Ken Boyer

October 11, 1964: Ken Boyer grand slam wins Game 4 of the World Series

The biggest moment of Ken Boyer’s career came with his brother Clete just a few feet away, playing third base for the Yankees on the game’s biggest stage. 

Down two games to one in the 1964 World Series, with the Yankees ahead 3-0 in Game 4, Boyer pulled a grand slam just inside the left-field foul pole, providing all the offense in the Cardinals’ 4-3 victory. With the win, the Cardinals deadlocked the series and helped set the stage for their eventual Game 7 victory a few days later.

Game 4 matched up a pair of 23-year-old lefthanders in Ray Sadecki for the Cardinals and Al Downing for the Yankees.

Sadecki had signed with the Cardinals out of Ward High School in Kansas City in 1958. He made his debut with the Cardinals as a 19-year-old in 1960. In 64, he enjoyed a breakout campaign with 20 wins, topping Bob Gibson’s 19 wins and Curt Simmons’ 18. Over 220 regular-season innings, he posted a 3.68 ERA.

Four days earlier, in Game 1 of the World Series, Sadecki threw six innings to earn the win. It certainly wasn’t his best outing, as he allowed four earned runs on eight hits and five walks. However, after the Yankees rallied for three runs in the second, he allowed just one run over the next four innings. When the Cardinals rallied for four runs in the bottom of the fourth, Sadecki was credited with his first World Series win.

Meanwhile, Downing was coming off a 13-8 regular season in which he led the American League in both walks (120) and strikeouts (217) and posted a 3.47 ERA in 244 innings. In Game 1, he had thrown 1 2/3 innings of relief, allowing one run on two hits.

While Downing held the Cardinals to one hit through the first five innings in Game 4, Sadecki was unable to get out of the first inning. Phil Linz led off the game with a double and slid safely into third on an error by Boyer. Bobby Richardson followed with an RBI double and Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle each singled (Mantle was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double). With two runs in and a runner on third, Cardinals manager Johnny Keane called upon Roger Craig out of the bullpen.

Craig, a native of North Carolina, was a 34-year-old veteran whom the Cardinals had acquired a year earlier in a trade with the Mets.  In two seasons with the often-overmatched Mets, Craig led the league in losses with 24 and 22 defeats, respectively. In St. Louis, however, he had become a valuable swingman, making 19 starts and 20 relief appearances. Over 166 regular-season innings, he had gone 7-9 with a 3.25 ERA.

Prior to the game, Craig approached Keane to make his availability known.

“I told him, I feel fine and I’d like to pitch if you need me,” Craig said.[1]

Elston Howard greeted Craig with a single to center field that scored Maris and gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead. From there, Craig kept the Cardinals in the game, getting out of the first without further damage. After striking out the side in the second, Craig picked Mantle off second base to end the third.

“Picking Mantle off second was the first big break for us,” Keane said.[2]

In the fourth, Pepitone and Clete Boyer both reached base, but Craig struck out Downing and Linz to escape danger once again.

After he retired the Yankees in order in the bottom of the fifth, the Cardinals finally gave Craig some run support. Carl Warwick, pinch-hitting for Craig, opened the inning with a single to left, and Curt Flood followed with a single to right.

With one out, Dick Groat grounded the ball to Richardson at second base. It appeared primed for a force-out at second base, but the ball stuck in Richardson’s glove and by the time he got it to Linz, Flood was crashing into the shortstop. The ball fell to the ground, Flood was called safe, and Boyer headed to the plate with the bases loaded.

“I figured I was out and I was just trying to break up the double play,” Flood said. “My front knee bumped Linz below his knee. I probably got there at the same time the ball did.”[3]

The 33-year-old Boyer was coming off another outstanding regular season, hitting .295 with 24 homers and a league-leading 119 RBIs. That summer, he had appeared in the 11th all-star game of his career, and following the postseason, he would be recognized with the National League MVP trophy.

In the World Series, however, Boyer had been largely silent. In Game 1, he went 1-for-3 with a walk and a sacrifice fly, but since then he had gone 0-for-10. Now, however, he rose to the occasion, pulling Downing’s second pitch – a changeup – over the left-field wall for a grand slam.

“Downing had thrown me a couple of changeups in St. Louis, but I was set for a fastball,” Boyer said. “He got the ball up in my eyes, and that’s where any hitter likes to swing. If Downing had gotten the ball down, I probably would have hit into a double play.”[4]

Instead, Boyer yanked the ball down the line, hugging the left-field foul line.

“You know when you get out ahead of the pitch as far as I did today and hit it, your main concern is that the ball stay fair,” he said. “I thought it might go foul, then I saw it and I think it straightened out some. I knew when I got it that it had enough on it to go all the way – if only it stayed fair.”[5]

Howard initially called for a fastball, but Downing shook him off to go with the changeup. “In a situation like that, when you think the hitter is anxious, you try to get him out on a bad pitch,” Downing said. “It was trying to set Boyer up for something. If you get a changeup down, you’re going to have success with it.”[6]

Clete later admitted that he was secretly thrilled for his brother. “When he hit that homer, I loved it,” he said. “In my heart, I think I was pulling for him because it was his first Series.”[7]

With the blast, the Cardinals had a 4-3 lead. Now they just had to hold it.

To do so, Keane turned to 26-year-old righty Ron Taylor, who had gone 8-4 with a 4.62 ERA in 63 appearances that season. Relying heavily on a low fastball, Taylor retired 12 of the 13 batters he faced to claim the save. The only baserunner he allowed over four innings was a two-out walk to Mantle.

“With all those shadows, I was trying to keep the ball low,” said Taylor, who added that Boyer had advised him not to let the Yankees beat him on a breaking pitch. “I guess the big reason for my troubles early this season was throwing too much junk. My best pitch still is my fastball.”[8]

There was little drama in the ninth as Tom Tresh unsuccessfully tried to bunt for a single and Pepitone and Clete Boyer both grounded out to Bill White at first base.

Craig was credited with the win after throwing 4 2/3 scoreless innings. He allowed just two hits while walking three and striking out eight.

“I had excellent control and was throwing good sinkers to the lefthanders,” Craig said. “I did strike out Tom Tresh on a palm ball, but the curve was my big pitch. In fact, I’ve had a real good curve in my last five or six games.”[9]

Keane couldn’t have been happier with the performance of his relief pitchers.

“Taylor challenged every hitter he faced – he even dared to throw the ball inside to Mantle,” the Cardinals’ manager said. “Craig has never been better for us. I’ve seen him just as good for us, maybe. Never better. This game rode on every pitch and that’s why everybody was so great.”[10]

Former Cardinals third baseman Whitey Kurowski – a five-time all-star and three-time World Series champion in the 1940s – was at the game and noted the uncanny parallels between Bower’s blast and his own home run in Game 5 of the 1942 World Series to beat the Yankees.

“Just leave it up to us third basemen,” Kurowski said. “That home run was just like the one I hit off Red Ruffing to beat the Yankees 22 years ago, and it landed in just about the same spot.”[11]

While the 1942 Cardinals beat the Yankees in five games to claim the world title, it took the ’64 Cardinals seven games. Gibson, who won Games 5 and 7, was named the World Series MVP.

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[1] Neal Russo, “Boyer Bomb, Blazing Bullpen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 12, 1964.

[2] Jim McCulley, “Victory Keys: DP Mix-Up, Wrong Pitch to Hero Ken,” New York Daily News, October 12, 1964.

[3] Neal Russo, “Boyer Bomb, Blazing Bullpen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 12, 1964.

[4] Neal Russo, “Boyer Bomb, Blazing Bullpen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 12, 1964.

[5] Jim McCulley, “Victory Keys: DP Mix-Up, Wrong Pitch to Hero Ken,” New York Daily News, October 12, 1964.

[6] Dana Mozley, “Victory Keys: DP Mix-Up, Wrong Pitch to Hero Ken,” New York Daily News, October 12, 1964.

[7] “Clete Boyer 1937—2007,” Sports Illustrated, June 18, 2007.

[8] Neal Russo, “Boyer Bomb, Blazing Bullpen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 12, 1964.

[9] Neal Russo, “Boyer Bomb, Blazing Bullpen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 12, 1964.

[10] Jim McCulley, “Victory Keys: DP Mix-Up, Wrong Pitch to Hero Ken,” New York Daily News, October 12, 1964.

[11] Neal Russo, “Boyer Bomb, Blazing Bullpen,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 12, 1964.