” he said on the team’s bus ride to Colt Stadium. “(Cardinals publicity director) Jim Toomey said he was going to have the coat sewed on me if we won.”[1]

Boyer, who was hitless in his last eight games, had run into a string of mild health issues, including a cold suffered earlier on the Cardinals’ road trip and a back strain caused when he swung at a Juan Marichal pitch in San Francisco.[2]

Whether it was the addition of Brock to the starting lineup or Boyer’s lucky jacket, the Cardinals turned their fortunes and made a little history. During their 7-1 win, Boyer hit for the natural cycle and Brock reached base four times in his first game in the St. Louis starting lineup.

The Cardinals entered their contest with the Astros on a five-game losing streak and were just 3-11 in the month of June. For the season, they held a 28-31 record, good for eighth place in the 10-team National League. The Astros sat just half a game behind the Redbirds at 28-32, ahead of only the 19-40 Mets.

Curt Simmons took the mound for the Cardinals after missing his last start due to “sacroiliac problems.”[3] In opposition, the Astros started Bob Bruce, a right-hander from New York who was destined to enjoy the best season of his career with 15 wins in 1964. On this day, however, he faced a Cardinals offense that was finally waking from its early-season slumber.

Brock drew a first-inning walk but was doubled up on a line drive off the bat of Bill White. An inning later, Boyer began his pursuit of the cycle with an infield single.

In the third, the Cardinals broke the scoreless tie. Julian Javier and Curt Flood each singled before White hit an RBI single and Boyer added an RBI double.

In the fifth inning, the Cardinals broke the game open as Brock singled and scored on a triple by Boyer. Houston replaced Bruce with Don Larsen, who allowed Boyer to score on an error and gave up an RBI single to Tim McCarver to make the score 5-0.

Already having singled, doubled, and tripled, Boyer stepped to the plate in the top of the seventh needing a home run to complete the cycle. He met the challenge, homering over the left-field wall to make the score 6-0.

Rusty Staub homered in the Houston half of the seventh to get the Colt .45s on the scoreboard, but that would prove all the offense they would manage against Simmons. In a complete-game effort, the Cardinals starter allowed one run on just four hits and a walk, striking out four. With his first win in a month, Simmons improved to 7-5 on the season and lowered his ERA to 3.04.

The 35-year-old Simmons finished the season with 18 wins, and pitched in two games against the Yankees in the World Series. He allowed four earned runs in 14 1/3 innings, the only postseason games of his career.

The Cardinals added an insurance run in the eighth after Javier led off with a single. With Simmons at the plate, Javier stole second, then stole third and scored on a throwing error.

Boyer finished the day with three RBIs to go with his cycle, Javier added three hits, and Brock went 2-for-3 with a pair of walks.

“There was a lot of traffic out there,” third base coach Vern Benson said. “When was the last time one of our outfielders other than Flood got on base four times?”[4]

Benson also noted that Brock stumbled around second base, but still arrived at third base in plenty of time on his sixth-inning triple to left field. Coach Joe Schultz noted that “Brock outran the ball.”[5]

“You’ll see Brock run better in St. Louis where the ground is harder,” Schultz said. “I had the clock on him in the last two series with the Cubs when he was with them. He consistently ran to first base in 3.8 seconds, once in 3.75. That’s extremely fast. Javier makes it in close to 4 seconds.”[6]

Pitcher Glen Hobbie noted that the addition of Brock changed the Cardinals’ lineup, with Flood and Brock setting the stage for the team’s RBI men, White and Boyer.

“Pitchers have to work on Flood and Brock all the harder because they don’t want either of them on base with White and Boyer coming up,” he said. “Brock has a lot of power too.”[7]

The victory kicked off a four-game win streak for the Cardinals, who would slowly but surely climb the National League ranks. In seventh place at the end of June, they climbed to fourth by the end of August and moved into a tie for first on Sept. 29. They wound up edging the Cincinnati Reds by a single game with a 93-69 record.

The Cardinals and Yankees then embarked on a legendary seven-game series in which Bob Gibson won games 5 and 7 to earn World Series MVP honors and capture the Cardinals’ seventh world championship.

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[1] Neal Russo, “Birds and B’s Brake Skid,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 17, 1964.

[2] Neal Russo, “Birds and B’s Brake Skid,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 17, 1964.

[3] Neal Russo, “Birds and B’s Brake Skid,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 17, 1964.

[4] Neal Russo, “Birds and B’s Brake Skid,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 17, 1964.

[5] Neal Russo, “Birds and B’s Brake Skid,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 17, 1964.

[6] Neal Russo, “Birds and B’s Brake Skid,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 17, 1964.

[7] Neal Russo, “Birds and B’s Brake Skid,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 17, 1964.

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