October 14, 1985: Cardinals fans ‘go crazy’ after Ozzie Smith hits a walk-off home run to win NLCS Game 5

Arguably the most famous home run in St. Louis Cardinals postseason history may also have been the most unlikely.

On October 14, 1985, broadcaster Jack Buck encouraged Cardinals fans to “go crazy, folks, go crazy!” after shortstop Ozzie Smith hit the first left-handed home run of his career. The unexpected blast gave St. Louis a 3-2 walk-off win over the Dodgers in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

“Call it a 3,000-to-1 shot,” Rick Hummel wrote in the next day’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That’s nearly how many at-bats Ozzie Smith had in the major leagues without hitting a home run lefthanded.”[1]

Los Angeles Times scribe Gordon Edes wrote that “Ozzie Smith, the only man alive with a $2 million glove, turned his bat to gold with one swing.”[2]

Fellow L.A. Times writer Mike Downey added Smith’s Babe Ruth imitation “was the last thing anybody expected, seeing as how Smith is approximately the size of Babe Ruth’s bat.”[3]

Smith and the Cardinals entered Game 5 with momentum on their side. The Dodgers won the first two games of the series before the Cardinals stormed back with 4-2 and 12-2 wins. Smith entered Game 5 batting .438 (7 for 16) for the series, and after batting eighth in the lineup for the first three games, Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog moved him up to the second spot in the order ahead of Game 4.

Smith was coming off a regular season in which he hit .276 with six homers and 53 RBIs, all career highs.

“I’ve felt all along that I was a much better offensive player than I was given credit for,” Smith said. “Just because I didn’t have a high average, people were thinking I couldn’t hit. This year I did hit for a high average.”[4]

With lefthander Fernando Valenzuela taking the mound for the Dodgers in Game 5, Herzog again slotted Smith in the second spot between Willie McGee and Tom Herr. It didn’t take long for the lineup to pay dividends.

After a scoreless first inning from Cardinals starting pitcher Bob Forsch, McGee and Smith drew back-to-back walks. After Smith walked on four pitches, Herr jumped on the first pitch he saw, smacking a double that scored both base runners and gave St. Louis a 2-0 lead.

The Dodgers tied the score in the fourth when center fielder Ken Landreaux hit a leadoff single. Two batters later, Bill Madlock tied the game with a home run. Forsch then walked Mike Marshall and Mike Scioscia reached on catcher’s interference. After Forsch hung a pitch to Greg Brock and it was smashed foul, Herzog turned to relief pitcher Ken Dayley.

With the lefthanded Dayley on the mound, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda called upon the right-handed-hitting Enos Cabell to pinch-hit. The matchup didn’t pay off, however, as Dayley got Cabell to hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning and keep the game tied, 2-2.

“If we didn’t win this game, I didn’t think we had a chance,” Herzog said. “I wanted (Dayley) to get to the seventh inning. It worked like we hoped it would, not like I knew it would.”[5]

As the Cardinals stranded two runners apiece in the fourth and fifth innings, Dayley did exactly as Herzog hoped. After Scioscia led off the seventh inning with a walk and Cabell singled, Herzog again made a pitching change, this time turning to rookie Todd Worrell. After falling behind in the count 3-and-0, Worrell struck out Steve Sax. He then retired the next five hitters before Jeff Lahti entered the game for a perfect ninth inning.

Valenzuela left the game for a pinch-hitter after eight innings, having allowed just two runs while working around four hits and a playoff record eight walks. Despite his control issues, Valenzuela allowed just two hits after the second inning.

In his place, Lasorda called upon Tom Niedenfuer, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander who had posted a 2.71 ERA in 106 1/3 regular-season innings.

Niedenfuer opened the inning by getting McGee to fly out to the infield. After Smith took a big swing on strike one and swung through strike two, longtime Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg nudged Cardinals staffer Paul Faulks in the press box.

“Criminy, Paul,” he exclaimed. “Oz looks as if he’s trying to hit a home run.”

Faulks laughed in response. Broeg continued: “Lefthanded, he could stand on second base and couldn’t hit a home …”[6]

Even as Broeg spoke, Niedenfuer threw Smith an inside fastball that appeared to be off the plate. The all-star shortstop turned on it, pulling it over the right-field wall to win the game.

“I’m a line-drive hitter,” Smith said. “That’s what I do. If I was 6-3 and 220 pounds, I’d try to be a power hitter. Who the hell wouldn’t? But I’m 5-9 and 155 and I have to work for what I get, so I try to hit line drives. In fact, I tried to hit a line drive in the ninth inning, but nobody’s perfect.”[7]

Niedenfuer said he was looking to jam Smith inside after throwing three consecutive outside pitches.[8]

“I thought it would be on the warning track,” Niedenfuer said. “It’s just one of those things. I have to put it out of my mind and look ahead to the future. Let’s give Ozzie some credit too. He’s really improved lefthanded and he got around on my fastball today.”[9]

Niedenfuer wasn’t the only one surprised by Smith’s blast.

“You don’t think he’s going to hit one lefthanded or righthanded,” Cabell said.[10]

Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser said, “He’s the type of hitter that Buff (Niedenfuer) usually knocks the bat out of his hands.”[11]

Perhaps the only witnesses who thought Smith had a chance to pull the ball out of the yard were Herzog and Cardinals pitcher Joaquin Andujar.

“The little midget is a strong little guy,” Andujar said. “He’s stronger than people think.”[12]

In the postgame media scrum, a reporter asked Herzog what he was hoping Smith would do during his ninth-inning plate appearance.

“I’m hoping he hits one out,” Herzog replied.

“But Ozzie had never hit one out lefthanded in his life!” the reporter exclaimed.

“I know,” said Herzog. “I’ve been hoping for five years.”[13]

As Smith crossed home plate, he was mobbed by his teammates, including rookie outfielder Vince Coleman, who threw aside his crutches to join in the celebration. One day earlier, Busch Stadium’s automated tarp had run over Coleman’s leg. The injury would keep him out of action for the remainder of the postseason.

In all the excitement, however, Cesar Cedeno kept his head.

“I wanted to be sure he touched that plate, so I grabbed his leg and put his foot on it myself,” Cedeno said.[14]

Smith’s home run proved to be the biggest blow in the series. Two days later, the Cardinals beat the Dodgers 7-5 to claim the National League pennant and set up a historic World Series matchup against the Kansas City Royals.

“To get beat on a home run by Ozzie Smith,” lamented Lasorda. “That’s unbelievable.”[15]


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[1] Rick Hummel, “Longshot Ozzie Pays Off,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 15, 1985.

[2] Gordon Edes, “Cardinals Take the Yellow Brick Road to L.A. – Oz’s Dramatic Home Run Tops Dodgers, 3-2,” Los Angeles Times, October 15, 1985.

[3] Mike Downey, “Ozzie Contributed a Little Pregame Jaz, Left-Handed Homer,” Los Angeles Times, October 15, 1985.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Longshot Ozzie Pays Off,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 15, 1985.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Longshot Ozzie Pays Off,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 15, 1985.

[6] Bob Broeg, “Hero Ozzie Is Unlikely But Deserving,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 15, 1985.

[7] Mike Downey, “Ozzie Contributed a Little Pregame Jaz, Left-Handed Homer,” Los Angeles Times, October 15, 1985.

[8] Bob Pastin, “Niedenfuer: I’m The Goat,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 15, 1985.

[9] Rick Hummel, “Longshot Ozzie Pays Off,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 15, 1985.

[10] Bob Pastin, “Niedenfuer: I’m The Goat,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 15, 1985.

[11] Gordon Edes, “Cardinals Take the Yellow Brick Road to L.A. – Oz’s Dramatic Home Run Tops Dodgers, 3-2,” Los Angeles Times, October 15, 1985.

[12] Rick Hummel, “Longshot Ozzie Pays Off,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 15, 1985.

[13] Mike Downey, “Ozzie Contributed a Little Pregame Jaz, Left-Handed Homer,” Los Angeles Times, October 15, 1985.

[14] Mike Downey, “Ozzie Contributed a Little Pregame Jaz, Left-Handed Homer,” Los Angeles Times, October 15, 1985.

[15] Frank Blackman, “Lasorda’s moves – or non-moves – backfire,” San Francisco Examiner, October 15, 1985.