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The 1970s, why couldn't we win?


Busch stadium II by Thomas O'Neil

When Cardinal fans together and talk one subject usually pops up. Oh the 70s were awful. But was the team really that bad? I mean the Pirates ruled the NL East back then 6 Division titles in 10 years, and there was no Wild Card.

The Cardinals were coming off a decade that saw them go to the World series 3 times. Going into the 1970 season. You had a solid rotation, anchored by TWO top tier pitchers in Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton. You also had veteran Nelson Briles and 3rd year pitcher Mike Torres who went 10 - 4 in 1969 as well as up and comer Jerry Reuss. Newly acquired slugger Dick Allen at 1B. The keystone combo of Julian Javier at 2B and Dal Maxvill at SS. "Moonman" Mike Shannon was at 3B. The acquisition of Allen coupled with the loss of Tim McCarver put Joe Torre behind the plate. The outfield was missing Curt Flood and Vada Pinson. They did have Lou Brock was still in LF. Guys like Ted Simmons and Ted Sizemore, Reggie Cleveland were on the way up. Actually, the 1970 the Cardinals had 4 future Hall of Famers on the roster. Gibson, Carlton, Brock and Simmons.

To say the 70 season fell apart is quite the understatement. They finished a dismal 76 - 86 in 4th place 13 games behind Pittsburgh. Pitching wise Gibson was the ONLY bright spot at 23 - 7 Steve Carlton was the reverse of Gibson won going 9 - 19. The rest of the staff was barely 500 the only other pitcher with a winning record as a starter was George Culver who went 3 - 2 in 7 starts.

As far as offense went Joe Torre was a beast .325/.398/.498 21HR 100RBI that gained him an All Star appearance. Dick Allen .277/.377/.560 34HR 101RBI an All Star also.(he would be the last Cardinal to hit 30+ HRs for over a decade.) Lou Brock .304/.361/.422 with 51SB his outfield mate Jose Cardinal .293/.348/.428 74RBI 26SB that was pretty much the extent of the offense Dal Maxvill barely made it over the Mendoza line hitting .201 Mike Shannon had his year and career cut short by Nephritis. Leron Lee had a disappointing season and Julian Javier was definitely slowing down. Off the bench Joe Hague provided some spark with a .271/.358/.417 14HR 68RBI but not enough.

1971 was a better year 90 - 71 Starting pitching was a force Gibson, Carlton, Reuss, and rookie Reggie Cleveland coming together for 62 wins Another monster year by Joe Torre even after moving to 3B .363/.421/.555 24HR 137RBI earning him his second straight All Star appearance {he had 9 overall 63-67 and 70-73} and the 1971 MVP. Lou Brock improved on his 1970 numbers going.313/.385/.425 64SB and getting an All Star appearance. New catcher Ted Simmons did not disappoint with .304/.347/.424 7HR 77RBI. However the Pittsburgh Pirates were again tops going 97 - 65.

In 72, Carlton was gone, in stepped Rick Wise. He, Gibson and Reggie Cleveland combined for 102 starts 49 wins and 54 complete games Ted Simmons was the offensive star in his second year as full time backstop .303/.336/.465 17HR 96RBI Torre had cooled to a more pedestrian .289/.357/.419 11HR 81RBI Lou Brock was rock steady .311/.359/.393 swiping 63SB the best they could do was 4th place 75 - 81, 21.5 games behind the 1st place Pittsburgh Pirates. Are you starting to notice a theme here?

In 73 Pittsburgh stumbled, but so did St Louis barely managing a 500 season (81- 81). In 73 youth was starting to come to the forefront in St. Louis. Average age for the starting lineup was 26.5 years old. Joe Torre became the 4th 1st baseman in 4 years as Ken Reitz took over the hot corner. Simmons was once again the offensive punch .310/.370/.438 13HR 91RBI. Brock was down from his normal line only slightly .297/.364/.398 70SB Rick Wise was the pitching ACE with 16 wins, Cleveland and Gibson had 14 and 12 wins respectively newcomer to the rotation Alan Foster chipped in with 13 wins. but it was not enough to top the Mets who finished 82 - 79. yes just 3 games over .500.

74 was better in terms of record but not finish going 86 - 75 but still 1.5 games behind the...... You guessed it, Pittsburgh Pirates. Who once again claimed the top spot. the Cardinals boasted the leagues only all .300 hitting outfield Brock .306 Rookie Bake McBride .309 and newcomer Reggie Smith .309 McBride posted .309/.369/.394 30 SB and 56 RBI earned him Rookie of the year honors. Brock also added 118SB taking the single season record away from Maury Wills. Reggie Smith added 23HR 100RBI leading the team in HRS Simmons added 20HR and 103RBI Pitching wise at 38 Gibson was slowing down second year Alan Foster hit the sophomore slump Newcomer Lynn McGlothen went 16 - 12 and rookie Bob Forsch went 7 - 4 to post the only winning records among the starters

1975 brought another lackluster season 82 - 80 tied fro 3rd with the Mets and 10.5 games behind the Buckos yet again. Joe Torre gone and Rookie Kieth Hernandez taking over 1st base. Again we had a .300 hitting outfield with Brock .309, McBride .300 and Smith .302 Simmons again led the team with 100RBI. Smith and Simmons were long ball threats with 19 and 18HRs respectively. pitching McGlothen and Forsch combined for 30 wins while Gibson posted a 3 -10 mark and worked out of the pen some. Al Hrabosky was starting to solidify himself as a closer with 22 saves.

1976 the team was in flux again with changes in the outfield. Smith traded after 47 games. 2B and 3B saw new players in Mike Tyson and Hector Cruz. An aging Don Kessinger was at SS, Gibson was gone, McBride only played in 72 games but hit .335/.386/.445 getting him an All Star bid. The cards struggled to drive in runs and had virtually NO power bat Hector Cruz led the team with 13HRs. The rotation of McGlothen, Forsch, Denny and rookie Pete Falcone Their combined record was 44 - 50. John Denny was the ONLY winning record at 11 - 9. Eric Rasmussen and John Curtis shared the 5th spot with a combined 12 - 23 record The result was 72 - 90 good for 5th place 29 games behind the Phillies.

1977 despite an improvements and a better than 500 record 83 and 79 the Redbirds finished 3rd 18 games behind the Phillies. Ted Simmons was back in form with .318/.408/.500 21HR 95RBI. Rookie Gary Templeton showed promise .322/.336/.449 with 79RBIs and 28SB. Keith Hernandez .291/.379/.459 15HRs 91RBIs. Ken Reitz back with the team had his best HR Year slugging 17. Giving the Cardinals 3 guys with double digit Hrs for the first time since 1974! Lou Brock even at age 38 was still Lou a respectable .272/.317/.354 and 35SB. that was pretty much the extent of the offense. Bob Forsch had a big year 20 - 7 Eric Rasmussen despite a losing record of 11 - 17 had 11 complete games. However Denny went 8 - 8 with a 4.5 REA and Falcone was 4 - 8 with an ERA over 5! they Bullpen had really NO bright spots.

1978 The Phillies again ruled the roost with a 90 - 72 record while the Cardinals finished 21 games back and only 3 games ahead of last place New York. Manager Vern Rapp was fired after starting the season 6 - 11 eventually leading to Ken Boyer who did not fair any better going 62 - 81. Simmons .287/.377/.512, 22HRs, 80BRIs, Gary Templeton .280/.303/.377, 32SB, 82RS and "silent" George Hendrick .288/.337/.497 17Hrs, 67RBIs led the lackluster offense. Age seemed to finally catch up to Brock who posted some of his worst offensive numbers in his career .221/.263/.252 17SB No other regular in the offense hit above .255 and very little help off the bench. Pitching was so-so John Denny 14 - 11 234IP and Bob Forsch 11 - 17 233.2IP were the workhorses and Pete Vuckovich 12 - 12 contributed another 198IP with 148 punchouts.

1979 Pittsburgh Once again was king 98 - 64. St Louis finished 86 - 76, 12 games back in 3rd place. Brock's final season was a bounce back from 78 .304/.342/.398 and 21SB overall the starting line up hit well with 5 players hitting .300 or better. Keith Hernandez led the team in BA/OBO/Slg and RBIs .344/.417/.513 105RBIs the Birds were a track team of sorts with 3 players with 21SB or more Tony Scott - 37. Gary Templeton - 27 and Brock 21. Keith Hernandez added 11SBs. Limited power, Simmons 26, Hendrick 16 and Hernandez 11 were the only double digit HR hitters. Simmons did have 87 RBIs as well after that there was a little drop off Hendrick - 75, Reitz - 73, Tony Scott - 68, and Templeton - 62. On the mound veterans Vuckovich, Forsch and Denny were joined by newcomers Silvio Martinez, John Fulgham and Bob Sykes. Vuckovich, Denny, Forsch and Martinez each threw over 200 innings with Martinez and Vuckovich tying for a team best 15 wins. Mark Littell went 9 - 4 with 13 saves out of the bullpen.


So the seventies had some top performances and stars that shown bright. However they just couldn't put enough together to overcome the juggernaut that Pittsburgh were back then. Between guys like Carlton leaving, a seemingly rotating outfield Torre playing 3 different positions in 4 years. The lack of multiple power threats and a not so steady rotation. I think we can say the 70s was just a LONG rebuilding period.


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