July 7, 1987: Steve Lake and Jack Clark lead Cardinals to late-night doubleheader sweep

In the end, it wasn’t backup catcher Steve Lake’s game-tying, two-run home run in the ninth inning that impressed him the most. It wasn’t Jack Clark’s game-winning RBI single. It was the thousands of Cardinals fans still cheering on their Redbirds when the final pitch of a rain-delayed doubleheader was finally thrown at 3:01 a.m. on July 8, 1987.

“They were either under the influence of alcohol or they didn’t have watches,” Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said.[1]

“It was the first time I ever got home and had the paper waiting for me,” added third-base coach Nick Leyva.[2]

The double-header was scheduled to begin at 5:35 p.m. on July 7 after the Cardinals and Dodgers had been rained out two months earlier. However, rain delayed the first pitch of the day until 7:57 p.m.[3]

Once play finally began, the Dodgers struck first. Third baseman Phil Garner hit a solo home run off Ricky Horton with one out in the second, and after Alex Trevino doubled to left field, Dodgers pitcher Tim Leary hit a two-out single that gave Los Angeles a 2-0 lead.

Willie McGee put the Cardinals ahead in the bottom of the third. Horton led off the inning with a double, but Vince Coleman popped up trying to bunt and Ozzie Smith flied out as well. With two outs, Leary walked Tom Herr and Clark, loading the bases. McGee cleared them with a double down the left-field line, putting the Cardinals ahead 3-2.

Horton, who made 61 of his 67 appearances that season in relief, lasted into the sixth inning, but left the game with the bases loaded and one out. Right-handed reliever Ken Dayley struck out Trevino for the second out, but with Steve Sax at the plate, he threw a wild pitch that allowed Pedro Guerrero to score before Mickey Hatcher was thrown out at home.

In the seventh, Dodgers center fielder John Shelby hit an RBI single off Todd Worrell to give the Dodgers a 4-3 lead. That advantage wouldn’t last long.

After retiring the first batter, Leary walked Coleman and Smith, and Dodgers skipper Tommy Lasorda turned to reliever Brian Holton to finish the inning. Holton, however, was undone by his defense. In consecutive at-bats, Hatcher misplayed a ground ball at first base, Ken Landreaux dropped a fly ball in left field, and Hatcher booted another ground ball, allowing the Cardinals to take a 5-4 lead.

Worrell worked around a leadoff triple by Sax in the ninth inning to earn his fourth win of the season. Leary took the loss for the Dodgers, falling to 1-4 on the season. After the game, Lasorda chased his clubhouse attendants away and shouted at his team from behind the locked clubhouse door.[4]

His efforts weren’t enough to inspire the Dodgers to a win in Game 2, though they again took an early lead against the Cardinals. Guerrero started the scoring with a first-inning sacrifice fly off Cardinals starter Lee Tunnell. Hatcher added RBI singles in the second and fourth innings to give Los Angeles a 3-0 lead.

The Cardinals rallied for two runs in the fifth. Dodgers starter Brad Havens, making his only start of the season and his first since 1985, held the Cardinals off the scoreboard through the first four innings, but was replaced by Alejandro Pena after Lake singled to lead off the fifth. Coleman drew a one-out walk before Smith hit an RBI single and Herr drove in another run on a sacrifice fly to left field.

From there, Pena shut the Cardinals’ offense down, and Shelby added an RBI double in the seventh to give the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Los Angeles maintained that two-run advantage heading into the bottom of the ninth, when Terry Pendleton singled off reliever Matt Young to lead off the frame. After Young struck out Jim Lindeman, Lake launched a game-tying home run over the left-field wall to send the game into extra innings.

“They’ve got Mr. October. Now they’ve got Mr. Midnight,” Lake said.[5]

“He’s the last guy in the world I thought would hit the ball out of the ballpark,” Lasorda said.[6]

With an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 fans remaining in the park, Lake received a curtain call.[7]

“They call you a 3 o’clock hitter, and I guess I am,” he said. “They never said if it was a.m. or p.m.”[8]

In the 10th, Dawley and Dayley combined to work around an error by Smith at shortstop. Facing Dodgers reliever Ken Howell, Curt Ford led off the 10th inning with a walk. Tom Lawless attempted a sacrifice bunt, but Dodgers first baseman Franklin Stubbs made a nice play to throw out Ford at second.

Undeterred, Lawless stole second to get into scoring position. Clark didn’t waste the opportunity, hitting a ground ball single up the middle to score Lawless and end the game just a minute after 3 a.m.

“I didn’t feel real great,” Clark said. “I was starting to feel a little tired, and I was getting a little stiff. It was a little cool, but, you know, when you have a chance to win the game, you just keep going out there.”[9]

Dayley, who appeared in both games of the doubleheader, earned his second win of the season, while Howell took the loss for the Dodgers. Smith, Pendleton, and Lake each had two hits as the Cardinals finished with nine for the game.

“You know what was truly amazing?” Lake asked. “There were maybe 10,000 people here at the end. They were screaming and standing up. I got a curtain call at 3 o’clock in the morning. It was kind of neat.”[10]

The only Cardinal who could recall a later game was veteran right-hander Bob Forsch, who was a rookie when the Cardinals won a 4-3, 25-inning marathon against the Mets on September 11, 1974.

Bake McBride ended up scoring from first to win it,” Forsch recalled. “They tried to pick him off and threw it away. By the time we got out of there, the only people still at the restaurant were the ladies of the night.”[11]

Incredibly, the Cardinals and Dodgers had another double-header scheduled on July 8 for a total of three games that day. The Cardinals won both of those games for a four-game series sweep over the course of 28 hours. The wins were part of a streak that ultimately reached nine games.

“It’s just a matter of getting out of this damn town,” said Hatcher, who played third base in Game 2 after his errors proved costly in the opener. “I’d never played so late at night, 3 a.m., and I don’t want to do it again.”[12]

“This team (the Cardinals) is playing just the way it did in ’85,” Lasorda said. “They swing down and everything finds a hole. They go from first to third as well as everybody you’ve ever seen. You can’t walk anybody to set up double plays because they don’t hit into double plays.”[13]

After watching the Cardinals-Dodgers series, Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray described St. Louis’s ballclub by writing:

Are they all the same guy?

Look at them. They’re all 5-10 or 5-11. They all bat from both sides of the plate. They all run the hundred in 9.2 or the forty in 4.3. They all think a home run is something that rolls to the outfield fence. … I can’t tell one from the other and I don’t think the National League pitchers can either.[14]

It was a style of play that certainly worked throughout the 1987 season, as St. Louis went on to win 95 games and win the National League East. The Cardinals beat the Giants in a seven-game NLCS to claim their third National League championship of the 1980s.


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[1] Tom Wheatley, “Early Birds: Cards Double Their Pleasure At 3 A.M.,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 1987.

[2] Tom Wheatley, “Early Birds: Cards Double Their Pleasure At 3 A.M.,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 1987.

[3] John Sonderegger, “Rain Dashes Attendance,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 8, 1987.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Worrell Gets Out Of Jam,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 8, 1987.

[5] Tom Wheatley, “Early Birds: Cards Double Their Pleasure At 3 A.M.,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 1987.

[6] Tom Wheatley, “Early Birds: Cards Double Their Pleasure At 3 A.M.,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 1987.

[7] Tom Wheatley, “Early Birds: Cards Double Their Pleasure At 3 A.M.,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 1987.

[8] Tom Wheatley, “Early Birds: Cards Double Their Pleasure At 3 A.M.,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 1987.

[9] Tom Wheatley, “Early Birds: Cards Double Their Pleasure At 3 A.M.,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 1987.

[10] Tom Wheatley, “Early Birds: Cards Double Their Pleasure At 3 A.M.,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 1987.

[11] Tom Wheatley, “Early Birds: Cards Double Their Pleasure At 3 A.M.,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 1987.

[12] Sam McManis, “Dodgers Pile Up 4 Losses During 28-Hour Period,” Los Angeles Times, July 9, 1987.

[13] Rick Hummel, “Cards Sweep LA; Streak Hits 7,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 1987.

[14] Jim Murray, “The Cardinals Are All Birds of a Feather,” Los Angeles Times, July 9, 1987.