Archive for the ‘The Atlas Awards’ Category

Younger baseball fans may know the name Bill White as the President of the National League (1989-1994) or as a long time broadcaster (St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees). Baseball historians will remember the big lefty as one of the best first basemen of his era and we were fortunate that he spent 8 of his 13 seasons in St. Louis wearing the Birds on the Bat.

White broke into the major leagues with the New York Giants on May 7, 1956. Gail Harris was the Giants opening day first baseman and got off to a terrible start. On May 4, Harris was hitting just .132 and the Giants made a change, giving a 22 year old rookie named Bill White the job. White’s first major league at bat would come in the second inning of this game. Facing the Cardinals Ben Flowers, White hits a home run, giving the Giants a 2-1 lead and etching his name in baseball history.

The lead would not hold up as the Cardinals would send 10 men to the plate in the sixth inning with five of them scoring,  giving the Cardinals a 6-3 lead. The names of the Cardinals hitting that inning reads like a history book: Wally Moon, Walker Cooper, Solly Hemus, Bill Virdon, Don Blasingame (son-in-law of Walker Cooper), Red Schoendienst, Stan Musial and Ken Boyer.

While the Cardinals would hold on and win the game, it was Bill White that stole the show. In addition to joining the small list of players homering in their first at bat, White would finish the day 3-4 with a single and double to go with the second inning homer. Only a triple shy of the cycle, it was one impressive debut. Don’t feel bad for White not completing the cycle – he would accomplish that as a Cardinal on August 14, 1960.

White would come to St. Louis prior to the start of the 1959 season. The Cardinals would send hard throwing Sam Jones to the Giants in return for the slugging first baseman. In typical Bing Devine fashion, the trade worked out well for both clubs. Jones would go 21-15 for the Giants in 1959 and 18-14 in 1960. White would hit .302 and earn the first of his 5 All Star game invitations , splitting time between first base and left field.

Bill White’s next feat would come on July 5, 1961. In a 9-1 laugher against the second place Los Angeles Dodgers, White goes 4-5 with a double and 3 home runs. White would finish the day with 4 RBIs and made a winner out of a young Bob Gibson, who also had a 2 run homer off Dodgers starter Johnny Podres.

The next historical moment in White’s career would come in the 1963 All Star Game. It would be White’s 4th appearance and his second as a starter. What makes this special is that the entire Cardinals infield would start the game. Joining White was Dick Groat (SS), Julian Javier (2B), and perennial All Star Ken Boyer (3B). White would finish the 1963 season with a .304 average, his second consecutive season hitting .300 or higher. He would also drive in 109 runs, a career high, and second consecutive year driving in over 100.  1963 was a very good year for the Cardinals first baseman.

This brings us to the 1964 season, and where Bill White earns his Atlas Award. White got off to a terrible start to the ’64 season, mainly due to a shoulder injury. He would hit bottom on June 12 with a batting average of .225 with just 7 home runs and 20 RBIs. Suddenly, White would catch fire. In his next 6 games he would go 11-26 with a double and two triples. The extra base hits would start coming in bunches as would the RBIs. From June 13 to the end of the regular season, White would hit a mean .340, slug .522 and drive in an amazing 82 runs. When the final out was made in the regular season, White managed to raise his average over .300 (.303) and drive in more than 100 runs (102), for the third consecutive time. His red hot second half of the season was a huge reason the Cardinals overtook the Phillies and won the 1964 National League Pennant.

White’s success would not carry over to the World Series as the Yankees kept the Cardinals slugger relatively quiet. Fortunately for the Redbirds, Tim McCarver and Lou Brock picked up the slack and some timely hitting by Ken Boyer helped the Cardinals defeat the Yankees in seven games.

White would play one more year in St. Louis before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 1965 season. The Cardinals would send White, Dick Groat and Bob Uecker to the Phillies for catcher Pat Corrales, pitcher Art Mahaffey and outfielder Alex Johnson. Johnson was an amazingly talented young outfielder and was the principal in the deal for the Cardinals. It was hoped that Johnson would join Curt Flood and Lou Brock as a perennial All Star outfield – and it would have been something special. As fast as Brock and Flood were, Johnson could leave both of them in his dust. A poor work ethic and even worse attitude kept Johnson on the bench and he would soon be a member of the Cincinnati Reds where he would become a bit of a star.

Meanwhile in Philadelphia, White would have very solid 1966, hitting .276 and driving in 103 runs. He would also earn his seventh consecutive gold glove, the last of his career. His production would begin to drop off in 1967 and 1968. White would come back to the Cardinals in 1969 and battle though severe injuries to his Achilles tendon, playing sparingly. He would retire at the end of  the 1969 season after 13 seasons in the major leagues.

In the list of great Cardinals first basemen, Bill White was one of the best. Nobody played the position any better and his offensive production puts him in some elite company. For the amazing turnaround in his 1964 season and helping turbocharge the Cardinals pennant run, Bill White earns an Atlas Award.


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When you hear the name Roger Maris, his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1961 is probably the first thing that comes to mind. It was an amazing feat as Maris and Yankees teammate Mickey Mantle pushed each other relentlessly until Mantle was sidelined with a hip infection, leaving Maris alone to chase baseball immortality. What you may not know is that Maris also had a spectacular season in 1960. He would lead the league in slugging (.581) and RBIs (112) and would win both a Gold Glove and the American League MVP award. It is also important to know that he would finish just one home run behind league leader Mickey Mantle. Maris would win a second MVP award in 1961, beating out media favorite Mickey Mantle again by a narrow margin.

Another thing about Roger Maris that you may not know is that he was a very good outfielder. He played right field as well as anybody in his era and had a cannon of an arm. He had deceptive speed and always seemed to make a good jump on a ball hit to the outfield. It is easy to forget that he was invited to 4 consecutive All Star Games (1959-1962). He was a complete ballplayer.

His playing style left him with a lot of injuries that took their toll over time. An emergency appendectomy, broken ribs from a collision on the infield, a broken hand, foul balls off his foot all cut into Maris’ playing time and in many cases, his offensive production. After the 1966 season, the Yankees were willing to part with the right fielder and found a willing suitor in the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards sent journeyman third baseman Charley Smith to the Yankees for the former star. Smith had played just one season in St. Louis, a mediocre one at best.  He was certainly a disappointment after watching Ken Boyer handle third base for the last 11 years.

The Cardinals had been retooling since their 1964 championship season, mostly in the pitching staff. Mike Shannon would move from right field to third base to make room for the Yankee slugger. Dal Maxvill had replaced the legendary Dick Groat (another player that should get some reconsideration for the Hall of Fame) and was establishing himself as one of the best defensive shortstops in the game. The final piece to the puzzle came from San Francisco in the person of Orlando Cepeda. Or perhaps persona is a better word. It was Cha Cha’s enthusiasm for winning that became the heart and soul of the team, which took on greater significance when starters Ray Washburn and Bob Gibson missed significant time due to injuries. His Go Go El Birdos team charge became the St. Louis battle cry for the remainder of ’67 and all of 1968.

If Cepeda was the heart of the team, Maris was the brain. The Cardinals got significantly more than a right fielder in the trade with the Yankees. They added some much needed winning experience and a big dose of the Yankees way of playing the game. The team would be tested many times during the course of the 1967 season, and would rise to meet each of them as a champion, due in large part to the leadership of Roger Maris.

Any concerns about Maris not being a competitor were laid to rest early in the ’67 season. The Cardinals were careful to rest Maris from time to time, but he proved to be durable, only missing an extended number of games once (5) and never going on the disabled list. Maris would get off to a great start in 1967, peaking on June 18 with a .313 batting average.  The long and brutal St. Louis summer would wear him down and his average would drop to .261 by seasons end.  Through the late part of the pennant race, Maris was as steady as anybody on the ballclub. More than that, Maris did all of the little things the right way. With the dual threat of Lou Brock and Curt Flood at the top of the batting order, Roger Maris always seemed to move them into scoring position, even when making an out. A large number of Cepeda’s league leading RBIs came from Maris grounding out to the right side of the infield, allowing Brock or Flood to move to third base. Nobody made a more productive out than Roger Maris.

This brings us to the 1967 World Series, the sixth for the new Cardinals right fielder. Bob Gibson and Lou Brock would steal the Cardinal headlines as would Boston’s Jim Lonborg and Carl Yastrzemski for the opposition. All four had a sensational post season, and any of them could have been awarded the World Series MVP, ultimately given to Gibson for his three complete game victories.

The unsung hero of the series was Roger Maris. He would finish the postseason with a .385 batting average (10 for 26) with a double, home run (his 6th in World Series competition) and 7 RBIs. This was the best postseason of his career, and he helped the Cardinals win their second championship of the decade.  In ways that are not apparent when just looking at the box scores.

To understand just how important Maris was to the Cardinals, all you have to do is look at game 1. The October 4 game was an unexpected pitching duel between Bob Gibson and Jose Santiago. The Red Sox would have preferred to go with their ace, Jim Lonborg, but he had pitched on the last day of the season to help Boston clinch the AL pennant. Instead, Dick Williams gave the ball to Jose Santiago and he was impressive, showing us why he finished with a 12-4 record. The Cardinals would win the game, 2-1. Looking deeper into the game you will learn that both Cardinal runs came on ground outs to the right side of the infield by Roger Maris. What the record books will not tell you is that the heart of the Cardinals order (Cepeda, McCarver and Shannon) were absent from most of the 1967 World Series games. If not for Maris in the third spot, and Julian Javier starting rallies from the bottom of the order, the World Series might have ended much differently.

In game 3, Maris would drive in another run late in the game to give the Cardinals a 4-1 lead. This would be important as starter Nelson Briles would give up a home run to future Cardinal Reggie Smith in the next inning. A 3-2 game in the late innings is a lot different than a 4-2 lead. With two runs to play with, Briles would stay in and finish it, preserving the victory and giving the Cardinals a 2 games to 1 lead in the series.

Game 4 was another showdown between Gibson and Santiago. This time things would be different as the Cardinals got to Santiago early. After giving up singles to Lou Brock and Curt Flood in the first inning, Roger Maris delivered the knockout punch with a double down into the left field corner, easily scoring both Brock and Flood.  He would score two batters later on a single by Tim McCarver. McCarver would score when Julian Javier and Dal Maxvill would both single after a Mike Shannon foul out. Santiago never makes it out of the first inning and the Cardinals would end up sending nine men to the plate, leaving the inning with a 4-0 lead. That’s all Gibson needed as he fired a complete game, five hit shutout. That gave the Cardinals a commanding three games to one lead in the series.

In game 5, Maris did all he could to end the series in St. Louis. He would go 2-4 including a home run in the ninth inning. Unfortunately for Maris, neither Brock nor Flood could figure out Lonborg as he pitched another brilliant game.

Maris still had a few cards to play, and he used them in game 7. This was the duel that everybody wanted to see. Bob Gibson against Jim Lonborg. Both pitchers on were returning on short rest, Gibson on three days and Lonborg on only two.  That extra day turned out to be the difference as Lonborg was nowhere near as effective as had been in his previous starts. The Cardinals were finally hitting the big right hander, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Little Dal Maxvill would get thing started in the Cardinals third, leading off with a triple. He was still standing on third with two outs when Curt Flood hits a single to center, scoring the Cardinals shortstop. Maris would follow that up with a single to right field, allowing Flood to advance to third. And that was the pivotal hit of the game as Longborg would throw a pitch in the dirt against Orlando Cepeda, allowing Flood to score the second run of the game. This was only possible because of the Maris single to the right side of the outfield. Even his singles were productive. Maris would also come up big in the fifth inning. After a one out home run by Bob Gibson, Lou Brock would single. He would steal second base, and after a walk to Curt Flood would steal third base. Maris with another productive out, hits a fly ball deep to right field which easily scores Brock on the sacrifice. While Javier would break the game open with a three run homer later, this is point in the game where the Cardinals realized they were going to win the series.

While Roger Maris is in the record books for his play in New York, much of the Cardinals success in 1967 and 1968 is due to his leadership and clutch performance. We saw Roger smile a lot during those two seasons wearing Cardinals red, and we smiled back each time in appreciation. For his clutch performance in the 1967 World Series, Roger Maris receives an Atlas Award.

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In retrospect, it is easy to see why the 1985 Cardinals won 101 games and represented the National League in the World Series. Hall of Fame manager  Whitey Herzog led a unique combination of speed, pitching, and defense. Add to that the clutch hitting from the one legitimate slugger in the lineup, Jack Clark. Until August 23, 1985.

A recurring rib cage injury had been plaguing the Cardinals slugger and it reached a critical point on Aug 23 when he had to be removed from the game after taking batting practice.  With the Mets hot on the Cardinals heels, losing Clark at this point looked like it might end the Cardinals playoff hopes. Initially, Herzog went with veteran Mike Jorgensen to replace Clark. Jorgensen played well defensively but his hitting would quickly become a liability. For the entire season, Jorgensen would only manage 6 extra base hits and drive in 11 runs. If the Cardinals were going to keep pace with the Mets, help would have to be found elsewhere.

Elsewhere turned out to be Cincinnati, Ohio. In a deal just before the post season rosters were set, the Cardinals would send minor leaguer Mark Jackson to the Reds for veteran outfielder Cesar Cedeno. Jackson was a light hitting outfielder that would never make it out of A ball. Cedeno was one of the most exciting players in the 1970s, but the wear and tear of his aggressive playing style had taken it’s toll on the aging star. While with the Houston Astros, Cedeno had been a perennial .300 hitter, five time gold glove winner in center field and had a stretch of six consecutive seasons stealing 50 or more bases. He had played the last four years in Cincinnati and had lost his starting spot and had become a utility bench player without a specific position.

The Cardinals had hoped there was still some fire left in Cedeno. As it turned out there was a lot of fire left and Cedeno played some of the best baseball of his career in the next month. In 28 games, Cedeno would put up Albert Pujols caliber numbers. He would hit .434, slug a cool .750 with an OPS of 1.213. To put those numbers in some sort of perspective, Clark would hit .281, slug .502 with an OPS of .895 for the entire season. With this type of production, Cedeno became the regular starting first baseman with Mike Jorgensen taking over as a defensive substitution late in the games. This platoon worked brilliantly until Clark’s return in mid September and again on Oct 1.

Cedeno’s biggest hit as a Cardinal would come at the end of the pivotal game of the 1985 season. On September 11, the Cardinals would face the Mets in one of the greatest pitching duels in franchise history. Trailing the Mets by a game, Cardinals starter John Tudor would pitch an 10 inning, 3 hit complete game shutout. Cy Young Award Winner Dwight Gooden was nearly as good, allowing only 5 hits in his 9 innings of work. In the 10th inning, Cesar Cedeno would hit a home run off the Mets left handed closer, Jesse Orosco, for the only run in the game. This would be the only game of the series the Cardinals would win, but a sweep by the Mets could have been a knockout blow from which the Cardinals might not have recovered. That did not happen and the Cardinals would gain the lead in the division in a few days. One that they would not surrender.

If not for the contributions of Cesar Cedeno, the 1985 Cardinals might not have been able to keep pace with the hard charging New York Mets. For his 28 games as a Cardinal, Cesar Cedeno is the 1985 Atlas Award winner.

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If the Atlas Award is for a player that single handedly picks up the team when they most need it, none are more deserving than John Stuper.   Stuper didn’t even start the season with the big club which makes his story even more amazing.

The Cardinals broke camp in 1982 with a starting rotation of Bob Forsch, Joaquin Andujar, John Martin, Steve Mura and Andy Rincon.  Forsch and Andujar should be familiar names, but the other three might not be.

Steve Mura had come over to the Cardinals as part of the Ozzie Smith deal prior to the 1982 season. He had been a starter in San Diego, although had been largely ineffective while losing a league leading 14 games in 1981.  He fared better in his one season in St. Louis, but would be relegated to the bullpen by the end of the year and not activated for the post season.

Andy Rincon had started the 1981 season on fire, looking like one of the best rookie starters since Tom Seaver.  All of that ended when a Phil Garner line drive broke his pitching arm.  He would miss almost all of 1981, but was making a comeback in 1982.  A lack of control and an elevating ERA prompted a reassignment to Louisville (AAA), but he would be rewarded with a World Series ring for his contributions.

It is the last of the starters that leads to our 1982 Atlas Award winner.  John Martin was the only lefty in the Cardinals rotation. Martin had been successful in two different stretches with the Cardinals in 1981 and it was hoped that he would be able to continue that in 1982.  He got off to a rough start and would be replaced by another lefty, Dave LaPoint in mid May.  After a few ineffective appearances in the bullpen, Martin would be sent back to Louisville.

That made a spot for a young right hander named John Stuper, and Stuper made the best of this opportunity.  This retooled rotation of Forsch, Andujar, LaPoint, Mura and Stuper would take the ball consistently until the rosters expanded with a new batch of September callups.  Stuper would go 9-7 in his rookie campaign, although he pitched well enough to win another five games.  He did it unconventionally – not by the strikeout, but inducing lots of ground balls and keeping fly balls well inside the outfield walls of  cavernous Busch Stadium.  And he did this consistently, every fifth day.

When manager Whitey Herzog put together his shortened post-season rotation, Stuper found himself penciled in the number 2 spot in the NLCS.  With the Cardinals winning game 1, Stuper’s start in Game 2 could be a knockout blow to the Atlanta Braves.  And it was a total knockout as Stuper pitched well on the big stage, keeping the Braves from making a comeback in six strong innings of work.  The Cardinals would win the game with some late runs, eliminating whatever hope remained in the Braves clubhouse.  The Cardinals would complete the sweep and win their first World Series appearance since 1968.

Once again, John Stuper would see his name penciled in the number 2 spot in the World Series rotation.  That is a lot of responsibility for a rookie with not even a complete season under his belt.  The Brewers would get to Stuper early in game 2, but he battled and limited the damage, allowing the resilient Cardinals to mount a late comeback.  Relievers Jim Kaat, Doug Bair and Bruce Sutter were spectacular in relief of the young right hander.

That brings us to game 6, where the World Series would ultimately be decided.  The Brewers held a 3-2 lead as the series returned to St. Louis.  The Milwaukee bombers were coming into St. Louis on a serious roll, winning the last two games.  Add to that the disappointment of losing the heart and soul of the rotation in game three when Ted Simmons would hit a line drive off Joaquin Andujar’s knee, knocking the right hander out of the game.  It was unlikely that Andujar would return in the series, or so we thought at the time.

This brings us to  October 19, 1982 and our Atlas Award winner would take the mound on a rainy night with the Cardinals facing elimination.  All hands were on deck and Stuper would be on a very short leash.  One that Herzog would not need to use.  Enduring not one, but two rain delays for a total of 2 1/2 hours, and a temperature drop of about 30 degrees, Stuper pitches the game of his career.  He throws a complete game, 4 hitter.  The only Brewers run came in the 9th inning when it was a 13-0 laugher and the clock was approaching 1AM.  The Brewers did not manage a hit between a one out single in the second by Ted Simmons and a leadoff double in the ninth.  That’s over four hours, including the weather delays.  Herzog’s decision to keep Stuper in the game has been second guessed for nearly 30 years, but the young hurler had kept his pitch count low and he was working on a dominating shutout.

Even more important, Stuper’s amazing performance kept the Cardinals bullpen seated which gave Herzog plenty of options, should he need them in game seven.  The huge home town crowd would be whipped into a frenzy when Joaquin Andujar makes a gutsy game seven start on a gimpy leg.  With Harvey Keunn going to his bullpen often in game six, his options for game seven were limited and the Cardinals managed one more late inning comeback.   Bruce Sutter would cement his Hall of Fame induction with a lights out ending to the game.

While game seven is a fan favorite, and it is available to watch in the MLB.com archive, it would not have happened if not for the heroic performance of John Stuper in game six.   For that, I award John Stuper the Atlas Award for 1982.

While Stuper’s pitching career would be cut short due to injury, he has been involved in baseball ever since his playing days.  He is now the manager at Yale and has put together an amazing record in his 17 years.  To learn more about John Stuper, read Dustin Mattison’s excellent  John Stuper: Always a Cardinal.  It includes  a nice interview with the former Cardinal hero.

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A number of obstacles were placed in front of the 1967 St. Louis Cardinals that would have totally demoralized a lesser team.  One of those came on June 21 when the Cardinals number two starter, Ray Washburn, took a line drive off his pitching hand and severely dislocated a finger, causing him to miss the next month.  Perhaps it was an omen that a young 23 year old right hander named Nelson Briles would earn the save in that game, preserving the victory for Washburn.

With Washburn on the mend, the Cardinals were dealt what looked like a fatal blow on July 13.  In the fourth inning, Roberto Clemente would hit a line drive up the middle that would strike Bob Gibson’s right leg, just above the ankle.  Gibson would continue pitching, not knowing the severity of the injury. After three batters, his femur finally split in two and Gibson would miss the next two months with a broken leg.  The same little right hander that saved Washburn’s game would take the loss in this one, although it was more a failure of Hal Woodshick than of Briles.

Starters of Gibson’s caliber are not easily replaced, and the Cardinals were unable to find any on the trade market.  Instead they chose to move one of their relievers into the rotation, that very same young right hander, Nelson Briles.  A deal was quickly made with the Mets to obtain Jack Lamabe to replace Briles in the bullpen.  Lamabe would pitch well for the Cardinals, but nothing like what Briles would accomplish over the next three months.  If the box scores did not exist, nobody would believe it today.

Briles would go 1-2 in his first three starts, but pitched well enough to win all three.  That gave manager Red Schoendienst enough confidence to continue handing the ball to the young hurler.  That turned out to be a very good idea as the Cardinals would win all of his remaining starts, 11 in all.  Briles would pick up the wins in 9 of those, including 4 complete games with one of those being a nifty 4 hit shutout in San Francisco.  If you are keeping score, down the stretch Briles would go 10-2, winning the last 9 straight games.  As the the season wore on, Briles gained more confidence and got stronger with each outing.  Briles pitched so well that he remained in the rotation when Gibson came off the disabled list with Larry Jaster being moved to the bullpen.  Briles would finish the season with an amazing record of 14-5 with an ERA of 2.43.

If that was not enough, Briles earned a start in the pivotal third game of the World Series, the first game in St. Louis.  In front of a huge crowd, Briles pitched an absolute gem of a game, going the distance and earning his tenth consecutive victory.  He also pitched two hitless innings of relief in game 6.  Had Red started Briles in that game, the series might have ended in 6 games, denying baseball fans the game 7 showdown between Jim Lonborg and Bob Gibson.

As an encore, the now 24 year old hurler would earn a spot in the Cardinals rotation in 1968 and continue his amazing performance.  He would finish the season with a 19-11 record and an ERA of 2.81.  Add to that 13 complete games, with 4 being shutouts.  In any other season, Briles would have gotten the attention he deserved, perhaps even getting some serious consideration for the Cy Young award.  Unfortunately for the young right hander, this was 1968 and Bob Gibson and Denny McClain were busy writing new pages in baseball’s history book.

We certainly remember his heroic performances in 1967 and 1968, and you should too.  From a gritty super sub in 1967 to a staff ace in 1968, Nelson Briles wins not one, but two Atlas Awards.

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On August 24, 1964, Bob Gibson would start a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates with a modest 10-10 record.  After getting off to a 4-0 start, Gibson had struggled a bit, often being used in short rest out of the bullpen.  It is what happened from the first pitch of this game until the end of the 1964 World Series that earns Gibson the first  Atlas award. Forget Curt Schilling and the bloody sock, this is the greatest example of clutch pitching in my lifetime.

The Cardinals were in the middle of one of the most exciting pennant races in baseball history.  Three teams were fighting for the title and every game from this point on would be important.  Manager Johnny Keane would hand the ball to Bob Gibson 10 more times as a starter, including this game.  Gibson would pitch on 4 days rest only three times and 3 days rest for the others.  His record during this stretch was an amazing 8-2, surrendering more than 2 runs only once.  One of those games, Gibson’s last start, was a heartbreaking 1-0 complete game loss to the Mets.  During these 10 games, Gibson pitched all but 1/3 of an inning, saving an aging and weary bullpen for the other starters.   If that was not enough, Gibson’s greatest performance would come on the last game of the season,  and with only one day of rest.  With the Cardinals, Reds and Phillies in a three way tie for first, Gibson would pitch 4 innings in relief and earn his 19th victory of the season and the Cardinals their first pennant since 1946.  That’s right, with only one day rest, Gibson came back and pitched nearly half of another game.  Unbelievable.

In the 1964 World Series, Bob Gibson would start games 2, 5 and 7, pitching 27 of the possible 28 innings, compiling a 2-1 record, striking out 31 Yankees in the process.  Gibson would lose a close one in game 2, being let down by the Cardinals bullpen in the 9th inning.  On three days rest, Gibson would pitch a masterful 10 inning complete game, winning 5-2.  He would follow that with a dominating win on only 2 days rest in game 7, pitching on fumes the last inning.

This was the beginning of the legend of Bob Gibson. He would earn the World Series MVP, which he would do again in 1967.   For picking up the 1964 team and carrying them all the way to a World Championship, Gibson also earns the first Atlas Award.

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The Atlas Awards

The ladies at Cardinal Diamond Diaries did a great job discussing the merits of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright for the 2009 Cy Young Award. This is not the first time that Cardinal hurlers have split the Cy Young vote, and hopefully it will not be the last. We have also been the victim of some anti-midwest bias in other award voting, so that is nothing new either. This one might have been a bit more difficult to take as a few of the voters seemed as if they more interested in making a statement rather than voting for the most deserving candidate.

Thinking about this a little more, there was something special that happened in the 2009 season. When Chris Carpenter came off the disabled list, something was different. It was more than just Carpenter himself, everybody played better. Carpenter was lights out, but Adam Wainwright picked his game up and went from struggling to win to total domination. The bats started hitting with an alarming potency. It was as if Chris Carpenter had just picked up the team and moved them to the top of the division, all by himself. I guess that was not enough for some of the Cy Young voters, if they even cared enough to notice.

That got me thinking a bit more, and memories of other such performances started calling for some attention.  Perhaps we need an award to recognize this type of heroic performance, not for an entire season, but for picking up a team when it is most needed and doing so over an extended period of time. I propose such an award, called the Atlas Award, named after the Greek Titan who is often depicted carrying the earth on his back. I am going to go back and retroactively bestow some Atlas awards, recognizing some heroic performances that may have been lost in the box scores.  I hope you enjoy these, and please share some of your own Atlas Awards.

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